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Boss Of The Week

Olugbenga Shoyele: Erudite Justice Committed to Openness, Transparency, Accountability

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By Eric Elezuo

With the exploits of the Nigerian-born Kaycee Madu, who is the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General of  Alberta, Canada, the Nigerian community has toed the line, and continues to dish out one exploit after another. The latest in the growing list of Nigerians making waves in Canada is Barrister Olugbenga Shoyele, who was appointed a new judge to head the Provincial Court of Alberta. The position was a privilege opened to lawyers with at least 10 years of experience at the bar, alongside several others who met the criteria, and Shoyele beat the benchmark to merit the exalted position after being thoroughly examined and interviewed. The feat speaks volume about his personality, background and impeccable career profile. Madu described Shoyele and the others as representing the “diversity present in Alberta and will help increase access to justice for Albertans”.

Nigerian-born Olugbenga obtained his Bachelor of Law and Masters in Law from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1980 and 1984 respectively. He earned a Doctor of Philosophy of Law also in 1995 in Nigeria. In 2003, he obtained another Masters of Law from the University of Alberta. Though he worked as a Law Professor in Nigeria, he is on an appointment to Edmonton Criminal Division where he currently practices as a major counsel for the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

ROAD TO APPOINTMENT AS PROVINCIAL JUSTICE

Sequel to his applications, Shoyele was first considered by the Judicial Council, which recommends applicants to the Provincial Court Nominating Committee. He was selected by the committee, which proceeded to interview him, and made recommendations to the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.

After seating over the round table, Sholeye’s focus, intelligence and go-getting abilities were recognised, and he was shortlisted among those recommended for appointment. Olugbenga’s appointment took effect from July 12, 2021.

However, during the week, Shoyele was officially sworn in, and a get-together was held in his honour to mark the gigantic achievement, where he went down memory lane to tell the story of his sojourn in the citadel of law and justice systems. The story is contained in his well worded speech, punctuated with gracious appreciations as represented below:

SHOYELE’S APPRECIATIVE SPEECH

I start with an acknowledgement that the land on which we gather today for this ceremony is Treaty 6 territory and a traditional meeting ground and home for many Indigenous Peoples, including Cree, Saulteaux Niisitapi (Blackfoot), Métis, and Nakota Sioux; and I do this in recognition of their presence both in the past and the present.

I personally recognize that it is a great honour to be appointed to the “People’s Court” in Alberta joining a team of erudite, respectable, and accomplished honourable Justices of the Alberta Court of Justice, who interface directly with a significant majority of the community members across our Province.

I am very grateful to God — using human democratic institutions — for providing me with the privilege and opportunity to serve the public in the Province of Alberta on this platform. I believe that the Latin phrase: “vox populi, vox dei” – meaning the voice of the people is the voice of God – essentially underpins the legitimacy of judicial appointments in democratic societies like Canada.

I am absolutely humbled by (and very thankful to every single person in this courtroom for) your presence here today because I have no doubts that you have all made some sacrifices in diverse ways to come and spend your precious time with me during this momentous and by some description – historic – swearing-in ceremony.

A number of my friends have asked whether this is a swearing-in of my appointment that happened about two years ago. The simple answer that I responded with was: Yes! I clarified that I’ve had the official or formal one that substantively conferred the authority to act judicially done with my Assistant Chief Justice; and that the ceremonial one happening today is the one where, universally, each new justice being sworn in has the unique opportunity to present the different paths that they have traveled to get to this particular point in their careers as well as appreciate all those who have participated in that journey and/or contributed to the achievement.

This swearing in ceremony, coming after a host of others that I have had the opportunity to observe and participate in — either unobtrusively as part of the procession or actively as a representative of the APJA — has a ton of benefits coming with it. First, its intentional timing is apparently pressure abating. Secondly, the timing also provided me space to explore having my international-based relatives and friends be present at the event. Their presence, as you can all see, is manifested by the colourful, sartorial elegance on display today. Finally, and more interestingly, the June timing comes with the typically abbreviated tropical, summer weather in Edmonton, Alberta. Accordingly, I humbly submit to this honourable court (and audience) that my timing of this ceremony is obviously the bargain to beat. I will concede that the strength of that proposition has been mildly impacted by the air quality index level announced by Environment and Climate Change Canada for today.

Rather than postulating the philosophy and principles of law, which I believe a majority of this audience is familiar with either profoundly or broadly, my speech today is more of a personal story laden with (immense) gratitude.

The significance of my appointment to the Bench in Alberta — and conceivably in Canada — remains, frankly speaking, inescapable in its symbolism as well as effect. It is a positive reflection of the welcoming environment in this beautiful province for people from various continental, national and ethnic origins or backgrounds. It encouragingly demonstrates, with sparkle, the ongoing promotion and actualization of diversity, inclusivity and multiculturalism. It acknowledges possibilities and emphasizes hope for a better future for all in the community that I conspicuously and indisputably belong. The broad reference to “community” is intentional, as I want everyone who sees themselves in me — that is, physically and experientially — to individually draw that conclusion and extract inspiration from this occasion. For increased specificity, that community I have referenced includes the BIPOC demographic (a recently evolved acronym for: Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour); it also encompasses internationally trained lawyers in our Province and across Canada — a country widely perceived as the land of dreams, possibilities, and their realizations.

At the expense of reiteration, I was born in Nigeria, obtained my first set of law degrees – i.e undergraduate and postgraduate degrees – in the same country. Subsequently, I embarked on the professional and academic challenges of re-qualifying in Canada as an internationally trained lawyer; as well as obtaining additional postgraduate degree in law. That re-qualification process was remarkably humbling for me as the table turned for the erstwhile professor of law who suddenly became a student of law all over again. In this regard, I must acknowledge the critical contribution of Professor Lewis Klar, who — during his tenure as the Faculty Dean — materially sparked my interest in coming to Alberta by offering me a visiting opportunity as a sabbatical scholar at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law, while I was a law professor in Nigeria. Thank you, Professor Klar in absentia.

On my arrival in Edmonton, when I started contemplating my future in Canada, it rapidly became clear to me that I had no discernible roadmap on how to integrate into the legal community in Canada, and more specifically in the province of Alberta, as the National Mobility Agreement which enables lawyers to transfer easily between common law provinces in Canada was not in existence when I was undergoing that process. I had no precedent to follow. The situation was daunting. I had no mentor with my similar experience to consult. It was my fortuitous contact with Justice June Ross that illuminated my path to becoming a member of the legal profession in this province and essentially in the country. She was then the Associate Dean of Law (Academic) at the University of Alberta. She patiently counselled me on the process and imbued me with the required courage to braze the challenges around re-qualifying as a legal practitioner in Canada and as a member of the Law Society of Alberta. That narrative briefly captures the origin of my interest in, love of and commitment to this great Province. Thank you, Justice Ross.

This personal story — which has its genesis on the African continent — includes my nuclear family’s exodus to Canada. The story is the quintessential crystallization of the often repeated axiom that says: “It takes a village to raise a child.” That aphorism itself strikes a particularly resounding chord in my case — given its ostensible African provenance —when I consider the numerous individuals who have been part of my journey and contributed in no small measures to my personal and professional evolution since I arrived at the shores of this country up to the announcement of my appointment as a Justice of the Alberta Court of Justice.

From the professional angle – I acknowledge the following law firms, their principals, partners and associates: James H Brown and Associates – especially Jim Brown, the founding Principal – as well as Snyder and Associates LLP (being law firms that combinedly provided me with an enriched articling opportunity and experience in those early times when clerkship opportunity for internationally trained lawyers was rarer than gemstones); Sharek Logan van Leenen LLP (particularly Justice Gord Sharek and David van Leenen — who offered me the opportunity to start practice in Administrative Law as a specialized area of law that is of paramount interest for me); and Brownlee LLP (where my practice interest in administrative law as Research Lawyer fully blossomed.

I move on to salute Justice Steve Hillier of the Alberta Court of King’s Bench, Justices Sheila Greckol and Jane Fagnan of the Alberta Court of Appeal, who were the “door-opening” interviewers that were directly responsible for my recruitment as Legal Counsel at Alberta Court of King’s Bench [ABKB].

In my role as a former KB Legal Counsel, I have worked with and for a considerable number of those sitting on the dais for the ceremony today. And I can confidently assert without fear of contradiction, that they embody, as Alberta’s judiciary, the top-notch brains drawn from the brilliant legal community of our province. I am indeed extremely grateful for your attendance at the ceremony today.

The ABKB operates in a highly collegial environment. And I thoroughly enjoyed working there with its outstanding judicial complement, stellar Legal Counsel Team, energetic judicial assistants and brilliant judicial clerks. The KB Justices and LCs provided a conducive, non-toxic, and accepting atmosphere that made me look forward everyday – and with unbridled enthusiasm – to showing up for another productive workday “in-person” (pre-pandemic).

While it is simply impractical for me to exhaustively mention the names of all justices, judicial officers and staff, who I have worked with for the duration of my career as Legal Counsel at the Alberta Court of King’s Bench and briefly at the Alberta Court of Appeal, I am compelled to comment that the Edmonton KB Legal Counsel “dream team” consisted of brilliant legal minds. I have had the good fortune of working with exceptionally gifted members of the group such as: Shelagh Lobay (now retired), Peggy Kobly KC, Donald Netolitzky KC, Stella Varvis and Jennifer Taylor (alongside our Resolution Counsel – Brenda Kaminski, KC and Michelle Pidhirney, KC) and in later years Thomas Druyan, Robyn Mitchell and Michelle Roy. The affable working environment in Edmonton was harmoniously coordinated by Diana Lowe KC (now retired former Exec LC), and currently Heather Manweiller).

They have all helped in sharpening my understanding of the law through the regular biweekly and monthly meetings we held as court lawyers, interacting with our highly intelligent articling clerks recruited annually.

As can be gleaned from my previous comments, I also had a transforming stint and experience as Legal Counsel at the Alberta Court of Appeal where I worked directly with Justice Costigan and our other highly respected appeal justices. A typical day as Legal Counsel to Justice Costigan commenced early with penetrating brainstorming on core legal issues. During that time, I was — of course — also privileged to know and work closely with the ABCA Legal Counsel Team in Edmonton, being my base location. These Legal Counsel Team members, both individually and corporately, have never ceased to amaze me with their legendary intellectual brilliance and attention to granular details that are constantly engaged in the appeal matters they regularly deal with. Your sterling contributions to the administration of justice in our Province is highly commendable.

It is trite knowledge that the University of Alberta, over the years, has contributed immeasurably to the legal community in Canada at the local, provincial and national levels. I am indisputably one of the beneficiaries of that great institution’s countless contributions to the society. In that vein, I am particularly obliged to the entire team of tenured professors, adjunct professors, sessional instructors and staff — past and present — in the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta, who have directly and indirectly contributed to making this day possible. I would like to acknowledge Professor David Percy, Professor Phil Bryden, Professor Linda Reif, Dean Barbara Billingsley, Justice Tami Friesen, and Maureen Maguire, KC, to mention a few. Again, if I have not included your name in this short list, I passionately plead for your understanding as the constraints of time wouldn’t permit me to reel out all deserving names individually. I wish to reiterate, nevertheless, that my inability to mention you specifically by name today does not in any way diminish your immense contributions to my story.

To my nuclear family members, I acknowledge and hail your courage in sacrificially rallying around the dream of leaving the relative comfort we had enjoyed at the University community in Jos, Nigeria to explore the then adventurous, unknown and uncertain future in Canada. That departure had an element of oxymoron to it. We were excited at the sweet, delightful opportunity to come to Canada while feeling slightly bitter and scared that we were leaving the familiar — our daily routine, as well as our family and friends. I would like to believe that we have made a modest success of the move we staged back then. Remarkably and sadly, though, what I have just referenced as “relative comfort” in the City of Jos subsequently degenerated after our departure from that community in Nigeria into chaos and insecurity. A more relatively recent update, however, confirms that the government in the country is now striving arduously to restore the peace and serenity for which that university community was renowned. I continue to pray and hope for the realization of that goal. The entire nation of Nigeria deserves it as a member of the global community.

I’m beholden to Mary, my beautiful, lovely and loving spouse, who has been absolutely supportive of me at every step of the journey in this beautiful country and province. I would be remiss not to acknowledge in unequivocal terms that you have always taken wonderful care of us as a family. Mary believes so much in my ability to achieve set goals. She has always been, in a concrete and unmistakable way, a motivator as well as a constant driving force who consistently propels me to higher heights. Obulu!!

My lovely children deserve a prodigious accolade as well — my daughter Grace (and her husband, Jason); my son Ade (and his girlfriend, Georgina), as well as my youngest daughter “the Princess” Yemi (who I fondly call ‘the Math Wizard’ in acknowledgment of her love and passion for all things mathematical). I say “Gracias” to you all for accommodating my sporadic aloofness when duty-calls interface with domestic matters at the home front. I also love to think that we have succeeded in mapping out the strategy to deal with that now in a commonly satisfactory manner.

To my siblings in England and Nigeria, thanks for being there always in providing emotional and filial support since the loss of our mother, a brother and a sister. How lovely it would have been to have you all here in-person to celebrate this occasion with me. Nonetheless, I’m appreciatively content with your virtual and spiritual presence necessitated by inevitable practical limitations.

My father, a centenarian – who turned 100 years in January 2023 – was more than thrilled at the announcement of my appointment being celebrated today. I had the opportunity to visit him in Nigeria recently — in 2021, immediately after COVID-19 restrictions were partially lifted and it was safe to make international travels. He reminded me of the role I played in a drama commemorating my set’s graduation at the local elementary school, where a story book titled, The Incorruptible Judge was adapted for the stage. From that reminiscence, it’s clear to me now, more than ever, that my love and passion for the law dated back to my childhood days.

To our extended family members — nieces, nephews, cousins — and family friends from across Canada and overseas, I appreciate your presence — both virtually by WebEx and in person — on this occasion.

My immense gratitude to Arlene, John, Cynthia, Terry, and Amy Stiksma (our in-laws). Mary and I are most obliged for all your kindness and support as our new family members.

I thank my church family at Strathcona Baptist Church, Edmonton for the spiritual support you have unfailingly and continually provided to me and my family dating back to Year 2000, when my nuclear family members and I stepped into the hallowed hall of the sanctuary at 83rd Avenue, Edmonton. I deeply appreciate you all for coming to celebrate this day with me.

To all our family friends in Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray, Grand Prairie (and other parts of our lovely province of Alberta), a big thank you for your friendship and presence here today. I got a huge surprise few weeks ago from some of my friends, based abroad – in Nigeria, the United States and the United Kingdom – informing me of their intentions to, in their words, “storm” this event. Not in the nature of a war strategy, but in a friendly celebration of this historic moment. I sincerely appreciate the pleasant surprise, Wole, Damola, Dele and Dejo! And many, many thanks for showing up and taking the long trips when it mattered.

The Brownlee’s Toastmasters Club had been an integral part of my journey since Justice Jane Fagnan introduced me to the organization. To all my friends at BBTM (that being the acronym we use for the club), who are present here today, I say thank you for gracing this significant ceremony.

Since my appointment as a Justice of the Alberta Court of Justice, I have been very fortunate to enjoy the benefit of an exceedingly supportive culture existing in all Divisions of the Court.

I am especially indebted to all my colleagues at the Edmonton Criminal Division — particularly ACJ Ray Bodnarek. I won’t dare inadvertently step on toes by going further to start mentioning individual names here because you have all been so wonderfully generous to me with your time, knowledge and experience – and I really, really mean that. That is unsurprising to me, though, because by every standard you are all achievers who have nothing to lose at the pinnacle– as it were – of your legal careers.

That said, I believe I’m on safe terrain in acknowledging the special roles played by Justice Randy Brandt, Justice Joyce Lester (my assigned mentors), and Justice Francine Roy, who incidentally were my immediate neighbours when I initially arrived at the East side on the 5th Floor. Justices Jim Wheatley, Larry Anderson, Janet Dixon, and Carole Godfrey must not be left out of that list of “incipient stage” visitors. They all came to check on me virtually every day — during my first few weeks and months — to ensure I was comfortable. Justice Danny Zalmanowitz of Edmonton Family and Youth Division also noticeably made efforts to come in regularly from the 6th Floor and reassure me that things would fall in place — professionally — sooner that I thought. That network has since (of course) ballooned as I approach my second year on the 5th Floor and now operating from the west side. I cherish you all!

I have also received assistance from all the wonderful staff at the Alberta Court of Justice — the judicial assistants, the judicial clerks, Executive Legal Counsel, LCs, Librarians, Court of Justice [COJ] staff members and clerkship or articling students. They have all helped to transition me to this new career and role — right from the time I stepped onto the 5th Floor back in July 2021 — doing seemingly banal things like showing me my office/chambers, the lunchroom, the library and resources available to me, designing my judicial education plan, etc. Sincere gratitude “Team COJ”!

As we all march into the future, I am optimistic that the challenges ahead call for the ability to deploy a sense of calm and grace under pressure.

The judiciary remains always at the confluence of our past, present and future. Take a glance around this grand courtroom, and you will quickly realize that it is populated, in the main, by erudite jurists who have demonstrated incredible leadership in the legal community we have all come to know over several years. They have all contributed in an inestimable manner to the development of jurisprudence across our nation and the international common law regime.

These members of the judiciary have all, without fear or favour, upheld and continue to uphold timeless principles that span, among others — Constitutionalism. Rule of Law. Due process. Natural Justice. Fair trial. Privacy and Open Courts.

In so doing, they have worked tirelessly and ethically with the vibrant members of the bar in our beautiful province to protect the democratic values we cherish in the Canadian society. I pay homage to your diligence and dedication.

Albert Schweitzer — a renowned polymath and Nobel Peace prize winner — once said: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” I love the legal profession, love legal research and writing, and love to resolve legal problems. I believe these things that make me happy would help me make a success of my judicial career.

It is my goal to remain committed to the time-honoured principles of openness, transparency and accountability. In the same context, I will strive to observe and uphold the virtues of courtesy, respect, fairness and simplicity.

Acutely aware of the core principle of judicial independence while serving Albertans in the fair, administration of justice, I intend – and have planned – to work hard to justify the trust reposed in me by virtue of this appointment. I will diligently discharge my judicial duties to the best of my ability.

Many thanks to you all for coming to share this joyous moment with me!

 

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Boss Of The Week

Accomplished Entrepreneur, Taiwo Afolabi, Revels at 62

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By Eric Elezuo

A trained as a lawyer. An accomplished entrepreneur. A distinguished industrialist with a Midas touch. A philanthropist of note with thousands of hangers-on, who are proud to call him their mentor. He is Taiwo Olayinka Afolabi, the ebullient Chief Executive Officer at SIFAX Group, a conglomerate with its hands in various pies including Maritime, Aviation, Haulage, Hospitality, Financial Services and Oil and Gas. He is also the brain behind the jaw dropping new Marriot Hotel, located in Lagos. He is celebrating 62 years of impact, God’s goodness and attention to humanity.

Born on April 29, 1962, as the first child of a set of twins in Ondo State to Chief and Chief (Mrs.) Samson Afolabi, Afolabi is a native of Idokunusi Ijebu in Ijebu East Local Government Area of Ogun State, Nigeria.

A distinguished 2010 Member of the Order of the Niger MON awardee, the prolific business magnate started his education at the Ansar Ud Deen Primary School, Ondo State, before proceeding to the Baptist Grammar School, Ibadan where he obtained his West African Examination Council certificate. His quest to be the best he can be lured him further, and he berthed at the prestigious University of Lagos to study Law. He graduated with a LLB certificate in Law. He became a certified lawyer after a strenuous one year stint at the Nigerian Law School. He was called to the Nigerian Bar by the Body of Benchers on November 4, 2009., and thereafter, obtained a Masters degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the same university.

Pruned, prepared and perfected for the outside world, Afolabi in 1981 launched into professional endeavours, kick starting his career with a shipping company, Nigerian Express Agencies Limited. As a young man hungry for success, Afolabi gave his all, distinguishing himself in every assignment, and earning the respect of all and sundry, thereby rising to become the Head of Operations.

Having seen all there was to see there, and consumed with the zeal to find a newer entrepreneurial world, he stepped out again, like Ulysses, in 1988  to create his own world, and there founded the SIFAX Group; a mustard seed that has grown to become a gigantic oak tree sheltering Maritime, Aviation, Haulage, Logistics, Oil & Gas and Hospitality concerns.

With SIFAX, Afolabi has proved to be a wonder blessed with the Midas touch as from a humble beginning, with little or nothing, he has transformed the originally freight forwarding agency with only a single base in Lagos, Nigeria, to a super mart, which currently operates across the world boasting of iconic presence in Africa, Europe and the Americas. Some of its locations include the United States of America, United Kingdom, Ghana, South Africa, Holland, Belgium, Morocco, Spain and Djibouti.

With over three decades of experience in entrepreneurial networking, having kick started his career story at the age of 28, Afolabi has successfully turned around the SIFAX empire, deriving subsidiaries out of a dint of hard work. Some of them are but not limited to Ports and Cargo Handling Services Limited, a concessionaire and operator of the Terminal C, Tin Can Island Ports, Apapa Lagos and SIFAX Off Dock Limited, a bonded terminal operator.

Others include SIFAX Stevedoring Limited; SIFAX Oil and Gas Limited; SIFAX Haulage & Logistics Limited; SIFAX Logistics & Marine Services Limited; Skypower Aviation Handling Company Limited, an aviation ground handling company and SIFAX Shipping Limited. In glorious addition is the Marriot Hotel, a five star all inclusive home away from home. His invaluable knowledge of the economy, ability to take entrepreneurial risks, knack for newer grounds, focus on the job and desire to affect humanity have in no small measure ensured that all his subsidiaries have emerged and remained the most sought after brands in the business world.

He has further beefed up his skills in the maritime and general business world by attending several maritime and aviation-related trainings both locally and internationally on port operations, aviation ground handling operations and management.

When Afolabi is not unleashing the prowess his business acumen in the boardrooms, he is jovially serving the public. As many that know or have come across him agree that he has built a reputation as a public-spirited individual, possess a philanthropic gesture and is generally a jolly good fellow. He is said to have given hope and support to many public causes including education, which sits uppermost in his heart. He is known to run speedily to rescue whenever matters refer to education and academics. He is also public speaker and facilitator at various industry conferences and mentoring programmes. Some of the many interventions he has achieved in the education sector as part of his social corporate responsibility are donation of a 1,000 capacity lecture theatre at Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomosho and an 18-seater Toyota Hiace bus to the medical students association of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State.

He also sponsors The Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference (TAAM Conference), organized in his honor by students of the University of Lagos.

Dr. Afolabi’s larger than life existence was made more manifest at the opening of his new Marriot Hotel where the who is who in the Nigerian economic world, entertainment, sports, politics and many more, gathered to give him solidarity.

A seasoned maritime consultant and Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Financial Management, the Institute of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators of Nigeria, Afolabi has used SIFAX and its subsidiaries to positively affect the Nigerian economy as well as generate both direct and indirect employment for teeming Nigerians who are eligible.

For his very many altruistic endeavours, Afolabi has been recognised and awarded in many quarters. Consequently, he has been conferred with diverse honorary doctorate degrees from four universities, including Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomosho, Oyo State, Cornerstone University and Theological Seminary, Jerusalem, Israel and USA, European-American University, Dominica and Commonwealth University, Belize.

He has also received other individual awards from diverse organizations, running into tens including the 2014 Business Person of the Year which was conferred on him Sun Newspapers, a leading Nigerian media company and he is also the Honorary Consul-General of the Republic of Djibouti in Nigeria.

He is a member of the Institute of Directors Nigeria; Ikoyi Club 1938; IBB Golf Club, Abuja; the Building Committee of the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce and Industry, amongst many others.

Afolabi, who is celebrated for his “wealth of experience, organisational prudence and business ingenuity” is a sports enthusiast, addicted to watching and playing football.

A proud and accommodating family man, he is married to his beautiful wife, Folashade, and they are blessed with wonderful children, among whom is a popular recording artist, L.A.X.

For you incredible support growth and development of world economy, and the survival of humanity, you are our Boss of the Week.

Happy birthday sir!

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Boss Of The Week

Prisca Ndu: Celebrating the Amazon of Enterprise at 50

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By Eric Elezuo

In just five decades, a woman that can easily be described as valour, has conquered the entrepreneurial stage, drawing accolades of great tidings, victory and transparent effect on humanity. She is known by many appellations, sobriquet and appendages including flower girl, corporate juggernaut, go-getter, among many others. She is Dr. Priscilla Ndu, known and addressed simply as Prisca by friends, associates, colleagues and family members.

Prisca has proved herself an amazon, a stressless survivor in a world full of challenges, where only the fittest are given the opportunity to thrive and hold their heads high. Her features are a combination of positive curiosity, focus, determination, an eye for details, painstaking and never-say-never attitude.

A former Executive Director at the Resolution and Restructuring Company Limited (a subsidiary of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON), among many other high profile portfolios she had represented at the establishment, Prisca has exhibited distinct characters that have accelerated her excellence irrespective of challenges. She has given nothing to chance to ensure that even in the world assumed to belong to men, she has remained quite visible, and has demonstrated a level of steadfastness and commitment typical of the managerial and entrepreneurial investments she consciously injected into her career and self.

From the early days as a research analyst to becoming a Laboratory analyst at Global Environmental Consultants, Warri and Nigerian Eagle Floor Mills, Ibadan, she has remained diminutive and indefatigable. Today, she is a renowned technocrat and an icon, having traversed and the conquered the competitive waters of banking, advertising, aviation, logistics and more.

Born on April 28, 1974, to a medical and religious practitioner-father, Dr Marcus O. Ndu, who doubles as a humanitarian; and a caterer and businesswoman-mother, Mrs. Veronica Ndu, Prisca came as the fourth child of a family of seven, comprising five beautiful ladies and two handsome gentlemen. It is imperative to note that her brothers were born after her, and this in no small measure affected her tomboyish outlook to life while growing up.

It is also imperative not to undermine the fact she was brought up under strict tutelage, instruction and discipline of the Christianity doctrine, which is the hallmark of her family’s faith.

 

Highly privileged, Prisca relishes the euphoria of dual origin, having been born in Lagos and being a native of Arochukwu L.G.A, in Abia State, where both her father and mother come from.

“My father was a native of Arochukwu L.G.A of Abia State, same for my mum, who was also a native of Abia State (by her maternal lineage), while her father was a Brazilian National, from Sao Paolo, Brazil, both late now,” she informed.

A very gifted and brilliant child, Prisca completed secondary education at the tender age of 14, having spent only five years in Kindergarten, Nursery and Primary Schools, skipping primaries 2 and 4, in the bargain.

She said: “I had a flawless Junior Secondary School result of Seven A’s and was awarded the Elite scholarship from my community, a feat I repeated in my Senior School Certificate of Education, with Seven As, and an A1 in my favorite subject, Physics.” This is a clear attestation to her great academic prowess right from day one, and an indication of the great woman she was destined to be.

 

Dr Ndu, over the years, has acquired an intimidating resume, which is a product of her desire to continuously garner knowledge. This quest, without mincing words, took her through some of the best institutions of learning in the world, where her skills and world view were sharpened.

After her secondary education, Prisca attended the foremost University of Ibadan, where she studied Biochemistry at the Faculty of Medicine. She was to proceed afterwards to the Lagos Business School for an Executive MBA honours.

And like a typical tigress hungry for academic and professional honours, Prisca has attended several management programmes, in schools within and outside the shores of Nigeria. Some of such schools are IESE in Barcelona; INSEAD Business School in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirate; National University of Singapore Business School, Singapore; IMD, Switzerland, Antai College of Business and Management, Shanghai and Harvard Business School, Boston, USA. She maintains a healthy Alumni relationship with all these institutions of high academic and professional studies.

 

An egghead of monumental quality, she sits on and atop Boards of several companies including as Executive Chairman and Infrastructural Development, Stratevium Technology Services Limited, and as Vice Chairman, Energy Company Limited. Stratevium is an Information Technology and Education solutions provider, with focus on gamified learning for Junior and Senior Secondary pupils (GIDI Mobile EDU Program) and specific content development for both private and public sector organizations, like Central Bank of Nigeria (capacity development training for beneficiaries of the CBN’s creative industry fund), Pharmaceutical Industry capacity training for beneficiaries of the CBN Intervention Fund, Content and Capacity Development for Bank’s Credit customers (Keystone Bank and Access Bank) etc., and creating products for telecommunication companies like GLO, MTN; to guarantee customer loyalty and brand visibility.

Her presence in the banking world looms large, as she traversed the terrain and rose to become Head, Public Projects at the Bank PHB where she was charged with managing and ensuring adequate financial support for major contractors to the three tiers of government, providing them financial services and working closely with State Treasury Offices and Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

She is until 2023 the Treasurer of Harvard Business School Association of Nigeria, HBSAN, but still to date the Treasurer and Board member of the Harvard University Alumni Association of Nigeria. In addition, she is the current President of the Lagos Business School Singapore Club, “Social Minister” of the Lagos Business School, Shanghai Club and also the past “Social Minister” of the Lagos Business School EMBA 11 Class.

Prisca is highly active; a metaphor for workaholism.

She is a Fellow of the Institute of Credit Administration, ICA, a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants and a certified Management Consultant professional, a lifetime Member of the Institute of Directors, IOD, and a member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, Nigeria, CIBN.

She is not just in active service, she has garnered a lot of laurels to show for her eye to details attitude, painstaking attribute to delegated descriptions and much more.

Consequently, she has won the “Subarctic Survival Situation Exercise” conducted at the Harvard Business School, beating 135 participants drawn from 47 countries across the globe. She made history as the first African to win the honours, projecting the much advertised Nigerian can-do-spirit.

 

In recognition of her sacrifices for the betterment of humanity, the United Nations named her as one of the 100 Most Influential People of African Descent, Globally. The award was also in recognition of body’s celebration of people of African Descent below the age of 40 (by January 2015), doing exceptional things to develop Africa.

Much as the ebullient doctor is surrounded with human oriented achievements, she is looking far ahead into the future for mega discoveries to wow human race. She has confided in as many that has paid heed that her plans for the future is hinged on building a world conglomerate, with activities in at least five major sectors of the economy, employing at least 1,000 people across all its subsidiaries, and having intimidating presence in at least five G8 countries.

Not a woman who stumbles on chances, Prisca has a distinct plan to retire to academic world at 65 (exactly 15 years from now), to disseminate all she learnt over the years with a view to impart mankind; the Lagos Business School, where she had been invited severally to participate as an associate lecturer and guest speaker, appears a sure bet as her launching pad. These opportunities, according to her, has shaped who she is today, and sees herself playing a major role in Nigeria’s infrastructure space, as she still looks forward to roles in the public sector. She does not in any way takes them for granted.

A typical Jack of all trades, Prisca has her hand in almost every pie she comes across. These include Aviation, Oil and Gas Services, Advertising, Banking and Financial Services industries, both in the Private and Public sectors.

 

While at the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), where she performed the role of Head Partnerships in AMCON, she singlehandedly put together the Asset Management Partners initiative in 2016, involving over 6,000 accounts, with balances below N100m, which was outsourced to these AMPs, engaged and trained to act in AMCON’s stead, in recovering bad loans and also turning the businesses around where possible.

This was extended in 2017 to cover accounts with balances between N100 million and N1 billion. Given that AMCON is not in perpetuity, it is the hope of the corporation that these AMPs will continue to offer the services AMCON currently does and support the banks in the area of debt restructuring and recovery. Today all of AMCON’s operations is structured around this initiative she put together, even though she is no longer in its employment, but her legacy lives on. She is known to have recorded her most achievements while on this beat.

When you talk about women or entrepreneurs that don’t take no for answer, Dr. Ndu is it. She is a very independent, foresighted, goal-oriented, focused and reputed to never fear any challenge. Above all, she is very adventurous and daring, and that contributed in her ability to discover and open new vistas as well as explore new horizons.

Her towering status over the entrepreneurship world notwithstanding, Prisca is a wonderful family woman, tending with zeal, humanity, gusto and panache to the emotional and physical needs of her home. As a lover of the academia, she has not spared any expense to give her adorable son, Charly, who forms an integral part of her pastime, the best of education. Charly, who wishes to be an Astronaut, has been pursuing a career in Aerospace Engineering, at the EmbryRiddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida, USA.

Addressed variously as Ph.D, DBA, DLM, FIoD, FICA, FIMC, CMC, CCFE, Dr. Ndu sees herself as a social impact advocate and a multi-sector entrepreneur, who has led turn-key economic and social development projects both at Federal and state levels in Nigeria.

Dr Ndu’s social corporate responsibility is as large as her personality. She is actively involved in charity work, empowering the youths and advancing the lot of the nation through the Rock Foundation, powered by the House on the Rock Church, Gemstone Management Development Centre, Lagos, Nigeria, Harvard Business School Association of Nigeria, where she is an active Board member.

A boardroom guru, she also sits on the Board of other companies, including Harvard Business School Alumni Association of Nigeria, as Financial Secretary and Treasurer, Skywise Group as Board Member and Mshel Homes Limited, Abuja, also as a member of its vibrant Board.

 

At the HBSAN, she is helping to champion the mentorship programme of the association, providing mentorship, guidance and career counseling to members of the Harvard University Alumni body in Nigeria.

“This is a role I also play with the Lagos Business School Alumni Association mentorship program, and a host of others. My passion for social service is seen in the various Board roles I occupy both paid and unpaid,” she concluded.

In her continuous quest to aquirre knowledge, she has recently attended the Guardians of the Nation International (GOTNI), top 50 African CEOs Leadership Roundtable, where she was elected as Vice Chairman of its Governing Council and the Vice Chairman of the Governing Council of the African CEOs Leadership Roundtable, organized by the Guardians of the Nation International, GOTNI Leadership Institute.

She is also an active member of the NESG Finance Committee. She is also a founding board member of the Black History and Lifestyle awards, where she supports the founder and visionary leader, Eziada, Chief, Mrs. Folashade Balogun. BHLA is an initiative set up to recognize Africans globally, doing great things in the continent and abroad, and the next event comes up in Los Angeles, USA, in June 2024.

Prisca is a symbol of that all round and complete woman, whose stock in trade is the best, the best and the best.

Indeed, at 50, Prisca has so much to celebrate, including without equivocation, the exceeding mercies of God.

Congratulations ma!

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Boss Of The Week

Done and Dusted: Adesola Adeduntan’s Eight Years of Stardom at FirstBank

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By Eric Elezuo

Like a bolt out of the blues, the news of the resignation of the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Adesola Adeduntan, hit the media space on Saturday, April 20, 2024.

The shocking announcement took the financial world by storm, and creatwd diverse questions in the mouth of observers and stakeholders, especially as the Veterinary Medicine graduate-turned-financial guru still has about months before the expiration of his three terms tenure. He was due to retire in December 2024.

“I have however decided to proceed on retirement with effect from 20 April 2024 to pursue other interests,” he said in his resignation letter that has become a topical issue.

But of more importance is that Sola, as he is fondly called, who took over from Bisi Onasanya in January 2016, has held sway as FirstBank’s top shot for eight years and four months, and has verifiable achievements to show for his years of stewardship, which has catapulted him to stardom today.

For a start, only a few persons would believe that the indefatigable financial expert, Adesola Kazeem Adeduntan is just 54 years old. He will be 55 on May 7, 2024. This is as a result of the achievements that have trailed his young life. Adeduntan has bagged an international award as Distinguished Alumnus of the Year by his Alma mater, Cranfield School of Management, United Kingdom. And this was at the time FirstBank was named biggest mover of 2019 according to KPMG Report. It is not incorrect to say that Adeduntan’s tenure at FirstBank was dedicated to creative achievement.

As the first quarter of 2020 was winding down, he was a guest lecturer at the Edinburgh School of Business where he spoke authoritatively on financial institutions’ role as drivers of financial inclusion.

On September 11, 2020, Adeduntan, added additional feather to his cap when he was bestowed with the Forbes Best of Africa award by Forbes Africa in conjunction with Foreign Investment Network (FIN) for his contributions to the financial services sector in the country and the African continent. He wasn’t a stranger to awards.

An all rounder, he practically conquered every endeavour he found himself in, leading the FirstBank group to a height only imaginable as the bank recently marks 130 years of uninterrupted banking. It would not be forgotten in a hurry that a media intelligence report presented by P+ Measurement Services, placed Adeduntan atop the list of most prominent and reputable Nigerian banking CEOs in Q2 2020.

THE MAN, ADESOLA ADEDUNTAN

Born Adesola Kazeem Adeduntan on May 7, 1969, in Ibadan, Oyo State, the banker started his early education at Ibadan Municipal Government Primary School (IMG), Adeoyo between 1975 and 1981, for his primary education before proceeding to Urban Day Grammar School, Old Ife Road, Ibadan, where he had his secondary schooling. His excellent to duties created a space for him to become the Deputy Senior Prefect in his final year in 1986.

In the same year, he was admitted to the University of Ibadan in to study Veterinary Medicine, and qualified in 1992 as a Veterinary Surgeon, a profession he hardly practiced before switching over to financial management.

Consequently, in 1994 he joined Afribank (Nig) Plc., and was posted to the Ibadan Main Branch as a graduate trainee. He spent 18 months there learning the ropes, and working in various areas of banking operations including cash management, clearing, credit risk management, and foreign operations.

Between September 1995 and May 2002, Adeduntan worked with Arthur Andersen Nigeria, rising to become manager in the firm’s financial services industry business, leveraging on the 18 months mentorship he received at Afribank. In this role, he led and managed the statutory audit of a number of leading Nigerian banks.

In August 2000, he served as an instructor at the Andersen World-Wide Induction training for new hires in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. He also served as the lead instructor for the Local Office Basic Accounting Training and Induction course in 1999. It was while he was with Arthur Andersen that qualified as a chartered accountant in 2000.

With more feathers to his cap, Adeduntan moved to the financial services industry in KPMG as a senior manager in June 2002, and served diligently till October 2004 when he bowed out. At KPMG, he co-pioneered the firms’ financial risk management advisory services. He was also a KPMG-accredited Trainer and facilitated several internal training programmes.

 

When he left KPMG in 2004 to study, he pursued a Master’s degree in Business Administration at the Cranfield School of Management, where he was a British Chevening Scholar. He graduated in September 2005.

Armed with yet another great feather, Adeduntan moved to Citibank Nigeria Limited in 2005 where he became the Senior Vice-President (General Manager) and Chief Financial Officer. He was saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the bank’s financial and product control functions, quality assurance and operational risk management. He was on hand to assist the bank in its recapitalisation during the banking consolidation era.

In October 2007, he called it quits with Citibank, and a month later, pitched tent with the Africa Finance Corporation, as the pioneer Chief Financial Officer and Business Manager.

His achievement at the AFC includes leading the team that secured an A3/P2 investment grade international credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service in March 2014. This made the Africa Finance Corporation the second highest-rated lending financial institution in Africa.

In July 2014, he was appointed an Executive Director/Group Chief Financial Officer of FirstBank, where he was responsible for the bank’s financial control, internal control and enhancement, business performance management, treasury and procurement functions.

On Monday January 4, 2016, Adeduntan succeeded Bisi Onasanya, and assumed duty as Managing Director of FirstBank of Nigeria Limited, and its commercial banking subsidiaries including FBN UK, FBN Ghana, FBN DRC, FBN Guinea, FBN Gambia, FBN Mortgages, FBN Senegal, FBN Sierra Leone and First Pension Custodian Limited.

He coordinated his functions so professionally that on December 7, 2016, he was awarded the 2016 Banker of The Year award by the Leadership Newspaper “For refusing to ‘go with the flow’ even when the temptation was high and the reward substantial, and for reminding his colleagues that banking is nothing without integrity”.

 

A man of many beneficial and influential parts, Adeduntan has hitherto sat on the board of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, and as a non-executive director on the boards of the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), FBN Bank U.K. Ltd., Universal Payments Plc, and FMDQ OTC Securities Exchange. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria.

In his eight years stewardship at the helm of affairs at FirstBank, Adeduntan has turned the tables and rewrote banking narratives, delving into all aspects of human endeavour to see to the development of SMEs, youth entrepreneuship among many others.

His speech at the kick off of FirstBank’s celebration of 125 years of unbroken business operations, has remained evergreen, and stood the test of time as the prototype to FirstBank’s success recipe.

Adeduntan hinted as follows: “From that very modest beginning in 1894, First Bank has traversed an incredible journey of delivering impeccable financial services to its customers and supporting the building of the modern-day Nigeria and indeed, West Africa, including our early pivotal role as the monetary and fiscal policy regulator for the entire West African region,” he said.

“As a long-standing institution, which even predates Nigeria as a unified entity, FirstBank is entrenched in the nation’s development; woven into the very fabric of society, with our involvement in every stage of national growth and development.

“At the amalgamation, independence and through the seasons ever after, we have been here marching hand-in-hand with you and our dear nation. We have enabled financial, technological, industrial and societal advancements, achieving very many firsts over time.”

Overall, Adeduntan has seen to the sponsorship of prolific enterprises to guide the youths on the right path. These include the African Fashion Week which took place at the Oriental Hotel and Youth Empowerment Seminar at the Harbour Point Event Centre. These shows among a whole lot of others in his eight years of prolific endeavors, have a lot of testimonials following.

Adesola is married to Mrs. Adenike Adeduntan and together they have three wonderful children.

Sir, we wish you a prolific retirement from FirstBank, and a more glorious openings for more of your intelligence and expertise to be tapped.

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