FOR FIRST BANK OF NIGERIA 125 YEARS IS NOT JUST A NUMBER By Bashorun J K Randle - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Wednesday, 12 May 2021


The combination of One plus Two and Five – making eight has significant implications amongst magicians, tarrot card readers, fortune tellers, snake charmers and pentacostal preachers of prosperity, who insist that it is supercharged with spiritual dimensions. Regardless, we must abandon metaphysics and concentrate instead on heartily congratulating our nation’s oldest bank on its 125 Anniversary.

It comes at a price – to remain silent or to rewind the tape going back to its conception; impregnation; midwifery and deliverance at the inaugural meeting of shareholders at the Colony Hotel, London in 1894.

It was not by pure happenstance that in attendance at the birth was my grandfather, Dr. J. K. Randle. He did not need to wear his surgical gloves. He was there as an investor in pursuit of a grand vision which would leap frog in 1898 when according to the archives:

“As far back as 1898 Dr. John Kehinde Randle; Dr Akinwande Savage; and Joseph Ephraim Casey Hayford (of the Gold Coast) the founders of the National Congress of British West Africa had begun to agitate for the independence of Nigeria, and the rest of West Africa.”

Hence, when the promoters of the Bank christened the baby as “Bank of British West Africa” it was a profound confirmation that the Almighty had divined a holy convergence of the respective interests of those who were advocating independence for West Africa and the Institutional promoters of the introduction of banking as the lubricant for trade/finance in the region.

It was not lost on my grandfather and his colleagues that their “Business Model” which was anchored on Health and Education as the precursor to Independence, needed to be rejigged in order to include water, sanitation, waste disposal and roads as the minimum contribution to the basic needs for survival in a challenging region. They were not day dreaming. They sought to replicate on the native soil of West Africa what they had witnessed during their sojourn as students and professionals in Britain.

To put matters in context, perhaps we need to remind ourselves that the Bank was midwifed at a time when all over Nigeria and the rest of West Africa, the common currencies were cowrie shells which were subsequently replaced by the mainila!!

When the Bank opened for business at 35 Marina, Lagos its next door neighbour was none other than Dr. J. K Randle who lived in grand style at number 31. There was no other building separating them as “33” was considered unlucky by the soothsayers.

The history of the Bank became intricately intertwined with the narrative of what preceded what we now call Nigeria and beyond – to the rest of West Africa. It is the prerogative of the Bank to remind us of the rapidity with which it firmly established itself as the banker to the colonial government and the local/native/national entities that were sprouting all over West Africa. As there was no Central Bank at that time in Nigeria or any of the other British colonies in Gambia, Sierra Leone; or Gold Coast (Ghana), the Bank was not only the banker to the government with responsibility for the collection of taxes and duties as well as payment of salaries of civil servants, it was also financing trade between the colonies and primarily Britain. As we are not compelled or obliged to go into the nitty gritty it is sufficient to record that the colonies in West Africa exported raw materials – cocoa, cotton, groundnuts, palm oil, rubber etc. to Britain in exchange for finished goods.     


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