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Articles and Analysies «Š’›Õ… «Šŕ—»Ū… Last Updated: Jan 29, 2010 - 8:35:16 AM

NCBís collapse signals a bad omen. By: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, MD.

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NCBís collapse signals a bad omen.


By: Dr.   Justin Ambago Ramba, MD.


Ten years ago the people of south Sudan in their struggle for freedom came up with the beautiful idea of starting a monetary institution that would serve as the nucleus for promoting the local economy.


It was a good dream and one that was well received by all at a time when Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), was about to be signed and the southern leaders rightly saw how the anticipated autonomy would never symbolize a proper self rule (Independency), unless it encompasses the economic power.


This dream to start the long walk towards an economic independence was eventually translated into reality by establishing what become known as the Nile Commercial Bank (NCB).


The year 2002 saw the birth of the NCB, the first indigenous south Sudanese financial institution. The following year NCBís head office was established at Yambio, in the remote Western Equatoria State and later on was moved to Rumbek before it was officially moved to Juba in December 2005 after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).


This very people who did their best in the harsh conditions in the bushes and jungles of south Sudan and established this lead institution, unfortunately didnít live up to the expectations.


Surprisingly enough just within what would be considered as a probation period for the bank, the expected success was nowhere near to be seen. And sooner than later the very people who helped to midwife the baby bank turned around and strangled it, in what could be labelled as management by looting.


In Juba, new avenues opened and other opportunities to fast wealth started showing up and everybody was quick to jump to any opportunity that came their way.


Money is money, and unless you can succeed with little money, there is no way that you can make it with big money. The rules that govern money are basically the same, and even the village traders know it very well that where money begins, brotherhood ends.


There is also a very popular saying in the Sudan that, ďyou eat as brothers, and hold each other to account as tradersĒ.


Unfortunately as I had discussed in one of a previous article back in 2007 under the heading, ďHow corruption got into South SudanĒ, I has argued in-depth the attitude of our people towards public fund and property.


In south Sudan, our people have had the long experience of viewing the government as an enemy and thus any government money or property becomes a legal target, unfortunately this has extended even into a government that is headed by none but us.


As part of the lessons learnt from our long struggle, our people also came to knowledge that he who controls the economy obviously controls the show. So this went on to start an unprecedented    crazy quest all over south Sudan to build the money empire.


And in their desperate attempt to gain this new strength that comes along with money our heartless leaders irresponsibly resorted to public funds and the Nile Commercial Bank was only one of the many soft targets available to them.


The young bank (NCB), suffered very much from poor management as politics became    mixed with favouritism and the rest is a vicious circle of disasters as the number of defaulter grew with each business day.


What then followed was that even before the NCB could finally declare itself bankrupt, it was already everybodyís knowledge that it wonít survive, as it was been treated like a well that will never dry up.


By the admittance of the Bank of South Sudan (BOSS), leader, Mr. Elijah Along, NCB was in for troubles largely because prominent people in the government would come in and cash huge cheques and walk away, without following the right procedures.


In one of the outbursts, the Assembly Branch manager Mrs. Martha Micah was sacked in a move to push all the blames on the lower management, while the real culprits remain at large and even reluctant to pay back the huge moneys that they have taken without the proper guarantees.


However one striking thing is the logo of the NCB itself. If you look at it, the first thing you see is a white bull eyeing an ear of corn (maize). One can conclude from this self explanatory logo that it is the white bull that ate the corn. Otherwise how do you keep corn and a bull in the same vicinity?


To settle the problem you have to go after the bull or whoever owns it.   However by bringing in more corn without settling the bills with the bull which gets fatter day after day only adds up to what can be seen as a free fattening scheme. Not good for a bank, isnít it?


Last year when the authorities chose not to name and shame those implicated in abusing this financial institution, a bailing strategy was proposed.


Though bailing very porous institutions like the NCB remains a questionable move, yet the leadership took it upon itself to imitate President Barack Obama in how he bailed the American Wall Street. Yes! South Sudanese always have this illusion in the back of their minds that in spite of their continuous survival on foreign aid, they are no doubt an oil producing region. Then why not bail it?!

So with unrealistic guts the government of South Sudan (GoSS), went in and gave the bank a tactical bail of ten million dollars last year. And this only came about following a stern statement issued by Elijah Malong Aleng, the governor of the South Sudan Central bank to publish names of defaulters if they hesitate to repay the money last year.

What all failed to see was that the bail    paid in 2009 (from the public money)   was in fact intended to save the backs of those deeply involved in the NCB scandal ÖÖÖÖ..the ď fat catsĒ higher   up in the GoSS and the SSLA.

But the anomalous administrative structure which was behind all the mess remained intact, and seemed to have not got any attention at all from our complacent leaders.

Like anything else in south Sudan, we are all aware that the criminal defaulters continue to enjoy full government support and protection while resisting making any efforts to refund the NCB, and the story seems to move nobody at all.

These irresponsible actions are in no doubt     leading    to the imminent collapse of NCB. It can go into ruins while those greedy defaulters comfortably ride in their beautiful cars as long as the bank authorities or the GoSS remain completely reluctant to take any legal actions.

As if to say that these illusive borrowers are rightly entitled to free public money, t he South Sudan Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, David Deng Athorbei again in this month of January 2010, sought a parliamentary approval for yet another financial bailout package to the beleaguered and seriously ill Nile Commercial Bank (NCB), as it struggles with the rising number of defaulters.  

This is very serious indeed, because what on earth has injected this confidence in the Minister that the South Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA), could approve the misuse of the public money and for the second time on an institution that is otherwise private sector and on its way to the drain?

Is this not the same Minister who chose to settle the ď DuraĒ or ďMaize ď or ď Corn ď scandal that he inherited by resorting to an extra judicial settlements ? I donít think that he has what it takes to protect the public money.

It was only natural that the parliament unanimously rejected the presented twenty five million Sudanese pound bailout packages and arguing that the lost funds should have been recovered from the Bank itself and not from the government.

It takes genuine nationalist of the calibre of Jimmy Wongo, acting Speaker of the legislative Assembly to put things right when he was quoted saying:

 ďThere are no basis why this money should be chopped off the government budget already allocated to ministries and service commissions,Ē Jimmy said

The finance minister and the entire banking community of south Sudan should have been the first people to take on board that the NCB as a private financial institution has the right to sue or be sued. NCB is now left to decide how it would legally deal with her defaulters most of whom are said to be senior government officials.

The core of this article is actually to shade light and expose to the public how our stunted government is bent to protect the interest of the few financial parasites at the expense of the millions who live in destitution.

How do we all tolerate the soĖcalled leaders while they go about taking money from the bank without putting forward the least guarantee and by abusing their political powers, they force these financial institutions to assist them establish their private projects and in the end they not only turn around and refuse to pay back what they took, but they also proceed to more power abuse in their attempts for repeated government bails.

It should have now been made clear to these irresponsible frontline politicians and their cronies from the public servants that it is time they review their ways of handling public matters. No one should again be allowed to pocket money which isnít theirs and still    assume business as usual.

The bank (NCB), should it want to survive, it should now      rather go after the debtors and reclaim its money back; otherwise    business is coming to an end. And we continue to      hope that whatever new the assembly comes up it should avoid being linen with failed institutions like NCB, and not as well forgetting reclaim it to refund the ten million pounds spent on last years bailout.    

A lesson must inevitably be learnt from how NCB rose and suddenly collapsed. It is our peopleís greed and lack of accountability coupled with gross impunity, which finally dealt the fatal blow to the very institution that they would have boasted off.

This is an extended call to all concerned south Sudanese nationalists to    use their votes wisely otherwise you will be judged by history for sending the wrong signals.

Should south Sudanís future    continue to be locked up    with these money vampires who compulsively preying on our national economy and with the most unimaginable impunity?  

At the end we can only say that the economic power that we sought to achieve through the Nile Commercial Bank (NCB) has turned into another unaccomplished dream sadly living us at the mercy of the several mushrooming foreign banks and money institutions

As foreigners continue to dominate the business in south Sudan, we must willingly or unwillingly be prepared to put up with the wound it inflicts on our national pride till a time that we learn how to abide by the book.

Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, M.B, B.Ch, D.R.H, MD. The Secretary General of the United South Sudan Party (USSP).. Can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]


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