Ochei, on a routine familiarisation and thank-you tour of his Aniocha North Constituency, had barely finished exchanging pleasantries with his supporters at the Eke Market square venue, when a loud explosion and its attendant smoke threw the crowd into pandemonium.
According to an eye-witness, the Speaker had not taken his seat immediately on arrival, as he was busy exchanging greetings when the canon, ignited and propelled from the rear on trajectory to his seat on the front row, was inhibited by chairs which, even though were shattered, provided some cushioning effect.
It was also gathered that the explosives were wrapped in white satin materials, which made detection impossible, as the chairs and tables were also decorated in white materials.
The victim, whose left ankle was badly injured, was immediately rushed to the Federal Medical Centre, Asaba, but referred to the Delta State University Teaching Hospital Oghara for further medical attention. She was said to be in stable condition just as doctors were battling to avert amputation.
The public hearing also revealed that one of the airlines has a plane that is 43 years old.
One shocking revelation at the probe is the fact that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is yet to certify any of the 22 airports in the country because the airports have been unable to meet the requirements on the regulator’s checklist particularly in the area of security and safety in the last 20 years.
The NCAA is yet to certify any airport in the country since 2006, when the law that gave it autonomy to certify airports in line with international regulations was promulgated, and none of the airports in the country was certified before NCAA’s autonomy. Yet we fly daily in and out of these uncertified airports.
First, it was the trio of founding chief executives of UBA Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and Skye Bank Plc who had to leave their prized institutions by handing over to their next in command in 2010, in line with the 10-year tenure policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria. As the current managing directors of Access Bank Plc and Fidelity Bank Plc prepare to join the trail by stepping aside in December this year, Festus Akanbi writes on what would be the new dispensation in the two institutions come January 2014
Banking industry players are understandably busy at this time of the year. Industry sources hinted that at the board and management levels of each of the banks, there is pressure to improve the balance sheet two months to the end of the financial year, in addition to the pressure to safeguard the institutions against poaching of outstanding employees by rival institutions.
Industry watchers admit that this is also the period for bank chief executives to draw up their timetables for new financial year, where issues like improvement in revenue generation, cost saving, visibility in terms of registering their presence in the consciousness of the members of the banking community, retention/employment of quality hands, among others are usually trashed out. However, as the banking industry braces for 2014 operating year, a change of guards is underway in two banks, namely Access Bank Plc and Fidelity Bank Plc. Their fortunes will be determined by new chief executives billed to take over from their present leaderships come 2014.
CBN had in 2010 issued new guidelines to address what it considered as some corporate governance issues by imposing a maximum limit of 10 years of two terms of five years each on the tenure of banks’ managing directors and chief executives.
Although, not all the chief executives of the banks may accomplish the required 10-year tenure due to ill-health or non-performance, the policy is expected to engender performance-driven environment as the chief executives could come back to their boards and shareholders to seek for reappointment after the first five year tenure.
Some banks that had been affected by this policy are United Bank for Africa Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and Skye Bank Plc. Their erstwhile chief executives- Tony Elumelu, Jim Ovia and Akinsola Akinfemiwa left their high positions after spending 10 years in that capacity and they were immediately succeeded by their former deputy managing directors-Phillips Oduoza, Godwin Emefiele and Kehinde Durosimi-Etti respectively.
Going by the arrangement put in place by the boards of Access Bank and Fidelity Bank, there will be change of batons in 2014 as the current chief executives of the two banks, Access Bank’s Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, and his counterpart in Fidelity Bank, Reginald Ihejiahi will bow out gracefully in 2014.
By the time their successors finally take over in January 2014, the banks will be entering into a new phase, as the next line of action would essentially be determined by a combination of factors, which include their perception of the banking industry and the interpretation of whatever policies churned out by the new leadership expected to take over in Central Bank of Nigeria after the incumbent governor Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi eventually steps down in June next year.
In an industry where the buck stops on the managing director’s table and where a sort of cult-like loyalty is required of staff by managements of banks, a new alignment will be forged between the staff and the new management, a development, which may largely engender staff re-postings, transfers and in some cases job rationalisation.
New Dawn at Fidelity Bank
A fortnight ago, the management of Fidelity Bank Plc approved a successor to the incumbent chief executive Ihejiahi, who will serve out his 10-year maximum term by February 2014.
The man chosen to begin a new phase in the bank is Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, who is currently an Executive Director in charge of the South Directorate of the bank.
From all indications, Nnamdi who comes with over 23 years of experience in various aspects of banking is fully prepared for the new task. Between 2006 and 2009, he was Managing Director of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Ghana, and between 2008 and 2009, he doubled as the Regional Chief Executive Officer for UBA West African Monetary Zone, with responsibility for Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone. He later became Divisional Head for the Corporate Bank Directorate between 2009 and 2012, before returning to Fidelity Bank Plc as Executive Director, having earlier worked in Fidelity Bank (old FSB that consolidated to form the enlarged Fidelity) between 1998 and 2000. Within that period, he had been Senior Manager in branches both in Lagos and Port Harcourt.
Between 2004 and 2005, Nnamdi was General Manager in Standard Trust (which later became UBA) and later in 2005 was Regional Director of UBA in charge of branches in the FCT, Niger and Kogi states.
Nnamdi holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agric. Economics from the University of Benin and an MBA in Banking & Finance from Enugu State University. He is also a graduate of the Advanced Management Programme of INSEAD Business School, Fontainebleau, France. In addition, he has attended various business and management training locally and overseas, including Harvard Business School, Oxford and many other elite leadership development institutions.
As one of the leading Tier-2 banks, the managing director-designate is expected to maintain the bank’s hold in its key areas, which include financing of key infrastructure and trade.
Ihejiahi took over Fidelity Bank Plc and inherited the challenge of setting the course for growth. From being in the top 30 banks in Nigeria with N20 billion in deposits, N30 billion in total assets and less than 150,000 in customers, he orchestrated the consolidation of the legacy Fidelity Bank with the former FSB International Bank Plc and Manny Bank Plc to form the currently enlarged Fidelity Bank Plc that now ranks among the top 10 banks in the country with over 1.0 billion US dollars in equity, over N1trillion in total assets and 2.3 million customers represented in 220 branches, compared to 17 branches at take on. The bank also has presence in all the state capitals and major commercial centres in Nigeria.
At Access, Wigwe Steps In
Earlier, the current Managing Director of Access Bank, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, had served the bank notice to step down as the helmsman on December this year, in line with the 10 year-tenure policy of the CBN. Consequently, the bank announced Herbert Wigwe, who is the Group Deputy Managing Director, as Chief Executive Officer-designate. Wigwe started his professional career with Coopers and Lybrand Associates, an international firm of Chartered Accountants. He spent over 10 years at Guaranty Trust Bank where he managed several portfolios including Financial Institutions, Corporates and Multinationals. He left Guaranty Trust as an Executive Director to co-lead the transformation of Access Bank Plc in March 2002 as Deputy Managing Director.
The incoming Access Bank boss is an alumnus of Harvard Business School Executive Management Programme. He holds a Masters degree in Banking and International Finance from the University College of North Wales; a Masters degree in Financial Economics from the University of London, and a B.Sc. degree in Accounting from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).
Wigwe’s first assignment is the implementation of the bank’s five-year strategic plan unveiled recently.
But can Wigwe fill the big shoes of Aig-Imoukhuede? Does he have the resilience, ‘stubbornness’ and strong resolve that made his successor one of the titans of the Nigerian banking industry? Analysts said answers to these questions would be provided in the coming months when the new chief executive begins to call the shot.
Highlights of Access Bank’s Plan
Access Bank, which rates itself as Nigeria’s Corporate Bank Leader, plans to be “the world’s most respected African Bank” by 2018 but has set a mid-cycle goal post by 2015 of being a “high performing Nigerian diversified banking leader”.
By 2015, the bank expects to have consolidated its retail franchise and become a more consumer-centric bank, become more dominant in corporate banking, and be a leader in the Ghanaian banking sector.
By 2018, management expects to have expanded its African footprint to the most attractive markets, be a properly set-up multi-channel bank running an industrialised global operating model, be the preferred African bank in the U.K. and run the best in class technology platform in Africa. Access Bank aims to grow its customer base to between 15 and 20 million across its African markets by 2018 from around 6 million, as it shifts its focus to retail banking.
And giving an indication of his direction, Wigwe said retail banking would account for around half of its total business in five years’ time, up from 30 per cent.
The bank also said it intends to grow its loan book by 15 percent this year, up from 5 percent in 2012, channeling funds to retail, telecoms, and oil and gas financing. The bank is optimistic that corporate banking and infrastructure financing will also be key drivers of revenue.
The bank said it would participate in the financing of oil firms divesting from Nigeria to the tune of $30 million to $40 million, using some of the proceeds of its $350 million Eurobond sale, referring to expected asset sales this year by Shell and Chevron.
Access Bank completed the acquisition of Intercontinental Bank last year, which put it in the top four of 21 Nigerian banks, up from ninth in 2007.
Chief Fani-Kayode was not only the Minister of Culture and Tourism under the tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo, he was also presidential spokesman to Obasanjo for a number of years and later appointed Minister of Aviation. We are not in the least bit concerned about the columnist’s opinions about Chief Fani-Kayode or anyone else but what we take strong objection to are his pernicious lies, his mendacious fabrications and the continuous free expression of his malevolent and hate-filled disposition towards our client.
We shall take this opportunity to point out the fact that this is the second time that your columnist has maligned and libelled Chief Fani-Kayode, the first time being a few months ago during the Igbo/Yoruba debate in which he made some very disparaging remarks about him. Yet it did not stop there. On Sunday, the 27th of October, we woke up to discover that Nwakanma had done it again by writing the essay that is presently under consideration.
His obsession with Chief Fani-Kayode is truly larger than life. He is so filled with venom and hate that he has continued his worthless diatribe against a man that has not only served his country well but that has also saved lives by stopping crashes in the aviation sector when he was Minister. It is amazing that the columnist seems unable to rid himself of his igbocentric nature and sentiments and that he cannot desist from attempting to pass off fiction as fact.
In journalism we are told ‘’opinion is cheap but facts are sacred’’. Yet Nwankanma seems to have forgetten that principle or, in the case of Chief Fani-Kayode, he has recklessly thrown it out of the window. Not only is he vulgar and uncouth in all his ways but he is also given to telling fat lies and indulging in vicious mendacities. In short, Obi Nwakanma is a liar of the first order and a man that is motivated and subsumed with hatred.
He cannot see beyond his nose or beyond his eastern origins. In his latest swipe at Chief Fani-Kayode, he wrote, inter alia, that Stella Oduah, the embattled Minister of Aviation, had ‘’become the object of a certain Mr. Fani-Kayode’s eyes and lust for the ethnic other (meaning the Igbos)’’. He went further by writing ‘’whispered hints suggested that it all had to do with Oduah raining on FFK’s Bicourtney parade or some unfinished business involving certain personal interests at aviation’’. He ended it by writing, ‘’in all these Oduah managed to shrug off her adversaries and seemed rather coy about it. Note-when she recently laughed off Fani-Kayode and told him to get off whatever he must be smoking’’.
These are Obi Nwakanma’s words and the innuendo is clear for the world to see. We shall not take it lightly and Mr. Nwakanma will be put to the strictest test and proof of Chief Fani-Kayode’s ‘’smoking’’ anything when he offered his counsel to Stella Oduah or at any other time. Such malicious and baseless assertions and slurs are best reserved for usage by motor park touts and school yard bullies and certainly not by a columnist of one of the most respected newspapers in Nigeria and on the African continent.
Not only was our client not ‘’smoking’’ anything when he offered his counsel to Oduah and to the president but he answered Oduah, in his characteristically eloquent manner, by telling her that the only influence that he was under when he advised her to resign and when he called for her sack was the influence of the Holy Spirit. Subsequent events may well have proved that to be true because ever since that call, Oduah has been completely exposed for what she is by forces that are clearly beyond her. As a matter of fact, her entire world appears to be falling apart. Perhaps if she had taken Chief Fani-Kayode’s advice and resigned immediately after the Associated Airlines plane crash, she could have avoided all this.
As if this was not bad enough then came the second lie from Obi Nwakanma and perhaps the most grievious and damaging lie of all. The suggestion that Chief Fani-Kayode has any business connections or interests in the aviation industry with Bicourtney or any other company or persons is another of his baseless fabrications and a manifestation of his fanciful and reckless imagination.
The truth is that there is absolutely no link between Chief Fani-Kayode and Bicourtney other than the fact that Dr. Wale Babalakin, who is the Chairman of Bicourtney, is a family and childhood friend to Chief Fani-Kayode and that they went to Cambridge University together. Dr. Babalakin’s law firm are also lawyers to Chief Fani-Kayode and this is a matter of public knowledge.
One wonders how and when such a proximate association and deep friendship, which has spanned over a period of 35 years, can possibly translate into having business interests with one another in aviation or elsewhere or how it can possibly be described as a crime or viewed with suspicion? Should Chief Fani-Kayode have declined from going to the Ministry of Aviation when he was redeployed there by President Obasanjo simply because Babalakin is a stakeholder in that sector?
The truth is that Chief Fani-Kayode was as hard on Babalakin as he was on everyone else when he went to aviation and it is on record that he actually closed down the airlines of two of his closest friends because they did not meet up to safety standards. Till today, those two airlines have not flown again. He also refused to accept and endorse the newly created AIB Accident Interim Report of the 2005 Bellview crash which was presented to him by the pioneer CEO of the AIB Engineer Oduselu in 2007.
That plane belonged to another close friend and the report cleared that friend of any wrongdoing. Yet Fani-Kayode refused to endorse it because, according to him, the report did not go far enough and did not explain the cause of the fire that brought down the plane. So much for Chief Fani-Kayode bending the rules for his friends or helping them out.
He had every opportunity to do that but he refused to do so and instead treated them with the same level of caution, discipline and professionalism that he treated everyone else. As a matter of fact, that was the secret of his success. For anyone that knows him and knows the way he operates to suggest otherwise is utter and complete madness and they are either being malicious or are plain ignorant. One really does wonder how these sick minds think and the truth is that Nwaknama must be in a position to prove this in court if he can.
For the record, we repeat that Chief Fani-Kayode has no business interests in aviation, no interests in Bicourtney or any other company that does business in aviation and no reason to call for the resignation of Stella Oduah other than the fact that, under her watch, no less than 200 people have been killed in six air crashes in the space of two years.
Three months after she assumed office, helicopters and planes started dropping from the sky and they have not stopped since. This is a matter of concern for anyone that is not only sensitive and responsible but especially so for someone who once ran the same Ministry and who put a stop to the terrible cycle of plane crashes that took place in the one year before he came in.
Lest some have forgotten let us restate the facts. During that one year before Chief Fani-Kayode was redepolyed to the Ministry of Aviation, no less than five crashes occurred and no less than 453 people were killed. It was a period of sheer horror in which the aviation sector was not only in a state of disarray but also in a state of emergency.
Everyone was scared to fly in Nigeria at the time, airline operators were cutting corners, the oversight agencies were not doing their jobs properly and morale in the sector was very low. Chief Fani-Kayode came in, acted with a firm hand and military precision, reformed the sector, made everyone sit up, put a stop to the crashes, won the confidence of the public to fly in Nigeria again and for the seven months that he was there not one person died from our skies.
Sadly three months after he left and President Obasanjo’s tenure ran out, the reforms and strict safety measures that he put in place were jettisoned by the incoming administration and the crashes began again. There is no other Minister of Aviation in the last 11 years in our country that has had no loss of life under his or her watch other than Chief Fani-Kayode.
This is a fact and this remains so even though some of those Ministers were only in aviation for three or four months. It makes perfect sense for a man with a clean and wholesome safety record like that to speak out and offer some counsel to the authorities and to criticise the government when people are being killed in crashes in our skies.
This is made all the more so when the Minister of that sector had the effrontery to tell the Nigerian people that such crashes were ‘’acts of God that were inevitable’’. One wonders if Nwaknama would have been so hostile to Chief Fani-Kayode’s call for the Minister to resign or to be removed if he had lost his entire family in one of those crashes as other people have done.
Frankly the columnist has shown the insensitivity of a beast and the tendency of the proverbial blind ostrich that has stuck it’s head in the ground and sees nothing if he can suggest for one minute that Chief Fani-Kayode’s call for Oduah’s resignation was borne out of anything but a deep sense of patriotism, compassion and genuine concern for the safety of Nigerian fliers.
The suggestion that such counsel came due to any imaginary business interests in aviation or any anti-Igbo sentiment or ‘’lust for the other’’ (whatever that may mean) is not only balderdash but it reflects the kind of gutter-infested and filthy mind that Nwakanma and those who commissioned him to do this dirty job must have. Even more pitiable is his suggestion that Oduah ‘’laughed the matter off’’.
If that is what Nwakanma calls laughing, then perhaps he needs to go back to school. Stella Oduah was not only visibly shaken and emotionally wounded by Fani-Kayode’s call for her resignation but she has been crying ever since. As a matter of fact, she literally sees Fani-Kayode under her bed and she regards him, quite unfairly, as being the person behind her numerous travails today.
She got far more than she bargained for when he responded to her insulting comments by calling her a ‘’market woman’’ and a ‘’fish wife’’ and by telling her to act with the level of decorum, maturity and seriousness that her office demands. More importantly, he publicly challenged her to a live television debate on both his tenure and hers, and ever since that challenge, Oduah has kept silent.
If her record was so good and Fani-Kayode’s so bad ,why should this be so? Other than directing her minions, consultants and staff to be writing tendentious, disingenuous and libellous essays in the newspapers about Chief Fani-Kayode, most of which make little sense and bear no logic, Oduah has kept her mouth shut and that is perhaps the smartest thing she has done so far.
Yet things are not getting any better in the aviation sector itself. In fact, they are getting worse. Shortly after the altercation between the two of them, there was a collision between two planes in Lagos airport and then, as if God, Himself wanted to expose the Minister’s deals in aviation, the 1.6 million USD car scandal broke. Since then every single right-thinking Nigerian (apart from a few die-hard loyalists who hail from her Igbo stock, her staff at the Ministry and her numerous consultants) have echoed and supported Fani-Kayode’s call for Stella Oduah to be fired by the President or to resign and the country, and indeed the aviation sector, has not been the same since.
If she ever ‘’laughed’’ anything off as the columnist is suggesting, she certainly isn’t laughing anymore. If Obi Nwakanma wishes to help his ‘’Igbo sister’’ in these troubling times, the best he can do is to ask her to resign, pray for her and focus on publicising her so-called ‘’wonderful achievements’’ and not make childish, baseless and libelous assertions against her perceived enemies or adversaries.
It is my honest opinion that Nwakanma himself is in serious need of some kind of counseling or prayer otherwise he would be more alive to the dangers of flying in Nigeria under the watch of Stella Oduah. Her sheer incompetence has not just led to the death of almost 200 people in two years but it has also resulted in the uncovering of the greatest car scam in the history of Nigeria.
One would have thought that Nwakanma would focus on that rather than use his ever-malicious column and poisonous pen to malign and disparage those that he hates with such deep passion. The truth is that as long as Stella Oduah is at aviation our skies shall remain a death trap. Let us hope that when the next crash occurs that Obi Nwakanma and his family are not on the plane or in the helicopter. That is my prayer for him and his loved ones. He ended his column by asserting that the entire aviation sector under Oduah ‘’stinks’’. Many will agree with him on that. What he may not appreciate is the fact that his column ‘’stinks’’ almost as badly.
*Ayodeji is a legal practitioner.