|Heritage Bank Boss, Ifie Sekibo with some BBNaija 2017 Housemates a few days back|
No doubt, Big Brother Naija, the controversial lifestyle TV reality show is about the biggest trending phenomenon on Nigerian social media in 2017.
Despite mixed reactions from various quarters of the society, concerning morality and immorality of the show, should one say that the immorality carried the day as it appears that a staggering number of Nigerian youths expressed their passion for the show as they pour in votes in torrents for their favourite housemates.
The show which lasted for about 11 weeks probably gave the organisers a hard time sieving out sponsors because the show was now glaringly the best avenue to get into the minds of the millions of youths obsessed with it, and as expected it will be an avenue for popular brands even the controversial ones to wash themselves clean in the eyes of the public by advertising.
Interestingly, the organisers who started with only one major sponsor, PayPorte, ended the show with several big name sponsors including the Nigerian Breweries, Indomie Noodles, Routos, to name but just a few.
Therefore, it wasn't a big surprise when Heritage Bank Nigeria Plc started placing commercials on the show. You couldn't miss the bank's superfluous TVC. Although several people didn't hesitate to register their dislikes whenever the commercial came up, as viewers often blasts the producers of the TVC of lacking creativity, because the first few seconds of the TVC looks like an advert for Gulder Ultimate Search.
Here was a bank which hitherto had been engulfed in all sorts of messy controversies and drama in the last couple of months and many Nigerians, based on feedbacks on social media and in the real world have continued to question the safety of their hard earned money with the bank.
Even in March, just while the BBNaija show was ongoing, the bank was accused in many Nigerian media outlets to have taken unprecedented step against one its executive directors, Mary Akpobome, who happens to be the wife of popular Nigerian comedian Ali Baba. Ali Baba's wife was reportedly suspended for signing off on some loans running into millions of Naira belonging to depositors. Heritage Bank which has been said to be facing difficulties arising from insider abuse and self-dealing, was reported to have sent her on the indefinite suspension to recover the loans.
Allegations of unwholesome dealings against top executives of Heritage bank didn't just start today, Akinsola Akinfemiwa, founding chief executive of another controversial bank, Skye Bank who is now the chairman of Heritage Bank; was not too long ago in a legal mess over a failed deal he allegedly dabbled into in the year 2000 and other other unethical banking practices all while he was the Managing Director of Prudent Bank.
Heritage Bank Nigeria Plc, which was only in November 2016 allegedly stuck in a debilitating liquidity situation; was reported to being unable to meet customers’ immediate withdrawal requests and therefore had to wipe out all foreign currency domiciliary accounts through physical theft of cash by the bank's directors. The bank was therefore widely reported to be undergoing distress. Of course one does not expect any bank to admit such. However, various feedbacks from their customers testified the bank to be facing all sorts of issues such as the ability to deposit huge amount of money in their accounts but when it was time to take back all their money, there is one story or another from the bank. This was apart from the many ridiculous complaints about their Automatic Teller Machines nationwide, amongst other shocking anomalies.
First Bank Plc, which handles Heritage Bank's universal clearing activities, was said to have threatened to blacklist the bank and stop further clearing transactions if its outstanding deficit of over N5billion is not cleared.
Much more disturbing is the widely spread allegations against Heritage Bank that it was in a connival with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to cover up its insolvency state.
From mass retrenchment of its staffs to inability to pay salaries and selling of one office property to pay rent of another, Heritage bank wallowed in the pool of its own vomit all through late 2016.
It would be recalled that only around March this year also, an Abuja company petitioned the Federal High Court and the Central Bank of Nigeria to liquidate the bank on account of its inability to meet customers’ demands.
Geonel Integrated Services Limited, a security services company, claimed it has over N1.8billion and another $85,859 trapped in various Heritage Bank accounts.
The timeline of Heritage Bank's controversies and scandals are inexhaustible and the financial institution has continued to embark on what is seen in some quarters as desperate PR moves in the hope of appearing like a saint of a bank in the eye of the public.
And it has of course found what it probably think is the most veritable tool for the task-Big Brother Naija.
Weeks after the show has ended, Heritage Bank determined to milk it dry of all image laundry opportunities continues to lavish money to host the different housemates at its headquarters. You would think Heritage Bank is the main sponsor of the show.
If it's not "Heritage Bank Has Breakfast With Big Brother Naija Housemates" today, then it will be "Heritage Bank Empowers BBNaija Housemates" tomorrow. The Bank has sort of become a second home of the housemates as it has refused to move on from the Big Brother Naija fever and quit the unnecessary spendings on Big Brother Naija. Even PayPorte which was the main sponsor has long stopped the funfare.
This "crying more than the bereaved" attitude of Heritage Bank didn't just start after Big Brother ended, the Bank has been in the habit of holding multiple meetings with evicted housemates while the show was still airing. Gifty was spotted at the banks headquarters on different occasions and what for? To create a news for traffic hungry bloggers to feed on! As earlier mentioned, the bank appeared to have found a most effective tool to distract the public from its many issues!
Even on the show, Heritage Bank made it presence seen by taking over a few of the show's segment aside the incessant TVC, but will somebody please tell Heritage bank that there is far more to good and trusted banking services than just pumping money on adverts to brainwash sentimental section of the society?
Instead of Heritage Bank's to channel the last few drops of cash in its reportedly drying purse into reviving its business, the bank, as earlier accused in the media last year is obviously proving itself to believe more in false PR and patching up to create an appearance of non-existent solidity instead of finding a long lasting solution to its mountains of problems.
In the next coming months, Heritage Bank has another opportunity and time to get its acts together in the committee of Nigeria banks before the next BBNaija audition kicks off, however rather than shaping up or finally get shaped out of the Nigerian banking system, it won't be any surprise if the bank is already waiting for BBNaija 2018 for more 'patching up' opportunity 'based on logistics'.