By Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
Lagos, Sept. 3, 2018 Four commercial banks donated a total of N980 million to the Nigerian Police Force in 2017 to support its activities, with the banks incurring the wrath of their shareholders.
Checks by the Nigeria News Agency indicated that the banks were United Bank of Africa (UBA), Guaranty Trust Bank, FCMB Group and Fidelity Bank.
A breakdown of the figures contained in the commercial banks’ 2017 annual reports obtained by NAN showed that UBA gave the sum of N300 million during the review period.
Guaranty Trust Bank also donated N300 million, FCMB and Fidelity Bank contributed N180 million each.
Speaking on the contributions, Mr Moses Igbrude, Publicity Secretary, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria, said that the donations were not voluntary but imposed on banks in the name of improving security.
Igbrude said the donations should be voluntarily and not by force, noting that it was not the duty of the banks to fund the Police Force.
“While I have no problem with corporate bodies contributing or donating toward improving or assisting the NPF it should not be by force or seen as if it is the banks’ duty to fund the Police Force.
“Anything that increases expenses and reduces the value of an investment is not what shareholders will support,” he said.
Igbrude said the burden on banks was so much, and that they provide everything for themselves despite the taxes they paid to the government.
“A branch of a bank is like a local government, it provides water, light, security and other things necessary to run that branch.
“You want banks to create employment, to kick start the economy by providing funding yet they are burdened with various impediment like AMCON levies, among others.
“So what is the role of government in all these?” Igbrude asked.
He said the government and the regulators should allow the managements of banks to contribute to security through their individual corporate social responsibility initiatives rather than by compulsion.
Mr Boniface Okezie, National Coordinator, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, said there was nothing wrong with the donations provided it was channelled for specified purpose.
Okezie said banks should identify urgent needs of the police such as accommodation or provision portable boreholes.
He said the provision of basic amenities would be preferable instead of donating cash.
Okezie said shareholders should not be shortchanged, and that every fund was important when it had to do with return on investment.
Also speaking, Mazi Okechukwu Unegbu, former President, Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, said it was the responsibility of the government to provide security for its citizens and to make the business environment right for businesses to thrive.
He said the donations by banks were meant to secure banks facilities and the environment around the banks, noting that the support started a long time ago.
Unegbu said the question remained whether the police utilised the money for the purpose it was meant.
He said the banks were trying in terms of support but could not control the police or do more than contributing the money.
According to him, in other countries banks do not fund the Police because they have good security environment contributed by various police divisions unlike Nigeria where it is centralised.
He, however, called on banks to sponsor specific projects that would affect the lives of the police instead of donating funds.
Prof. Sheriffdeen Tella, Professor of Economics, Olabisi Onabanjo University Ago-Iwoye, told NAN that banks, just like any organization, must engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR).
“Since the Police assist the banks in security matter, it is important that part of the CSR be spent on them as organisations not individuals.
“For example, purchase of vehicles for operations can be taken up under CSR, not building police station.
However, Mr Nnamdi Okonkwo, Fidelity Bank Managing Director, told the shareholders recently that it was an initiative of the Bankers’ Committee aimed at supporting the Nigerian Police.
Okonkwo said that the committee agreed to support the police by equipping them and as well as provide other things needed to make their jobs easier.
Edited by Salif Atojoko