The former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, at the weekend in Awka, narrated how he received 19 written threats on his life following his decision to embark on banking consolidation in Nigeria in 2004 when he became the boss of the nation’s apex bank.
In an interview, Soludo also recalled attempts made to kidnap his children at Offa, Kwara State where they were at the time because many people felt threatened by the policy.
He said: “I am a very impatient person to see change happen and I am passionate in anything I focus on. When I was the chief economic adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo, and the tenure of the former CBN governor ended and I came in. within one month, I announced a 13 – point agenda for banking consolidation.
“At that time, no bank in Nigeria was in the top 1000 banks in the world. If you needed to make an investment of $500 million, you had to go through the then 39 banks and it was an impossible task. If you wanted to borrow abroad, there was no bank here to guarantee that.
“So, I came to the realization that if we wanted to build a private sector-driven economy, it was not possible with the rickety ‘mama and papa’ banks, which could not guarantee even N3 million loan. We, therefore, needed to pull down the house and rebuild it.
“When I announced bank consolidation to raise the capital base from equivalent of $15m to equivalent of $200 million within 18 months, the screaming headlines in the newspapers were that it was impossible.
“My argument then was that while most of the people were seeing it from the negative way, I was seeing it from the positive angle. There were forces that wanted the status quo to remain and forces that wanted change.
“There was nothing I did not see. I received 19 written threats in my life. Even there were attempts to kidnap my children at Offa in Kwara state. So it was a very brutal revolution. I had to evacuate my family during the banking consolidation because when you want to uproot a system, it is usually a deadly routine.
“And at the 28th month, we finished. We had 25 healthy banks and scrapped 14 and cleared up the system. Three years afterward, 14 Nigerian banks made it to the top 1000 banks in the world, and two of them made the 300 banks in the world. That was when Nigerian banks began to have the muscle to be able to compete for big businesses.”
According to Soludo, before the banking consolidation, mega businesses were impossible in Nigeria, including airline business, adding that anybody who borrowed up to N 5million from 2005, after giving credit to God and perhaps, his ingenuity, should give credit to Soludo.
He said further: “The rich and mighty in Nigeria would not have been where they are today without banking consolidation. All of a sudden, businesses that could not borrow a few 100 million are now signing $100 billion downstream investment. Impossible was the word before we came. The good thing was that it cost Nigeria zero to achieve it.”
He stated that when he finished with the banking consolidation, he went to President Obasanjo again and told him that he had another dream, which was to establish African Finance Corporation, AFC, which the African Union, AU, was unable to do.
“I saw the gap in infrastructure development in Africa and after explaining to the president, he asked me to raise the memo and I assured him that it would be finished before he would leave the office.
“I set out for work and we raised $1.1 billion after visiting 25 African countries and by the time Obasanjo was leaving office, we signed documents for the African Finance Corporation. Today, AFC has over $7 billion investment around Africa,” Soludo said.