The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has described reports that it subverted due process in the sale of Polaris Bank as spurious and malicious. The apex bank said the report claiming that it sold the former bridge bank to the lowest bidder was untrue.
Report claimed that the bank was sold for N50 billion to Strategic Capital Investment Limited, SCIL rather than another company which made a higher bid of over N1 trillion to acquire the bank.
Recall that the Godwin Emefiele-led CBN announced the sale of the commercial bank to SCIL in October 2022, four years after it took over the former Skye Bank Plc which was later renamed Polaris Bank.
At the time of the sale to SCIL late last year, the CBN had already invested close to N1.2 trillion in Polaris Bank, according to figures obtained by the magazine.
Therefore, not a few stakeholders have raised questions on the appropriateness of selling the commercial bank for barely N50 billion to SCIL. Some have even suggested that Companies with higher bid were prevented from landing the deal, while other said the bank was acquired by cronies in the presidency.
But the CBN in a statement on Wednesday said the claims are untrue.
According to the statement signed by its spokesman Osita Nwanisobi, the apex bank said the report was meant to mislead the public, saying it followed due process with its divestment and sale to SCIL.
The report is not true and, “Contrary to claims in the aforementioned online publication, the divestment from Polaris Bank was supervised by a Divestment Committee (Committee) comprising senior representatives of AMCON & CBN and supported by reputable legal and financial advisers,” CBN said.
“In addition, the divestment mode, process and decision received requisite board and regulatory approvals.”
“The entity in question, Fairview Acquisition Partners, had indicated an interest in acquiring two banks, including Polaris Bank, for a total sum of N1.2 trillion, an indicative offer which significantly discounted the existing N1.305 trillion debt owed by Polaris Bank to AMCON and so represented a material loss to the Federal Government.
“Notwithstanding, along with twenty-four (24) other parties, Fairview Acquisition Partners was invited by the financial advisors to participate in the sale process via the execution of a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), the first stage of the process.
“The financial advisors informed the Committee that Fairview Acquisition Partners neither executed nor returned the NDA despite verbally confirming receipt of the agreement and after follow-up from the financial advisors.
“Therefore, Fairview Acquisition Partners did not take the opportunity to update their offer by participating in the divestment process and thus did not make a binding purchase offer for Polaris Bank.”
Meanwhile, stakeholders in the sector insist that the controversy that trailed the sale of the bank would have been avoided if the apex bank had made the process that led to the acquisition more transparent.