The acquisition of National Bank of Kenya by Kenya Commercial Bank is turning into a vicious ethnic contest as different players align themselves for the transition.
Sources have told Kurunzi how senior employees at NBK are going for each other’s neck as they seek to position themselves for the takeover set for later in the year.
Shareholders of the two banks approved the move, before the Nairobi Securities Exchange gave its nod; prompting serious clash of interest, with operatives at Treasury reportedly using different managers at the NBK to influence, among other things, staff retention.
It is turning out as a contest between the Kalenjin and other tribes, with current CEO Wilfred Musau being shoved out of the list of those that will transit into the new structure from 1 October.
A Mr Reuben Koech, a senior manager, is alleged to be the mastermind of the Kalenjin agenda, reportedly bragging how he is acting under instructions from CS Henry Rotich and also receives briefs from Harambee House Annexe.
Koech is reported to have prepared a list of staffers to be retained and has excluded Musau, a Mr Chris Muigai and features majority Kalenjin.
Indeed, a staffer at the bank has confided in Kurunzi how there was tension over the list of employees, saying the claims of tribal antagonism were true.
“We are here but honestly we don’t know what is going to happen come October 1,” the source told Kurunzi.
“We are hearing about lists and how people are fighting to be on the transition team but have no idea what the criteria is so we are just here waiting.”
Mr Muigai, a senior manager, is currently uncertain about his role in the bank as he has already been replaced by a Mr Kendagor in what is understood as a clear demonstration of Mr Koech’s influence.
It is alleged that mandarins at KCB who support the Tanga Tanga political outfit have set aside hundreds of millions of shillings, controlled by Koech, to exclude tribes perceived to be opposed to their outfit.
In early June, the High Court declined to suspend the takeover awaiting the outcome of a petition seeking to stop the acquisition.
The petitioners, Evans Aseto and John Kiptoo, in their application claimed the acquisition had been void of any public participation despite National Treasury and NSSF having 50% of the shareholding in the bank.
They allege the takeover is marred with illegalities, irregularity and that most of the details on the merger were scanty.
“We are apprehensive that the acquisition of 1st respondent by the 2nd respondent will occasion loss of jobs to may Kenyans under the employment of respondents as there is high likelihood that various positions will be declared redundant,” part of the petition read.
Other issues raised in the petition include failure to obtain authorization from the Competition Authority of Kenya, lack of clarity on the financial health of NBK books in light of the that the auditor general has not audited the bank.
Parliament, through its Public Investment Committee, says NBK has not been audited, efforts by the office of the Auditor General to undertake the exercise ending in futility.
Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge told parliament how NBK would collapse if the takeover was not approved, saying such collapse would be “disastrous” to customers and shareholders of the NSE-listed firm.
“NBK isn’t a small institution and letting it collapse will be disastrous to its over 650,000 customers and the financial sector at large,” Njoroge told the Finance and National Planning Committee of the National Assembly.