The House of Representatives on Wednesday directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to suspend the sale of Polaris Bank Plc immediately.
The House said the suspension should be until the CBN, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria concluded all processes for an open, transparent, and competitive bid process.
This, the house said it should be in line with best practices and procedures for divestment of this nature.
This followed the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance by Henry Nwauba (APGA-Imo) at the plenary on Wednesday.
He said public attention had been drawn through a circulation currently on social media in respect of the proposed sale of Polaris Bank for N40 billion.
In August, the Central Bank governor Godwin Emefiele, reportedly planned to secretly sell the bank which was nationalised with N1.2 trillion taxpayers’ funds in 2018 for a paltry N40 billion to Auwal Gombe, a son in-law to former military head of state Ibrahim Babangida.
In reaction to the plot, renowned lawyer Femi Falana wrote to the apex bank demanding details of the proposed sale. It is not immediately clear if the bank had responded to Mr Falana’s query.
Mr Nwauba said in plenary that there was need to ensure that the divestment in the bank did not jeopardise the core reason for the CBN intervention in the bank in the overall public interest.
He added that the divestment should be done most transparently following the required due process.
He said that this was necessary to avert public outcry and untoward reaction from critical stakeholders in the economy, foreign business partners, the banking community, depositors, and Correspondent banks.
The lawmaker added that it was crucial to avoid the shortcomings of the previous similar exercise undertaken in the past.
He said that Polaris Bank was borne out of the bailout of the defunct Skye bank Plc which failed due to poor corporate governance and non-performing loan.
The lawmaker said the defunct Skye Bank was a systemically important Bank with a large pool of employees, customers, and other stakeholders.
He said the bank without a bailout would have had a serious contagion effect on the economy and global perception/reputation.
The House, therefore, set up an Ad hoc Committee to within 20 days, review the total outlay by the federal government of Nigeria in Polaris Bank and account for the entire financial input in the bank by the federal government.
The House said this should be through CBN, NDIC and AMCON to determine whether the conditions and terms of sale were likely to ensure positive return on public funds thus far committed to the bank, whether as bailout funds or other investments.
The House urged the committee to take action necessary to ensure that the public funds committed to Polaris Bank were appropriately documented, and accounted for.