Alex Otti: Unholy partnership between Abia Gov’t and Signature bank 

OPINION: Abia State, Signature bank: Conflict of interest or what By Ibezim Ukonu 

Signature bank Nigeria Limited came upstream as a regional bank on 21st of Nov 2022 with its headquarters at 21 Gana Street ,Maitama, Abuja as a one branch bank. The bank was founded by Dr Alex Oti months before he was sworn in as Governor of Abia state on May 29th 2023. Of course he resigned his position as a non executive director of the bank. 

The Commissioning of the bank came after many months of postponed take off due to what many speculate may be for their poor financial position. However, the Port Harcourt branch, Rivers state began operations in 2023 shortly after Alex Otti was declared winner of Abia state Governor.

Top on the fear is an unholy partnership between the Abia State Government and the bank is that the current Chairman of Signature bank Dr. Mutiu Sunmonu who is also the the chairman of Julius Berger Nigeria and remember that Julius Berger construction company was “allocated” the highest contract per kilometer in Nigeria history, that is the 5.9km Port Harcourt /Asa road Aba awarded at the whooping cost of  N30b naira, a figure long confirmed by the media aide to the Governor, Mr. Ferdinand Ekeoma while on Arise News. 

Ostensibly, this particular contract was never advertised in any national daily just like all the jobs being ‘allocated’ in Abia State. Due process was not equally followed negating all the promises of transparency and due process that characterized Otti’s pre and post election promises. Notwithstanding that the Governor while campaigning had preempted that JB will handle Port Harcourt/ Asa road foregrounding the assumption that the job was already promised JB even before Otti’s victory at the polls. 

The fortunes of Signature bank was so bleak that the then Managing Director Mrs Nonye Anyeni resigned and took up a Political appointment as Senior Special Assistant on export promotion at the Presidency. 

Today, the fortunes of new Signature bank is booming as if they are operating outside the harsh economic realities of today’s Nigeria. 

Two months after Gov.Alex Otti, who acknowledged his interest in Signature bank was sworn in as Governor of Abia state, two branches were opened simultaneously in Aba and Umuahia.

Signature bank primed their business development plan targeting solely Abia state government busines and its workers, as civil servants are allegedly being coerced to open accounts with signature bank as well as contractors. All the contractors including Julius Berger and Cranburg, Ferotex Construction company were all mandated to open accounts with signature bank. 

Having an account with Signature bank is a bragging right for further engagement in Abia state and a ticket for more contracts. 

Today ,Signature bank that was struggling few months ago is opening 8 branches at the same time in many locations including Kaduna. 

The State Government through their officials have given instructions for all projects, capital and overhead accounts in other commercial banks to be moved to Signature bank. This includes all the world bank and multi lateral agency related accounts. 

The CBN should investigate the structures of corporate governance and the place of conflict of interest in what is going on in signature bank and Abia state government. 

Many analysts are of the view that the Signnture bank recent metamorphosis and coincidence of Alex Otti’s emergence as governor of Abia state is very rear in history. 

Commentators are concerned that Abia money may be linked to Signature bank expansion programmes considering the difficulty of it’s dormancy before governor Alex Otti’s emergence as Abia Governor.

Regulatory authorities are asked to be watchful of what is currently going on in the bank, especially the source of funds for the massive branch expansion going on across the country. 

Ibezim Ukonu 

Public Commentator based in Lagos,Nigeria

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