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Atsar Terver
Public Commentator
Port Harcourt
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It is very sad that our society seems to celebrate mediocrity against meritocracy.  Else how would you explain a scenario where someone who is nationally and internationally celebrated as a turn-around expert is being carefully witch-hunted in order to enthrone mediocrity?

 

Why The Orchestrated Falsehood Against NEXIM Bank MD Must Stop!

My attention has been drawn to the laughable, fictitious and desperate sponsored report in the National Daily of 9th July 2012 targeted at the person of the Managing Director of Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM Bank), Mr. Roberts Orya. Among several spurious claims, the report alleges that the dismissed NSA uncovered massive losses in the Bank's operations which were craftily covered up to reflect profit as declared in the Bank's 2010 Annual Report; and further speculates that the Bank gave out loans to shadow clients and cronies without applications and other such fallacies!

 

A lot of questions are begging for answers, to begin with, since when has it become the preserve or responsibility of the NSA to monitor and report on Banks’ operations and performance? It is amazing that in the heat of the very serious security challenges facing the country which Mr. Azazi woefully failed to tackle, rather he directed the national resources, his full energies and intelligence into investigation and/or regulation of banking transactions which fall squarely within the purview of the MDAs such as the EFCC and the CBN. Need we look too far to know why our security situation completely deteriorated under retired Mr.  Azazi?

The author of the shoddily written report did not even pretend to conceal the real agenda of his sponsors which is to tarnish the image of the NEXIM Bank MD with the view to shoving him aside. The emphasis in the report on the fact that his appointment was made by Late President Yar’Adua on the recommendations of the Ex-Attorney General Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, gives away their game plan, which is hinged on the presumption that once anyone is associated with the former AGF, the public would automatically label such a person as corrupt. And having not been appointed by President Jonathan, the President should have no difficulty in replacing him. It is important to note that, even if Mr. Roberts Orya was recommended by Mr. Aondoakaa, one cannot fault his eminent qualification for that position. Lest we forget, here is a man who had put in over 28 years of vast and varied experience in commercial, mortgage and investment banking since 1984 when he joined the services of International Merchant Bank Plc. Prior to his present appointment, he had variously attained top positions in commercial banks as Executive Chairman, Managing Director, and Executive Director. Mr Orya's last appointment was as an Executive Director in charge of Capital Markets, Financial Advisory Services and Research & Strategy with Afribank Capital Ltd,  a position he held until his appointment in August 2009 as the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of NEXIM Bank. In all these appointments, he manifested his sterling integrity and was never at any point in time found wanting in the discharge of his duties.  So it amounts to sheer mischief to attribute his appointment to a mere recommendation from Mr. Aondoakaa.

At the time Mr. Orya, a professional banker of repute was brought in to manage NEXIM bank, the institution was comatose and basically a huge liability operating at a loss. It was an unattractive offer that ordinary minds would shy away from. But counting on his rich experience of over 25 years then in the financial services industry and out of sheer patriotism, he took up the challenge of turning a moribund institution back to life. Today, within two years, he has proved his mettle by turning-around the fortunes of the bank from losses to profitability within a period of less than two years after his appointment. This is what has now enviably attracted people, who saw nothing good in NEXIM Bank before August 2009 to go to any extent to grab it from him and run it aground again.

The agenda of the cabal after Mr. Orya’s seems more desperate when one considers that he has not been in the services of NEXIM Bank up to three years out the 1st 5-year tenure. It is therefore malicious, aggravating, and a show of absolute ignorance for a supposedly intelligent man like the sacked NSA to allege that the audited profit as declared by the Bank in 2010 is fake when indeed the process of profit declaration by any bank is painstakingly thorough as it has go through the external auditors, the Board Audit Committee, the Board of the Bank and the final approval by the Central Bank of Nigeria before being published. One then understands how ludicrous and laughable it is when the writer linked the name of the apex Bank to it! For it is impossible and senseless for the CBN that has withdrawn licenses of non-performing financial entities to rubber stamp NEXIM Bank’s losses as profits!

The plain truth is that Mr. Orya’s performance has been very commendably impressive by turning-around the fortunes of NEXIM Bank in record time of 16 months. Since Roberts Orya assumed duty as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the bank he has demonstrated that he is a leader to be trusted with the mandate of diversifying the export base of the national economy from the mono product of oil as well as attracting foreign direct investment capital to the Nigerian exporter community.  

A quiet, humble, calm and gentle workaholic, his coming to NEXIM has continued to open new vistas and opportunities to boost exports in the high growth non-oil sectors of Manufacturing, Agro-allied, Solid Minerals and Services with huge potentials for job creation and foreign exchange generation Also, in his quest to create a better market access and encourage regional non-oil exports where Nigeria has comparative advantage, in 2010, Mr. Orya innovatively developed a product known as the ECOWAS Trade Support Facility (ETSF). This product which is already operational is meant to formalize Nigerian trade and deepen the payment system within the sub-region. It is important to commend the proactiveness of Mr. Orya. 

When he resumed at NEXIM in August 2009 he inherited a loan portfolio of N14.6billion out of which the Management classified N10.03 billion as lost in line with the Prudential Guidelines of the CBN and debited the Bank’s profit and loss account for 2009. This was necessary to enable the Management commence on a clean slate. As a result of this proactive action, the Bank posted a loss of over N5.4billion.  Fast forward to December 2010, NEXIM, under Mr. Orya’s leadership, turned around the situation and reported an impressive audited profit of N189m. For its 2011 performance, it has been reliably gathered that the Bank is on course to posting an even higher audited profits.

Some of the other challenges Mr. Orya faced were the fact the CBN, one of the key shareholders had practically turned its back on the Bank because of a history of non-performance over the years possibly for lack of clear direction.  Working with his highly technical Board of Directors, the MD crafted a 5-year strategic plan for the Bank which satisfied the CBN to pay up its total outstanding share capital in 2011.  Secondly, the paid-up share capital of the Bank then at N17.2billion since inception of NEXIM in 1991 was depleted to a mere N9billion due to accumulated losses.

Thirdly, despite the paucity of funds for operations, there was escalating and excessive overheads which Mr. Orya immediately tackled by instituting strict internal cost control measures. In order to ensure that only quality loans were created by the Administration of Mr. Orya, he traced the reason for the huge non-performing legacy accounts and discovered that the absence of a robust risk-management framework and sound corporate governance structure were responsible for the deplorable loan situation of the Bank. The tools he has already put in place. It is therefore sheer pandering of mischief to accuse him of giving out loans to fictitious names (which cannot be possible) without an attempt to mention those names when it is no secret that Orya inherited a huge non-performing loan portfolio which he has been conscientiously but gradually recovering .As at the end of last year, about N540m had been recovered. In a report he presented last year, he did not hide the fact that the amount so far recovered was a far cry from what was outstanding and as such he went on to create  a Remedial Management Department within the bank to facilitate the recovery of these loans.

What indeed was the point of the nefarious report in the newspaper? It was reliably gathered that the week retired Azazi’s was sacked as the NSA, one of his henchman, who was in charge of Special Investigation Panel (SIP) was still desperately fishing for information from all sources to the extent of intimidating inviting junior-level officers for interrogation in one of the several bunks used by the former NSA for his clandestine operations in order to nail the NEXIM MD. 

In fact, this henchman, in his several frantic calls to some senior staff of the Bank in the weekend the news of the NSA’s sack was made public, that they had gone to his office to prepare his handover notes and then took the report of the CBN which, as rightly referred to in the publication in the National Daily of 9th July 2012, had given the NEXIM MD, Mr. Roberts Orya, a clean bill of health, (in fact, a commendation), doctored it and wrote a back-dated malicious letter to the Presidency as part of his parting mischief.  

It is very sad that our society seems to celebrate mediocrity against meritocracy.  Else how would you explain a scenario where someone who is nationally and internationally celebrated as a turn-around expert is being carefully witch-hunted in order to enthrone mediocrity?

 

 


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