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Mike Adenuga: 70 Times a Genius

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By Olabode Opeseitan

This is a celebration of an exceptional African business icon and enigma from an insider perspective. I have interacted with the billionaire founder of Globacom and Conoil, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr., for over three decades, 16 years of which I worked for him, often at close quarters. This is an unrestrained chronicling of his unique attributes; with anecdotes and perspectives you probably have never read elsewhere.

THE ENIGMA

It was one of those activity-choked days when his meetings lasted till very late in the night. He had, a few moments earlier, closed his last meeting for the day with senior managers in his signature style. “Well, everyone to himself, God for us all,” he said with reverence, yet commandingly and reassuringly. With everyone released, he treated the remaining files on his desk, passed them to his secretary and crossed over from his Oval Office at the golden building to his palatial residence, which he fittingly christened Bellissima on the waterfront. Bellissima is an Italian word coined from bella, which means gorgeous, while issima, is an absolute superlative. Bellissima, the name, absolutely complements the gorgeousness of the immaculate white buildings at the Adenuga villas and their coral-coloured roofs. You would think, at that wee hour, he was heading straight to bed once he got home. No Sir!

Dr. Adenuga is genetically fortunate to require only about three to four hours of sleep a day. The influential Wall Street Journal calls his kind the sleep-less elite who need just a few hours of sleep to function normally. In that mold are the likes of Tim Cook of Apple and former American President Donald Trump. Sometimes, he would make a few calls to give some follow-up instructions or review some aspects of his last meetings. Then, he would pour himself a glass of one of the smoothest cognacs in the world, relax and journey back to the past couple of hours to dissect his previous day, reflectively.

This is a celebration of an exceptional African business icon and enigma from an insider perspective. I have interacted with the billionaire founder of Globacom and Conoil, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr., for over three decades, 16 years of which I worked for him, often at close quarters. This is an unrestrained chronicling of his unique attributes; with anecdotes and perspectives you probably have never read elsewhere.

THE ENIGMA

It was one of those activity-choked days when his meetings lasted till very late in the night. He had, a few moments earlier, closed his last meeting for the day with senior managers in his signature style. “Well, everyone to himself, God for us all,” he said with reverence, yet commandingly and reassuringly. With everyone released, he treated the remaining files on his desk, passed them to his secretary and crossed over from his Oval Office at the golden building to his palatial residence, which he fittingly christened Bellissima on the waterfront. Bellissima is an Italian word coined from bella, which means gorgeous, while issima, is an absolute superlative. Bellissima, the name, absolutely complements the gorgeousness of the immaculate white buildings at the Adenuga villas and their coral-coloured roofs. You would think, at that wee hour, he was heading straight to bed once he got home. No Sir!

Dr. Adenuga is genetically fortunate to require only about three to four hours of sleep a day. The influential Wall Street Journal calls his kind the sleep-less elite who need just a few hours of sleep to function normally. In that mold are the likes of Tim Cook of Apple and former American President Donald Trump. Sometimes, he would make a few calls to give some follow-up instructions or review some aspects of his last meetings. Then, he would pour himself a glass of one of the smoothest cognacs in the world, relax and journey back to the past couple of hours to dissect his previous day, reflectively.

That, for Dr. Adenuga is a spiritual voyage of sorts where he tries to set matters straight between himself and the people he had encountered. Meditatively, he would ask himself, ‘Was I fair to him? Was she fair to me? Is there any additional value to explore and get a better result beyond the ideas the various teams from Globacom to Conoil Producing, Conoil Plc, Cobblestone Properties & Estate and others presented? How can we optimize our assets?’ He could be at this for up to three or four hours before calling it a day. That is how the genius mindset of Chairman Adenuga works. Upon deep reflection, if in the previous day there was anyone the Chairman felt he was unfair to, he would make amends, often not in an apology but in voluntary compensatory actions. If there was anyone he felt was unfair to him, he would also take corrective measures. As generous as he frequently is, he doesn’t spare the rods when he needs to make people account for their misdeeds. Where he acts the fastest is on any matter that could stimulate business growth. He takes whatever action is required to get results, particularly where the opportunity is hot and fresh, even if it requires a trip to the most distant part of the world. There were people in the Mike Adenuga Group who had travelled to the US, Europe, China and other parts of Africa and had no clue they were travelling as close as four to 24 hours before they boarded their flights. No other business leader I have known can match his mettle when it comes to pulling all the strings to get a difficult result. That perhaps is the strongest staying power of an icon his admirers call the Great Guru.

HOW HE PRESIDES OVER MEETINGS

Dr. Adenuga is a strict disciplinarian who runs his organisations with traits of the command-and-control structure of a military hierarchy. A perfectionist, he expects his officials and consultants to be prompt, organised, adequately prepared and conform to the rules of his office. “You can’t do that here. This is the Office of the Chairman”, he would thunder and remind anyone stepping out of line. He is irritated by tardiness and unintelligent responses. A voracious reader and intellectual explorationist, he ceaselessly brings himself up to speed on the latest trends in the businesses he is involved in, from oil exploration to the downstream, banking to finance, real estate, hospitality, road construction and telecommunications. You cannot pull the wool over his eyes. One moment he is discussing the network configuration management system for Globacom with his technical team, the next moment, he is discussing the result of geological surveys and offshore/onshore drilling of oil with his Conoil Producing management team. The same day, he is getting feedback from his representatives at Julius Berger, where he has controlling shares, and Cobblestone, the multibillion real estate company which has luxurious properties spread across the land. This is just a snippet of his regular undertakings. He probably would have slowed it down by now.

He is also politically and economically savvy. He has unassailable strategies on how to fix the Nigerian economy. I can just imagine how much Nigerian and African leaders can tap from his profound solutions, most of which are a bigger bang for the buck, even without asking to be paid any buck. It’s there just for the asking!

How long or short he spends with every presenting team depends on how much value he gets from or adds to the presentation. He needs only a few slides to decide if a presentation is worth his precious time. Yet, he displays a disarming humility, especially when there are visiting consultants or advisers. He is quick to spot and convert opportunities. He sees the boardroom and an entire organisation like a football team where only the players in good form keep their shirts. “Everyone must fight for his shirt”, he would say. Yet, he shows the milk of human kindness to his people. He gets personal with employees he often interacts with, cares about their welfare over and beyond the benefits they get from the system. Dr. Adenuga is also a powerful storyteller who has shared several aspects of his life relevant to topics under discussion with officials during or after meetings.

HOW HE KEEPS VALUABLE STAFF

Despite his strict regimen and famous quote of, “We may laugh and play together, don’t let the hierarchy be lost on you,” Dr. Adenuga is among the most involved and most caring employers of labour you can ever see. When a valued staff departs voluntarily or is asked to quit over certain developments, the Chairman does not see it as a permanent separation. If there is an opening later and he remembers any of the former staff he rates as ‘livewires’ who can fill the void, he will go after such staff, entice, appeal, incentivize or take any step necessary to bring him/her back. Dr. Adenuga goes as far as speaking directly to the staff or sending emissaries to them to gain their confidence and rekindle their collaboration. Biblical? Perhaps, yes. Leaders can leave a herd and go after a lost or missing sheep. For a business leader who can afford to hire any staff from anywhere in the world, that is a rare act of humility, large-heartedness and pragmatism. About two years after I had left Globacom in 2020, I got a surprise call from the Chairman. “Bode, mo ti’n wa e. Nibo lo wa lat’ojo yi” (Bode, I have been looking for you, where have you been all this while)? Then he added, “We shouldn’t be far from each other. I shouldn’t be looking for you when I need you or you, looking for me when you need me. There is no easy way to say goodbye but there can be a pleasant way.” I thanked him for his fatherly admonition, and we have kept in touch ever since. The truth is that the Chairman really does not need me to the point of seeking me out. It is just his nature to be kind to his employees and friends he considered valuable when they were with him.

ROLE IN TURNING WIZ KID, OTHERS INTO GLOBAL STARS

The world today celebrates Wizkid, Burna Boy and other Nigerian music superstars who have become global icons. Dr. Adenuga played a big part in accelerating their journeys into global reckoning. He instructed his management team to engage the fledgling music stars then as brand ambassadors and take them on musical and comedy tours across the country. Many of them had the opportunity to perform in different parts of Nigeria for the first time, courtesy of the Adenuga gesture. Empowerment is one of the core reasons he founded Globacom. He wanted the fish seller in Epe or the yam seller in Aboh Mbaise or the farmer in Dawakin, Kano to be able to reach their customers and boost their trade. When things were tough for comedians, Nollywood stars and musicians, the endorsement and performance fees they got from Globacom helped in no small way to see them through. Many of the beneficiaries are eternally grateful for that deed. His impact was also felt in football across Nigeria, Ghana and at CAF where he pumped millions of dollars to promote and develop African football for almost two decades.

ADENUGA’S EXTENSIVE CONNECTIONS

The Chairman has an extensive network of connections, and he has kept many of them in his closest circle over the years. In the innermost of the circle are the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, who is his older cousin, the Esama of Benin, Sir Cabriel Igbinedion, and his son, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, boardroom guru Mr. Bode Emmanuel, General IBM Haruna, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, Dr. Seyi Roberts and Chief Obi Adimora. This list is by no means exhaustive. Another of the elite senior friends is General Alani Akinrinade, whom he met as the big brother of his close childhood friend. He has nurtured a sublime friendship with the Akinrinades over the years. He is particularly fond of General Akinrinade, who was kind to them in those days when the youngsters were trying to find their feet. The powerful list also includes past and present heads of state across the world, Governors, Senators, traditional rulers, professionals, friends and associates. Many thought he would be in a dilemma when two of his friends, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, went head-to-head in the last presidential election. They forgot that he is a boardroom virtuoso who understands the dynamics of leadership contests in Nigeria and would never be caught in the crossfire. His strategy over time is to leave politicking to politicians and stay in his comfort zone, the boardroom and business management.

RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS CHILDREN

Like every caring and doting father, the Chairman loves his children to bits. He spoils them with gifts and finds time to attend to them despite his extremely busy schedule. He prioritises family dinner which could be at least once a week, often after watching movies together at the family’s luxuriant cinema hall. He also comes hard on them when they get on the wrong side of his strict rules. He once told one of his children whom he had to compel to attend a meeting after requesting to be excused, “Come rain or shine, I’m at this desk, working. If I can do that without giving excuses, then you shouldn’t give excuses. The only thing I owe you is to give you a good education. Afterwards, if you want to stay here, you are welcome, but you must adhere to my instructions”. Surely, he cherishes them and will do anything for them, but he wants to train them in his strict disciplinarian way, believing this will strengthen them in sustaining the huge legacy he is bestowing on them. Everyone close to the Adenugas knows that his scions have also fully embraced the ethos of hard work wholeheartedly and they are adept at what they do. He once told me after a meeting at his Oko-Awo home office, shortly before relocating to the Banana Island home, that his wish was to hand over his flourishing empire to his children.

ADENUGA’S LEGENDARY GENEROSITY

Dr. Adenuga’s generosity is legendary. He gives personal rewards like no other billionaire, except for probably a few like Oprah Winfrey. “If God has given you this kind of resources, it is not for you and your family alone,” he would say. That is the guiding philosophy influencing the way he reaches out through his wealth.

All year round, he splashes generous gifts on extended family, friends, associates, staff and the less privileged. The gifts could range from exotic brand-new cars to expensive perfumes, designer bags, designer wristwatches and cash. And during every festive season, he has a long list of beneficiaries he touches with life-transforming gifts; some on rotation, others in perpetuity. He is detailed and exquisitely tasteful, not only in the quality of gifts but also in the manner the gifts are presented. His Christmas cards are not only the best designed but the first to arrive. Recipients have treated them as valuables to be proudly displayed. He is unorthodox in living out his precepts. He does things his own way and the Chairman acts and moves when he wants to. He doesn’t like to be over pressurised.

His company, Globacom, recently revamped and furnished the rundown home of a former national football hero, Peter Fregene, who had been in financial distress. That altruism has the imprimatur of Dr. Adenuga written all over it. He feels a deep sense of inexplicable joy when he sends his team to look for and rehabilitate Nigerians whose predicaments caught his attention. Sometimes, he would send his team to go and enquire about the well-being of a friend and associate he had not heard from in a while and ensure such was well taken care of. He also loves enabling empowerment promotions, using his companies to give out jaw-dropping prizes like houses, cars, hefty sums of money and tools of trade such as sewing machines and tricycles, among others.

HOW HE INDULGES SELF

The chairman enjoys the good things of life and pampers himself in remarkable ways. Yet, he believes that if it is not broken, don’t fix it. At his Oko-Awo, VI, Lagos office, he used the same TV sets for over a decade before finally giving the nod for them to be changed. His car preferences include Mercedes Benz G Wagon, Range Rover, sports cars, Toyota Landcruiser and Bentley. For some reason, he keeps his distance from Rolls Royce.

He also has a fleet of private jets, including the recently acquired Dassault Falcon, a quiet, productive, beautiful and luxurious executive jet built to withstand stormy weather. Named Sisi Paris after one of his grandchildren, the Dassault Falcon is a beauty in the air.

He has palatial homes in Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Accra, London and Johannesburg. The Lagos villa is the most extensive of them all with numerous mansions, a chapel, a purpose-built auditorium, an office tower, a general office for his private staff and an executive holding bay for visitors, a residence for domestic staff, a gym, an Olympic size swimming pool, a helipad and a boat dock. The Chairman is a connoisseur of excellent wine, champagne and a power dresser who sets his own dressing standards. Occasionally, he invites special friends over to spend the evening with him and can arrange for top-of-the-range entertainers to tickle their fancy, even if they are just a couple. Sometimes, he also arranges to have dinner or lunch with his best performing staff, often at some of the choicest restaurants in town. Always looking out for the comfort of his people, he would scan the room at regular intervals and nudge those who were not relaxed enough to drink or eat more.

A GENIUS LIKE NO OTHER

As a business icon, he reacts to issues in a manner totally different from many other business elites. No matter the storm, he is always calm. Dr. Adenuga has spent a substantial part of the last two and a half decades of his life nurturing Globacom to the giant brand it has become. He built it all from the ground up, spending thousands of painstaking days and nights with his team. In the process, he has been celebrated locally and globally, at times maligned and a few times persecuted. He has stepped on toes; others have stepped on his toes. Sometimes, he would get his team to defend his honour, at other times, he would let it slide. He knew he could not please everyone and he endeavours to fix his shortcomings. In later years, he developed a thick skin to extreme critics. When he sees a profound gesture or publication celebrating  his exploits, he reaches out to express his gratitude, sometimes personally. He likes to keep his head under the parapet, as he loves to frame it.

Dr. Adenuga has never confronted any government in power. He would always devise his own ingenious way to co-exist harmoniously with the government of the day. He believes he has too much at stake to take on any government. He uses diplomacy, tact and rapprochement to reconcile differences. The most vindictive government for Dr. Adenuga remains the Olusegun Obasanjo regime, which even forced him to go into self exile. From various reports, Obasanjo wanted him (Dr. Adenuga) to implicate General Babangida and lie to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that the General owns Globacom. ‘Once you confirm that to Nuhu, everything will be fine’, he was instructed. At that time, Nuhu Ribadu was the Chairman of EFCC. Adenuga couldn’t understand why anyone would want him to lie against himself over his own business. Adenuga refused. He was hounded out of town and the rest is now history. For General Babangida, that was a commendable act of courage by Adenuga for refusing to accede to a trumped-up charge to implicate him (Babangida), ruin his reputation and then possibly give his traducers the weapon they need to prosecute him.

HIS LOVE FOR SOYINKA, MAITAMA SULE, OJUKWU

Dr. Adenuga is a master strategist. When he launched Globacom, he chose Glo with Pride as the payoff line. It was a rallying call to the entire nation to be proud of our heritage and accomplishments. To ingrain the brand in the heart of fellow countrymen as a national hero to treasure, he sought out the support of Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka; one of Nigeria’s finest diplomats, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, and the Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. They all had one thing in common. They were elder statesmen who were respected vastly in their spheres of influence.  After some convincing, they agreed to do it to support a young man who was making the nation proud. Professor Soyinka was a tough nut to crack. He made it categorically clear that he wouldn’t do brand endorsements. Dr. Adenuga counted on the poet’s closest allies such as Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi to convince him to support the vision on the condition that his (Professor Soyinka’s) message would not be used for product endorsements. When the messages were launched on national television, they became an instant hit across the country. As the first fully owned Nigerian telecommunication brand to be launched after two foreign brands in the same category had enjoyed a two-year head start, Globacom needed such a tremendous intervention to stand a chance. It complemented the Per-Second Billing narrative and propelled Globacom to become the darling of the nation.

LET THE CELEBRATIONS BEGIN

To all fond admirers of Dr. Adenuga worldwide, it is an extraordinary moment of inestimable joy to see an icon of this magnitude clock the ripe age of 70 on April 29, 2023. This is not the moment to nit-pick about his life or start documenting his shortcomings. This is a period to soak ourselves in unadulterated joy as we commemorate an exceptional national asset, father, husband, uncle, mentor, visionary, philosopher and juggernaut. Wherever you are on April 29, please fill your glass and let us toast to the good health and longer life of this incredible achiever who holds the highest national honour of three major countries, including the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) in Nigeria, Companion of the Star of Ghana and Commander of the Legion of Honour in France.

Opeseitan is a social commentator, consultant and global business developer.

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Opinion

A Standing Ovation to Aare Dele Momodu @64

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By Kunle Oshobi

Two weeks ago, I woke up to receive an invitation from Aare Dele Momodu via WhatsApp, requesting my presence at his inaugural leadership lecture in celebration of his sixty-fourth birthday. I was really excited about the initiative because such forums tend to serve as incubation rooms where wealth of ideas that can be used to propel the country forward are consummated.

I was even more excited about the topic “The politics of energy and the way forward” but what really thrilled me was the choice of Prof Bartholomew Nnaji as the guest speaker given his phenomenal exploits in the Nigerian power sector which is already transforming the economy of Abia state and promises to serve as a template that can be used to resolve the power sector challenges in Nigeria.

I waited with abated breath till the sixteenth of May when the event was scheduled to take place at the prestigious Nigerian Institute for International Affairs (NIIA) in Victoria Island, Lagos. The day couldn’t come early enough, it actually felt as if I was the one going to be the celebrant given how excited I was about it. The day eventually came and there was a heavy downpour that morning which resulted in a bit of traffic congestion but it wasn’t enough to deter me as I looked forward with excitement to the event of the day.

On getting to the premises of the NIIA, the ambiance of the venue was augmented by a beautiful collage of photographs of the celebrant with leading past and present, national and global leaders which showcased him as a man with vast networks and influence even though he has always downplayed this with his exceptional humility.

As expected the ambiance of the auditorium was congenial as it had been well decorated to suit the occasion and the Master of Ceremony was no less than Dr Reuben Abati who is one of the top and most respected journalist in the country. The occasion was graced by three former governors who have also been leading presidential candidates in previous elections namely Peter Obi, Donald Duke, and Rabiu Kwankwaso while the Chief Host of the occasion was the governor of Osun state, His Excellency Governor Ademola Adeleke.

The royal father of the day was no less a personality than the Oonirisa, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi who brought pomp and pageantry to the occasion. The chairman of the occasion was Dr John Dramani Mahama the former president of Ghana who did a lot to transform the power sector in Ghana, while as mentioned earlier the guest speaker was Professor Bartholomew Nnaji who is probably the most qualified Nigerian alive to give a lecture on the subject matter.

The event started with a brief welcome from the MC, Dr Reuben Abati who added a lot of flavour to the occasion with his wit and charm as he dexterously handled the affairs of the day. Next was the celebrant, Aare Dele Momodu who told us about his dream for a better Nigeria and wanting to leave a legacy of contributing to the country’s development being the inspiration behind opting for leadership lectures to celebrate his birthday going forward, to the applause of the audience.

The chairman of the occasion Dr John Dramani Mahama was the first to speak and he shared with us his experience in solving the power problems in Ghana during his administration while he advocated for greater cooperation between Nigeria and Ghana in resolving our economic challenges in the ECOWAS sub-region. He also emphasized that Nigeria being the big brother has a bigger role to play in developing the sub-region.

Next was Prof Bartholomew Nnaji giving us his keynote address in which he first spoke about the politics of energy at the international level, the issues regarding the quest for renewable energy to protect the planet while he pointed out the hypocrisy and double standards of Western powers when their interests conflict with the ideals that they have set for the rest of the world. He then delved into the power sector challenges in the country and what can be done to assuage them.

He was particular about the availability and the cost of gas which the government and the oil companies prefer to export rather than making it abundantly available for local use. However, he didn’t delve into the specific challenges he had in setting up Geometric Power Limited in Abia state and how he was eventually able to overcome these challenges which was what I really looked forward to hearing about from the horse’s mouth. I guess that he didn’t want to shake the table so he avoided a topic that could end up being controversial.

A few eminent personalities were then called upon to respond to the keynote speaker’s address starting with Mr Peter Obi who emphasized the critical role the power sector will play if we were to move our country from a consuming one to a producing one. Next was His Imperial Majesty Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi who dazzled us with his charm and eloquence as he emphasized the importance of the power sector while he advocated that we unite as a people to solve the country’s problems.

On his part, Donald Duke told us of how Nigeria lost a major investment opportunity from America in the mid-eighties when they proposed to build a gas pipeline from Nigeria to Europe due to the arrogance of our leaders at the time while inferring that the problem persists today. The pipeline was meant to evacuate over 25 billion cubic feet of gas that was being flared away at the time which was equivalent to about 25 million litres of diesel being frittered away daily, instead of harnessing it to add value to the country’s economy.

Contributing further, Kola Karim the chairman of Shoreline Group a major player in the Nigerian energy sector emphasized the need to develop infrastructure so that we can fully harness our resources to produce an efficient and stable power supply in the country.

It was indeed a very elucidating event but like all good things, it had to come to an end and our ever-so-professional MC was determined not to keep us waiting beyond the timeline planned for the occasion even though most of us wouldn’t have minded spending more time learning from the brilliant minds that spoke at the event.

At this juncture, I would like you to use this opportunity to once again congratulate my boss and egbon, Aare Dele Momodu on the auspicious occasion marking sixty-four years of his sojourn on this planet and celebrate him for the giant strides that he has made within the period. More commendable is the passion he has for our beloved country Nigeria and the desire he has to contribute to the development of the country which he has continuously demonstrated over the years and has now decided to institutionalize it by making the leadership lecture an annual event on the occasion of his birthday.

I pray that the almighty will continue to prosper him and reward his labor of love for the country even as we pray for good leaders that would turn the country to the path of progress and prosperity.

This is also a call out to other influential Nigerians to endeavor to use their means to contribute to the development of the Nigerian society. With what Aare has done with this leadership lecture, he has demonstrated that you don’t need political power to contribute effectively towards the development of the country. Where there is a will, there will surely be a way.

Oshobi writes from Lagos.

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Opinion

Increase in Minimum Capital Requirements for Nigerian Banks (Pt. II)

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By Bashorun J. K. Randle

It is self-evident that whatever the Governor of the Central Bank is doing (or not doing), the backing (and banking!!) of the President is critical. On that score, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu did not pull any punches when he spoke at the Hague, Netherlands during the business session of the bilateral meeting with the Dutch team, led by Prime Minister Mark Dutte.

“I am ever ready to take tough decisions in the best interest of the people, even if with initial pains. I am a determined leader; I will continue to take the difficult decisions that will benefit our people, even if there is a short-term pain. I am unafraid of the consequences once I know that my actions are in the best long-term interests of all Nigerians.”

Hence, we must recognize the over arching influence of Mr. President in economic, financial and political matters. When he was sworn in on 29th May 2023, he released an unscripted bombshell while delivering his inaugural address at Eagle Square, Abuja: Shortly afterwards, he spilled the beans in Paris while addressing Nigerians. According to AFP [Agence Francais-Presse]

“When I got to the podium, I was possessed with courage and I said fuel subsidy is gone. Also, no more parallel (black market) for dollars.”

On November 22, 2023, when President Tinubu addressed German-Nigerian Business Forum again he did not pull any punches:

“Nigeria voted for me for reforms, and from day one of my inauguration, I started the reforms. To me if you didn’t mention me in the Guinness Book of Records, I’d strive to find a way to insert myself because I did it without expectation.”

The endorsement of the IMF [International Monetary Fund] followed on February 14, 2024.

“The new Tinubu Administration has made a strong start, tackling deep-rooted structural issues in challenging circumstances. Immediately it adopted two policy reforms that its predecessors had shield away from: fuel subsidy removal and the unification of the official (dollar/naira) exchange rates.”

Front page editorial of “Nigerian Tribune” newspaper.
Headline: “BRIBES : TINUBU’s CHARGE TO INVESTORS”

“President Bola Tinubu recently set tongues wagging when, during his just concluded trip to Doha, the Qatari capital, he told the country’s captains of industry to report directly to him if any Nigerian official demanded a bribe from them in order to facilitate a business transaction. Revealed in a signed statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, the president’s message to Qatari investors at the Nigeria-Qatar Business and Investment Forum could not have been clearer: “Do not offer a bribe to any of our people, and if it is requested or taken from you, report to us. You will have access to me.”

Eager to drive home the point that the country is open to business and will adopt a business-friendly approach on his watch, he added: “Whatever is the obstacle or problem that some of you might have experienced; it is in the past because there is no obstacle in the future. We are removing obstacles today, and we are going to continue to remove all obstacles. We have done so much within nine months. And I assure you, it is free entry, and free exit. Your funds will flow smoothly into and out of our country. Bring your investments.” Finally, he urged Qatari investors not to allow “perceptions” about the country to “become a hindrance to [their] will to invest,” since “Nigeria is serious about revolutionizing investment promotion.”

We could not be more delighted to read this promise of radical transparency from the president since, at the very least, it shows that he is not unaware of the tremendous odds typically faced by any entity- individual or corporate- seeking to do business in Nigeria. While, as the president mentioned, corruption is the most significant among these challenges, it goes without saying that it is just one of many tangible and intangible obstacles to investment.

Accordingly, not only do we welcome the president’s statement, for nothing could be more timely, we urge him to do everything within his capacity to ensure that the book is thrown at whoever flouts it, no matter how highly placed such a person is in the current administration. In other words, nothing is more important than the president backing his rhetoric with action, for understandably, many Nigerians are bound to sneer, saying that they have heard such soaring rhetoric before and that when the time came for egregious misdemeanors to be punished, the government lost its nerve. Since such skeptics have a point, the task before the president is to show that their skepticism has no basis, and that he will let the hammer fall on whichever official demands inducement to do their job.
Until then, he can, as a matter of fact, do something about the current situation in the upper legislative house, where rumours of budget-padding and dubious awards to senators have cast a shadow upon the integrity of the lawmakers. If the government is truly interested in fighting corruption, it can do no better right now than to act on the many cases of corruption dotting the landscape, including those affecting and relating to those within the inner circle of government. This would send the right and correct signals that Nigeria is ready for positive change and a new approach to public life rather than following the usual ineffective and tawdry public assertions that mean nothing in reality.”

The Central Bank of Nigeria used to boast of an excellent Research Department with a world class library. The King’s College Old Boys Association [KCOBA] would not take matters for granted. Here is a list of books which are to be delivered to the Governor of the Central Bank, Mr. Yemi Cardoso and Deputy Governor, Mr. Phillip Ekeazor (who are both old boys of St. Gregory’s College, Lagos:

(i) “Curse of Cash” by Kenneth S. Rogoff
(Harvard University)

(ii) “The Origin And Prevention of Major Wars” by Professor Robert Rothberg
(Harvard University)

(iii) “The Bottom Billion” by Professor Paul Collier
(Oxford University)

(iv) “What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing The Threat” by Professor Louise Richardson
(Oxford University)

(v) “The Elite Africa Project” by Professor Peter Lewis
(John Hopkins University)

(vi) “WONDER DRUG”
(7 Scientifically Proven Ways
That Serving Others Is The
Best Medicine for Yourself) by Stephen Trzeciak M.D.
and
Anthony Mazzarelli M.D

(vii) “THE ROAD TO FREEDOM, ECONOMICS
AND THE GOOD SOCIETY” by Joseph E. Stiglitz
(Winner of Nobel Prize)
Professor at Harvard; Yale;
Emerson College, University
Of California, Berkeley

From the archives we have the following vignettes:
(i) When the British Bank For West Africa
(now known as First Bank of Nigeria Plc)
was formed in 1894 among its founding
shareholders was Dr. J.K. Randle. The
inaugural meeting was held at the Colony
Hotel, in London.

(ii) When British Bank of West Africa launched a branch in Kano in 1929, Alhassan Dantata (Aliko Dangote’s grandfather) opened an account by depositing twenty camel-loads of silver coins.

(iii) “The Chairman of EFCC [Economic and Financial Crimes Commission] has announced that the embattled former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello withdrew funds from the government treasury and obtained U.S.$720,000 from a Bureau de Change to pay for his children’s school fees in advance at American International School, Abuja”

“Business Day” newspaper of May 8, 2024
Headline: “CHIKE-OBI CAUTIONS AGAINST POOR EXECUTION AMID BANKS’ RECAPITALISATION”

Mustapha Chike-Obi, chairman, Bank Directors’ Association of Nigeria, on Friday lauded the Central Bank’s latest bank recapitalisation policy but warned that poor execution could scuttle the gains.

Chike-Obi spoke at a roundtable assessing the bank recapitalisation policy organised by BusinessDay Media Limited in Lagos. He noted the 2004/2005 recapitalisation exercise was a good policy but was poorly implemented due to governance issues.
The CBN on March 28 announced new capital requirements for Nigerian lenders from commercial to merchant banks. The last such exercise was in 2004/2005, two decades ago.

During the recapitalisation of 2004/2005, a surge in liquidity occurred without adequate investment opportunities, leading to an asset bubble and subsequently the dismissal of several bank chiefs.

“A good policy that brings bad results means execution was problematic along the way. We are seeing bad results from good policies and nobody is taking responsibility for that. We should celebrate the policy and the results,” he said.

Speaking further, he said, “I encourage more engagement from the CBN, it’s better if they talk to the banks about why retained earnings are not considered at this point in time.

I think there should have been better engagement, some things need to be explained. Why does an international licence require more capital than a national licence? If you’re diversifying across nations, does that mean more risk? If I have one branch in London as Fidelity, am I in the same boat as a UBA who has many branches in many countries?” Chike-Obi, Chairman of Fidelity Bank Plc, said.

The CBN said all international banks should move their capital to a minimum of N500 billion; national banks up to a minimum of N200 billion; regional banks (N50 billion); merchant banks (N50 billion) and N20 billion for non-interest banks operating nationally and N10 billion for those operating regionally.

In his keynote address, Ike Chioke, Group Managing Director Afrinvest (West Africa) Limited, noted that “after the announcement of the last recapitalisation we had 89 banks operating with N311 billion total capital, which was equivalent to $2.4 billion at the time.

We ended up by December 31 2005 with 25 commercial banks each with a minimum of 25 billion and a total capital of N932.0 bn.
He said that commercial banks have a capital gap of N3.7 trillion to meet the capital requirements while the merchant banks have N200.6 billion.

There is some scepticism that banks will take on significantly more lending to the private sector once their minimum capital is raised given the risk in an economy battling with accelerating inflation and a severe cost-of-living crisis.

“We can still lend, but we’re limited in how much. As a banker, it’s more attractive to buy Treasury bills at 25 percent than to lend to people,” Chike-Obi said.

“There’s a reluctance by banks to lend. I would have reduced CRR, and told banks they can’t buy more than 10 percent of T-bills. This will force them to lend to people.”
He also said the notion that banks give people money to buy FX is not true.

“People only buy FX because it makes sense to them. It’s a rational economic decision. What we have to do is to make it more rational to hold assets in naira than in dollars. I’ll raise short term rates to 30%, and prevent banks from having more than 10 percent in T-bills.

What we have doesn’t allow growth and banks aren’t lending. I believe GDP growth will be lower in the fourth quarter than predictions. The raise in capital is necessary because the FX adjusted basis has gone down. So, the recapitalisation isn’t as massive as it looks from the outside,” he said.
Front page of “The Punch” newspaper of April 22, 2024
Headline: The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria

Recommendations made by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria on the New Minimum Capital Requirements for Banks in Nigeria: Our Position.

“Given the above, the following recommendations are made to ensure a successful implementation of the programme:

1. The CBN may consider allowing the inclusion of retained earnings on the condition that they are not impaired by losses, to make it easier for the banks to comply with the new capitalization policy.

2. The two-year period allowed is considered sufficient to implement the programme. However, in view of the young age of non-interest banks in Nigeria, they should be allowed a longer period, probably three years, to meet the minimum capital requirements.

3. The Institute urges the CBN to extend the 30-day period it gave banks to come up with an implementation plan to 60 days given that it would take some time to obtain the consent of shareholders.

4. It is also important that the CBN provides some incentives to banks to facilitate the recapitalization exercise as was done in 2005. This can take the form of tax incentives and ensuring that the overall cost of recapitalization is low by seeking the cooperation of relevant stakeholder institutions such as the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Nigerian Exchange as well as the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission given that banks have the option of raising funds through the Capital Market or Mergers and Acquisitions.

5. The CBN should adequately supervise the banks to ensure that the costs of recapitalization are not transferred to their customers by way of higher bank charges.

6. The CBN is advised to engage the Bankers Committee on measures to put in place to ensure adequate compensation to staff of banks that may be disengaged as a result of the recapitalization exercise.

7. Exercise due verification to ensure that corrupt and laundered money do not find their way int the capitalization.”

Frontpage of “ThisDay” newspaper of April 13, 2024
Headline: AUDIT REPORT: SENATE PROBING 774 FEDERAL AGENCIES OVER AUDITOR GENERAL’S QUERIES”

“The Senate is currently scrutinizing the financial records of 774 Federal Agencies based on the queries raised against them in the 2019 report of the Auditor General for the Federation.

The Chairman, Senate Public Accounts Committee (SPAC), Senator Aliyu Wadada, disclosed this yesterday in his Keffi, Nasarawa State, country home while speaking with journalists. He noted that his committee was not out to witch-hunt anyone but pledged that members of the panel would discharge their responsibilities diligently in the best interest of the country.

Wadada, also disclosed that the 10th National Assembly with the support of President Bola Tinubu and critical stakeholders in the nation’s economy would soon embark on the amendment to the 2007 Procurement Act so as to curb financial infractions before they take place.

He nevertheless appealed to leaders at all tiers and heads of government institutions at the Federal, State and Local government levels to embrace the spirit of self-discipline and fear of God in the discharge of their responsibilities.

The Senator, who is representing Nasarawa West Senatorial District on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), said no matter how beautiful a law is crafted, it needed godly people to implement it.

Wadada said, “When I became the Chairman, Senate Public Accounts Committee (SPAC), I was emphatic on the need for President Bola Tinubu to appoint the substantive Auditor General for the Federation (AuGF).

“I even wrote a letter to that effect to the President and he responded by appointing a substantive AuGF.

The AuGF report for the 2020, 2021, 2022 fiscal years were not all ready. It was only the 2019 Auditor General’s report that was then ready for us to take actions on.

The Auditor General’s report for 2020 was ready at the time I became the Senate Public Account Committee but it could not be signed by the acting Auditor General for the Federation.

As we talk, the 2020 Auditor General’s report is ready and the substantive AuGF has appended his signature to it. The development is a confirmation that the Presidency under the stewardship of President Bola Tinubu is available, is responsive and supportive of the Committee on Public Accounts in the two chambers of the National Assembly. We have since started work on the 2019 Auditor General’s report before us.

Under my chairmanship of this sensitive and strategic committee, I have repeatedly said that we are not out to witch-hunt or pull down anybody.

Our ultimate objective vis-à-vis the primary focus of the committee is to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of public funds.”

Front page of “The Punch” newspaper of April 12, 2024
Headline: VIETNAM TYCOON SENTENCED TO DEATH IN
$12BN FRAUD CASE”

“A court in Vietnam sentenced real estate tycoon Truong My Lan Thursday to death over her role in a 304 trillion dong ($12.46bn) financial fraud case, the country’s biggest on record, state media reported.

CNN reports that her trial, which began on March 5 and ended earlier than planned, was one dramatic result of a campaign against corruption that the leader of the ruling Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, has pledged to stamp out.

Lan, the chairwoman of real estate developer Van Thinh Phat Holdings Group, was found guilty of embezzlement, bribery and violations of banking rules at the end of a trial in the business hub of Ho Chi Minh City, state media said.

We will keep fighting to see what we can do,” a family member told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. Before the verdict, he had said Lan would appeal against the sentence.
Lan had pleaded not guilty to the embezzlement and bribery charges, Nguyen Huy Thiep, one of Lan’s lawyers told Reuters.

“Of course she will appeal the verdict,” he added, noting she was sentenced to death for the embezzlement charge and to 20 years each for the other two charges of bribery and violations of banking regulations.

Vietnam imposes the death penalty mostly for violent offences but also economic crimes. Human rights groups say it has executed hundreds of convicts in recent years, mainly by lethal injection.

The Thanh Nien newspaper said 84 defendants in the case received sentences ranging from probation for three years to life imprisonment. Among them are Lan’s husband, Eric Chu, a businessman from Hong Kong, who was sentenced to nine years in jail, and her niece, who got 17 years.

Lan started as a cosmetics trader at the central market in Ho Chi Minh City, helping her mother, she told judges during the trial, according to state media.

She later founded her real estate company, Van Thinh Phat, in 1992, the same year when she got married, according to state media. She was found guilty, along with her accomplices, of siphoning off more than 304 trillion dongs from Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank, which she effectively controlled through dozens of proxies despite rules strictly limiting large shareholding in lenders, according to investigators.

From early 2018 through October 2022, when the state bailed out SCB after a run on its deposits triggered by Lan’s arrest, she appropriated large sums by arranging unlawful loans to shell companies, investigators said.

The defendant’s action not only violate the property management rights of individuals and organisations but also put SCB under scrutiny, eroding people’s trust in the leadership of the Party and State,” state newspaper VnExpress cited the jury as saying.

The bank is currently propped up by the central bank and faces a complex restructuring under which authorities are trying to establish the legal status of hundreds of assets that were used as collateral for loans and bonds issued by VTP. The bonds alone are worth $1.2bn.

Some of the assets are high-end properties, but many others are unfinished projects. Before her fall from grace, she had played a key role in Vietnam’s financial world, getting involved in the previous rescue of troubled SCB more than a decade before she contributed to the bank’s new crisis.”

Front page of “Africa Voice” newspaper of 29 April, 2024
Headline: “PROF WINS TOP AWARD FOR ISLAMIC MORAL ECONOMY”

“Professor Mehmet Asutay has been selected as the first-place winner of the 2024 Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Prize for Impactful Achievement in Islamic Economics and influential contributions to the field of Islamic economics and finance.

The prize laureate is a Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Political Economy & Finance at Durham University, United Kingdom. He is an internationally recognized academic who produced pioneering and impactful scholarly works.

Professor Asutay was selected in recognition of his novel work on Islamic moral economy and the articulation of Islamic finance to be supportive of sustainable development and the welfare of human beings. This year’s prize cycle aims to recognize, reward and encourage significant knowledge contributions in Islamic economics with the potential to solve major development challenges of IsDB member countries. The prize comes with a US$50,000 award for the first prize winner, US$30,000 for second prize, and US$20,000 for third prize. However, the second and third-position prizes are withheld this year.

Every year the winners of the IsDB Prize are selected by a different committee of experts from outside the IsDB Group, whose work is coordinated by the Islamic Development Bank Institute (IsDB).

The winner of this year’s prize will receive the award during the IsDB Group Annual Meetings, scheduled for 27 – 30 April 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In his comments on this occasion, the President of the ISDB, H.E. Dr. Muhammad AI Jasser, congratulated the laureate for his impactful knowledge contributions and wished him success in this various endeavours. Acting Director Generl of IsDB, Dr. Sami Al-Suwailem, also congratulated H.E. Dr. Al Jasser for guiding the Institute towards the successful coordination of the prize.”

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Opinion

Rivers’ Crisis: Wike’s Illegal Impeachment Plot Against Fubara Distabilizes Your Administration, Timi Frank Tells TInubu, APC

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Former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Timi Frank, on Friday, warned that the current illegal impeachment plot against the Governor of Rivers State, Sim Fubara, would have devastating effect on the President Bola Tinubu’s administration.

He therefore called on President Tinubu to call Wike to order in his bid to install another Ikwere man as Governor in Rivers State through the back door.

Frank made these assertions in a statement made available to reporters in Abuja. He underscored the critical and strategic importance of Rivers State to the economic, social and political survival of the country.

According to him, Fubara was freely elected by Rivers’ people during the last general election, “so any attempt to illegally remove him will lead to a very serious political crisis in the state that may not only affect the economy but setback the present administration’s revenue and development drive.”

He declared that the renewed orchestration by Wike to illegally remove Fubara, is an attempt to undermine the Ijaw people in Rivers State.

Frank said: “Since 1999, this is the first time in Rivers State when you have a Governor from the Ijaw ethnic extraction.

“Every other person who has become governor since 1999 had successfully done two tenures of eight years.
So, Wike must allow Fubara to do his own term
peacefully.

“Even though it is common knowledge that he was one of those that were instrumental and backed Fubara to become governor, that does not mean Fubara will now become his stooge and neglect to carry out his constitutional duties as the governor of Rivers State.”

Frank, who represents the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) in East Africa and the Middle East, added: “Fubara was not elected for the sole purpose of protecting the interests of a godfather or a dictator.

“I dare say that the same way Wike feels that he supported Fubara to become governor is the same way he was supported by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience, to become governor of Rivers State which he ruled for eight years.

“So, God will always use people to support anybody to become governor or whatever position they aspire to, but that does not mean those who emerged will now become slaves to those that helped them to power.

“During Wike’s time, he was not a slave to Jonathan nor his wife, Patience that helped him to become governor but rather he displayed ingratitude to Jonathan and his wife.

“Therefore, we are using this opportunity to call on Tinubu to call on his Minister Wike to stop his illegal and devilish plot against Fubara.”

He noted that even the Rivers State House of Assembly members now being engineered by Wike to impeach Fubara are not known to law in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by reason of their defection from PDP to APC.

“The only constitutionally recognized members are the few ones that did not defect to APC. These are the only members vested with the rights to carry out legislative activities in Rivers State.

“Therefore, Tinubu must make sure that there is peace, law and order in Rivers State to allow Fubara to work and deliver on his campaign promises to the people.

“The President must not allow this illegal impeachment being masterminded by Wike against Fubara to trigger the wrath of Ijaw people against his administration.

“Already the Ijaw people are unhappy with his administration because they believe he has handed over the entire Niger Delta region to Wike to dictate and decree according to his whims and caprices.”

According to him, the perception is not not good for Tinubu’s administration “because Wike does not have the capacity to control or influence any Ijaw man or the people of Niger Delta.”

“Let the President advise and restrain Wike to stay out of Rivers’ political activities otherwise what is about to befall his government will come from Rivers state because what is happening is clear tribalism as Wike want to install another Ikwere man as governor through the back door,” he said

Besides, he said that the Niger Delta people will do everything to stand by Fubara and the people of Rivers state.

He called on the President to heed the call of Ijaw people who called on him to end Wike’s present desperation and madness in Rivers State, like Chief E.K. Clark, Alhaji Asari Dokubo and others who are insisting that Wike’s shenanigans and impunity must stop.

He added: “If this crisis is allowed to degenerate into an ethnic war in Rivers State, it would affect both the state and the entire country negatively.”

Between Fubara and Wike,
If there is anybody that Tinubu’s government should hold to account, it is Wike following revelation that he was declaring N12billion monthly as Internally Generated Revenue during his tenure, which has now risen sharply by over N25 billion IGR monthly under Fubara’s administration.

“So if there is anybody that should have been questioned and facing trial it is somebody’s like Wike.”

He warned Wike attempt to use Federal Might to gain political mileage in Rivers State will not work because Ijaw people are not known to be afraid and they will surely fight to safeguard their political interests.

Comrade Timi Frank is the ULMWP Ambassador to East Africa and Middle East

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