By Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna
A serving lawmaker with Federal House of Representatives, Hon Samaila Suleiman, has landed himself in a N130 million debt scandal from Guaranty Trust Bank, GTBank.
Hon Suleiman, who represents Kaduna North federal constituency, allegedly obtained a N130 million loan facility from GTBank to offset another loan with the United Bank of Africa (UBA), and also to “bridge an urgent financial gap.”
In a request letter to GTB, dated May 10, 2016, Hon Samaila Suleiman promised to repay the loan from his monthly allowances as a lawmaker, which would be lodged with the bank.
The relationship, however, went sour when Hon Suleiman diverted his allowances to another bank, thereby preventing GTB from reclaiming about N31.5m outstanding on the loan facility.
Efforts by GTB to reach Hon Samaila Suleiman to pay up his debt proved abortive, as he either allegedly ignored his calls and messages or was non-committal in his responses.
In a letter to Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, dated November 29, 2016, the lending bank, GTB, lamented thus: “We are surprised at this dubious act of an Honourable Member of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The bank sought the assistance of the Speaker in getting Hon Suleiman to repay his debt and call the Kaduna-born lawmaker to order.
The allegation against Hon Samaila Suleiman is weighty by all ramifications, and should ideally attract sanctions from the House of Representatives if not criminal prosecution for fraud.
A discomfiting revelation which, however, also emerges, is perhaps the worrisome nature of the relationship between members of the elite class and Nigerian banks. It is inconceivable that a loan of N130m can be granted to “bridge financial gaps” without a fixed asset as collateral, whereas entrepreneurs may never be afforded a tenth of that amount without more stringent conditions.
While neither Hon Samaila Suleiman nor Speaker Yakubu Dogara have publicly reacted to the letters, which found their way to social media on Thursday evening, it remains to be seen what steps will be taken by the House of Representatives and, perhaps, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN (the apex regulatory body), for the banking industry.
It goes without saying that there is an urgent need to discourage such potentially dangerous reckless borrowing by privileged Nigerians, aided by complicit bank executives, which leaves a trail of bad debts, unpaid depositors and crumbling banks, among many other ripples effects for the economy.
It will also be interesting to note that Hon Suleiman has been projecting himself as an advocate for probity and accountability. He recently shared a couple of Twitter posts by President Muhammadu Buhari in which he vowed to fight budget padding at the National Assembly.