Business News of Thursday, 10 January 2019
There was no justifiable reason for the revocation of the licence of Heritage Bank by the Bank of Ghana (BoG), a pressure group calling itself Concerned Northern Youth (CNY), has stated.
The regulator recently revoked the licence of Heritage Bank, whose majority shares are owned by Ghanaian businessman Seidu Agongo. The move was part of efforts to clean up the banking sector.
Among other things, the central bank said the source of Heritage Bank’s capital for its establishment was suspicious, adding that the majority shareholder failed the “fit and proper person” test, and, so, could not own a bank, since he was involved in criminal prosecution as far as the GHS271 million Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) fertiliser scandal was concerned.
The ex-board of Heritage Bank, chaired by Ghana’s longest-served Finance Minister, Prof Kwesi Botchwey, however, issued a statement describing the regulator’s allegations as “complete falsehoods” and “inaccuracies”.
Speaking in an interview with Benjamin Akakpo on Class91.3FM’s Executive Breakfast Show on Thursday, 10 January 2019, the spokesperson for CNY, Assibid Dauda, said: “The reasons stated by the BoG for revoking the licence cannot stand the test of time… That same BoG, as part of their due diligence before granting Heritage Bank their licence, confirmed the existence of the contract between the majority shareholder, Seidu Agongo, and Cocobod, and that is their source of capital. So, it is very strange that the same BoG that confirmed the existence of that contract will today say they are doubting that contract. Where are we getting to?”
He emphasised that the action by the apex bank amounts to “witch-hunting” because “the reason being stated as ‘not fit and proper’ is below the belt”.
He continued: “To avoid suspicion of the planned evil against the bank, Dr Ernest Addison made himself law and declared that the majority shareholder, Mr Seidu Agongo’s involvement in a criminal proceeding in court made him ‘not fit and proper’ to own a bank.
“Every reasonable Ghanaian should fear this dangerous precedence being championed by Bank of Ghana’s Dr Ernest Addison. Not even the commonsense dictum that a man is presumed innocent until proven guilty has cautioned Dr Ernest Addison to resist the pushing by his whimsical masters to let reason prevail.
“Have we become improper people in our own country? What is the crime of Mr Agongo? That he was accused but not proven guilty? Or because Heritage Bank is healthy and must not be owned by a northerner?” Mr Dauda questioned.
He stressed: “For the records, Heritage Bank met the minimum capital requirement without question. The source of its majority shares has been stated honestly as funds the majority holder, Mr Seidu Agongo got from a contract he had with COCOBOD. Is it now a crime to make and invest money from contracts? Or it is because a northerner is involved, so, it should be wrong? Seidu Agongo never borrowed from his own bank, there was no regulatory infraction by the bank; the bank has always complied with all regulations of the Bank of Ghana, does not launder money, has a strong balance sheet, very solvent with no liquidity issues. Why has it been treated this way? Where should its numerous staff go to feed?”
The group is, therefore, calling on the central bank to rescind its decision and allow Heritage Bank to operate.
“We are appealing to civil society organisations, the clergy, chiefs, well-meaning Ghanaians and stakeholders who are interested in a vibrant banking sector for Ghana, and mean well for our economy and worried about the unemployment canker threatening our security as a nation, to appeal to the Bank of Ghana to rethink its decision of revoking the licence of Heritage Bank,” Mr Dauda added.