Insights, Banking & Finance

Bank Failures in Nigeria: Implications for Stakeholders – A Case Study of Heritage Bank.


On the 3rd day of June, 2024, The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) revoked Heritage Bank’s license, raising significant concerns among depositors, investors, and other stakeholders.

Banks operate in a complex and sensitive environment, therefore, they are under various regulatory frameworks including the maintenance of certain capital reserves and adherence to Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) to ensure stability. However, despite these safeguards, bank failures are a reality. In Nigeria, a failing bank calls for the intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as the primary regulator of the Banking Sector. Depending on the circumstances, such intervention may vary from changing the bank’s management to revoking the license of the bank to the liquidation of the bank. This article will examine circumstances under which the CBN may revoke a bank’s license, the implications of such an action, and what stakeholders can expect moving forward.

Understanding Bank Failures and Their Causes

A bank failure occurs when a bank is unable to fulfill its financial commitments to its creditors and depositors. This inability can stem from two primary causes: insolvency or illiquidity. Insolvency arises when a bank’s liabilities surpass its assets. In this scenario, the bank simply lacks the financial resources to cover its debts. On the other hand, illiquidity occurs when a bank, despite being technically solvent, does not possess enough liquid assets, such as cash or easily convertible assets, to meet the immediate withdrawal demands of its depositors. This can trigger a bank run, a chaotic situation where depositors rush to withdraw their funds, intensifying the bank’s liquidity crisis.

Several factors can contribute to a bank’s descent into failure. Poor risk management practices, such as making high-risk loans, investing in volatile assets, or neglecting to diversify the bank’s investment portfolio, can expose the institution to significant financial vulnerabilities. Economic downturns, like recessions or other financial crises, can lead to a surge in loan defaults and a decrease in profitability. Fraudulent activities or mismanagement by bank executives can rapidly erode a bank’s capital base. Non-compliance with regulatory requirements can also result in hefty fines or penalties, further weakening the bank’s financial standing.

In What Circumstances can the CBN Revoke the License of a Bank?

According to the CBN, the revocation of the Heritage Bank’s license was hinged on its breach of Section 12(1) of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA 2020).

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Ifeoma Ezeribe

Managing Associate

Tolulope Oguntade

Senior Associate

Gbenga Samuel Ogundoye


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