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Oceanic Bank Winds-Up Operations in Gambia

Published on Thursday 6th January 2011

Oceanic Bank Gambia Limited, a subsidiary of its parent company in Nigeria has began winding up its operations in The Gambia, following its failure to meet the Central Bank of the Gambia [CBG] minimum capital requirement of D150 million.

The move came after the CBG issued a press release Monday stating that "13 of the 14 banks operating in The Gambia have met the minimum requirement as at the deadline of December 31st 2010". This reporter visited the Oceanic Bank Head Office on Kairaba Avenue Tuesday morning, where he saw a long queue of anxious customers waiting to withdraw their monies. Staff of the bank, who are now in a complete dilemma as a result of this unexpected development, were trying their best to attend to the customers. However, it was observed that customers were getting their monies without much difficulty.

In a chat with this reporter, the head of Corporate Communications of the defunct bank, Thomas Kojo Quayson, explained that the move to "go for a voluntary liquidation" has nothing much to do with the Oceanic Bank Gambia Limited, but the Oceanic Bank International in Nigeria that had a universal license, but has now decided to opt for a national banking license, hence could not operate subsidiaries.

He said: "Last year, there was a directive issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria that all banks in Nigeria should choose to either be a regional bank, a national bank or to be an international bank. Oceanic Bank before under the Universal Banking License had subsidiaries in various countries apart from Nigeria. Now the parent company in Nigeria finally decided to opt for a national banking license as opposed to international banking license. When you go for a national banking license, this means that you cannot have subsidiaries in other countries."

Quayson further explained that it was the decision of the parent company in Nigeria for their bank in The Gambia to go for a voluntary liquidation since they have now opted to be national. He pointed out that other banks operating in The Gambia had their capital increased thanks to their parent companies, thus insinuating that the implication for the Oceanic Bank going national in Nigeria means they cannot have subsidiaries and because of that they could not also now send money to augment the capital of its subsidiary [in The Gambia] to meet the requirement.

"So there was a CBG directive here that augment your capital to this and as I speak to you, our capital is well over D100 million and we were well on to meeting the requirement. The gap was minor but because our parent body made the decision that we are going national, so it also has an effect as to what happens here," he said.

Quayson also hinted that Oceanic Bank Gambia will not be the only subsidiary that will be affected by this move to go national indicating that other subsidiaries in other countries will be affected too. He used the opportunity to commend the Oceanic Bank Gambia staff for what he called a wonderful job, stressing that this was a bank that has done a lot and earned the confidence of the customers within a short period of two years. "Our wish would have been for it to carry on but unfortunately [so] is business. What we want to emphasise is that the problem is not with the Oceanic Bank Gambia, but the problem is a decision that was made in Nigeria by the parent company and it affects the bank here," he said.

"No systematic failure"

Quayson who ruled out "systematic failure" or "mismanagement" in the Oceanic Bank Gambia operations, and stressed that the bank in The Gambia was quite strong and it was doing very well to a certain extent if one looks at all the indicators even in terms of liquidity. "We are very liquid and that's why in fact you can see today that no customer has come here and has been turned away. Anybody who has money in this bank you will get it and this is only possible because the bank is liquid. The bank is liquid enough to pay everyone," he assured.

Big blow

The defunct bank spokesperson described the situation as "very sad" in that many people will be laid off, stressing that the decision is beyond their control. He concluded by reassuring the customers that their monies are safe, while using the opportunity to thank the customers for the confidence reposed on them.

Customer's reaction

A good number of customers of the defunct bank also shared their feelings with the Daily Observer with many saying that the development came to them as a shock and a bitter surprise since they never expected such a thing. "I am a businessman that operates a cyber cafe and a printing shop. I heard this news yesterday but I didn't even take it seriously and this morning I came and found people collecting their money. So I decided to withdraw my money. I didn't have any stress in withdrawing my money as the officials treated me well," Momodou Lamin Sidibeh, a customer told this reporter.

Ousman Sllah, another ex-customer, said: "This came to me as a surprise and a shock because I was not expecting it to be Oceanic Bank because of the confidence I had in the bank before. But I think it is administrative failure. I think they could do better than this. I have withdrawn my money and the process was very cordial; they even paid my interest. So I think it is very fair."

One Ngozi Idonesit also said the development came to her as a surprise. "But not too much shock because I read on papers that some banks were going to go. And Oceanic Bank in Nigeria, where I come from have been having a lot of problems. From what their staff told me, they are not insolvent. They only lost their license because their parent company in Nigeria refused to reinvest and decided to pull out." Other customers who also spoke to the Daily Observer expressed shock with this unexpected development.

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