The disturbing trend of sensational social media “journalism” and its impact on legitimate business concerns: the recent efforts of FCMB, GTBank and First Bank
On June 25, 2018, I woke up to another social media trend – a report with the bold and quite salacious headline “How Safe Are Client Deposits At FCMB?” had resumed digital airwaves. Between shares and likes and comments, a storm in a cup had brewed to great proportions in a matter of hours. Again, a demonstration that the core ethics of responsible journalism and ethical reporting has been cast into business and, indeed, into everyday life.
In writing this article, the author made extensive reference to suspected cases of fraud involving FCMB staff and hinted that the bank’s depositors’ funds may not be safe.
It’s quite concerning to see so-called professionals coming to town with such alarming headlines, knowing that most Nigerians won’t bother to read the actual details. It is indeed more worrying that this type of material was disseminated as it was, when, by his own admission, the author had received specific information from the bank on its financial performance and its ability to remain a institution focused on growth and existentially sustainable.
I do not have an account with FCMB, and I am in no way related to the bank or its principals. However, I have the simple ability to read between the lines and remove the glitter from the stuff.
In the first place, for FCMB to increase its stakes in Legacy Pension to make it a fully-fledged subsidiary, as discussed in this article, it means that the bank is looking to the future and is focusing on both diversification and improving its service offerings and profits. This is a bold move, considering that Nigeria’s pension sector has the potential to be bigger than the banking sector in a decade or so.
But even more interesting is the fact that, through his own article, the author admitted that FCMB deposits had risen to 689.9 billion naira at the end of December 2017, an increase of 5%, compared to 657.6 billion naira the corresponding year. Are customers increasing their deposit at a bank they are afraid of or is about to find? Doesn’t it just make sense that customers only increase their deposits at a bank where they get good service and feel at home? For a fact, I know that the 2017 KPMG Banking Industry Customer Satisfaction Survey placed FCMB in 5th position across the entire Nigerian banking sector in Retail Banking, SME Banking, and Wholesale Banking. . This is no small feat when you take into account the number of operators in the industry.
I think what baffled me the most was the fact that, through his own article, the author told us about the main financial metrics of FCMB, including the fact that FCMB reported gross income of $ 169.9 billion. naira and profit before tax (PBT). naira 11.5 billion, while profit after tax (PAT) was naira 9.4 billion.
At first glance, it seems to me that the author, for reasons best known to him, was determined to set the FCMB apart and present it in as negative a light as possible. I don’t dispute the possibility that there was some fraudulent activity – after all, there is no smoke without fire and it tends to resonate more in Nigeria than elsewhere. However, this is an industrial challenge – the Managing Director of the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) Adebisi Shonubi (who a few weeks ago was appointed Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria) recently shared startling statistics on Nigerian bank fraud. industry, revealing that the number of cases of fraud reported in Nigerian banks has increased steadily from 1,461 in 2014 to 10,743 in 2015, 19,531 in 2016 and 25,043 in 2017. It has been argued that fraud in banks banks are not foreign. In the United States of America, it has been said, with compromised credit cards and data breaches often in the news over the past couple of years, fraud is a top priority for many people.
This deliberate attempt to demarket FCMB for reasons best known to the author is also reminiscent of the most recent attack on GTBank in the Innoson case.
It should not be forgotten how, earlier this month, social media were excited by the news that a court had ordered GTBank to pay 12 billion naira to Innoson Group, one of its clients with whom it has had a longstanding legal battle. The misleading reports on social media had extremely sensational headlines such as “Court Orders GTBank to Pay Innoson $ 14 Billion”; “GTBank must pay Innoson 14 billion within 14 days”; “GTBank in trouble as the court orders the payment of 14 billion to Innoson”.
It was such a terrible social media jamboree that some broadcasts were sent to Whatsapp and other social media asking people to withdraw their funds from GTBank immediately, assuming the bank would go bankrupt after paying N14 billion. at Innoson. Of course, Nigerians won’t stop to wonder if the N14 billion naira payment in settlement can really cripple a bank that is widely regarded as Nigeria’s biggest banking brand and clearly one of the world’s most trusted financial giants. most solid of the African continent. Nobody stops to think. The fact that this latest scrimmage was the result of seemingly deliberate attempts to smear the GTBank branding raises more suspicions about the recent publication on the same online platforms questioning the safety of depositors’ funds with FCMB.
The GTBank vs Innoson saga has deteriorated so terribly because of sensational journalism and reporting, that it has taken on an ugly ethnic dimension among the uneducated. So, on various online communities and platforms in Nigeria, you see Nigerians taking sides on the basis that GTBank is a “Yoruba company” and Innoson is an “Igbo company”. What a sad reality for a nation!
The First Bank of Nigeria has also witnessed the harsh and ruthless bite of sensational reporting when recently there was turmoil over the contempt judgment against the Bank and some of its key officials in the Chief Isaac case. Osaro Agbara & 9 Ors. v. Shell Petroleum Development Ltd, Shell International Petroleum Ltd and Shell International Exploration and Production BV. Before facts could be removed from fiction, so many “breaking news” broadcasts and articles had surfaced online, all in the lead with headlines designed to do harm and not just to state the facts.
To move forward as a country and help businesses thrive, this approach must be stopped. Do we have to sensationalize everything just to gain readership and our 5 minutes of fame, at the expense of the businesses and businesses that provide livelihoods to thousands of families across Nigeria? I do not think so.
Even where we have to tackle real issues, it is clear that reporting can be more fact-based and less blackmail and demarketing. As my Yoruba friends have a saying in their language, “Even though they sent you racing as a slave, carry the message as a freeborn.” Crying a wolf falsely too often has serious drawbacks. The credibility of social media is extremely important for the dissemination of relevant, current, up-to-date and authentic information. By constantly using it as a means of settling scores, blackmailing and seeking attention will end up damaging the reputations not only of charlatans in this field, but also of true professionals. The gown of fake news will be thrown on all. It will be a great shame. Freedom presupposes responsibility. Freedom without responsibility is excessive freedom.
These institutions need protection and we really need to stop presenting ourselves to the rest of the world as people who always think about fraud and schemes to create ill-gotten wealth. There are a lot of honest and hardworking people all over Nigeria. We deserve better than these constant, but false, so-called “investigative” sensational writings.
Emefulenwanne Ibeayoka is a Written Public Analyst from Abuja