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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Sunday, 6 June 2021


The combination of One plus Two and Five – making eight has significant implications amongst magicians, tarot card readers, fortune tellers, snake charmers and Pentecostal 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 125th 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 gown and gloves. He was there as an investor in pursuit of a grand vision which would leapfrog 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 and 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 manilla!! The only other alternative was trade by barter or countertrade

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. There is no evidence to provide confirmation that Nigeria exported coal from Enugu to Newcastle in England!!    

If we are somehow able to persuade the Bank to surrender the keys to its vault and archives, we shall most certainly find convincing evidence of gold bars (and silver) stored in the vaults when the currency had to be backed with gold (in accordance with the “Gold Standard”). The gold had to be checked first thing in the morning and at the end of the day before the doors were shut. If there was any discrepancy, nobody could go home!!
We leave it to the discretion of the Bank to avail us of records of mundane matters such as the recruitment of staff from Britain and “amongst the natives”. We can skip the delicate issue of salaries paid to expatriates versus what was paid to local staff. Regardless, they worked happily together towards the accomplishment of a common purpose. 

We can take it for granted that the Bank kept comprehensive records written with old style pen and ink in cursive – tellers, mails, telegrams, ledgers, transfers of staff from one “station” to another, disciplinary matters, and of course marriages as well as obituaries of staff. It there were any financial or sexual scandals, the records were kept under lock and key in the safe (with combination code) of the General Manager/ Chief Executive of the Bank.  

The current chairman of First Bank of Nigeria, Plc, Mrs. Ibikun Awosika and the other ladies on the Board – Ms. Olusola Oworu and Dr. (Mrs.) Ijeoma E. Jidenma are probably aware that right from its inception the Bank discriminated massively against women. Now, it is payback time!!
To the best of my knowledge, the Bank did not recruit any women from Britain to manage any of its branches in West Africa. This was regardless of whether the women were single or married. The role of women was confined to the category of “accompanying spouse”. I stand to be corrected, but I believe that the first woman to be appointed a manager was Mrs. Odedina (nee Agbaje). This was at a time when her father Chief J. K. Agbaje was an Executive Director of the Bank. 
In this regard, it would be unfair to single out the Bank for chastisement. The policy was anchored on the belief/perception that West Africa was a hardship area and the expatriate men were encouraged to leave their wives and children behind in Britain while they strove to survive in the heat. Their domestic lives were at the mercy of loyal cooks, stewards and drivers. The delicate matter of mistresses will have to be consigned to later chapters.
Perhaps we shall need to devote an entire chapter to the snail’s progress of women who rose through the ranks before assuming higher responsibilities at the levels of manager, Executive Management, or Non – Executive Director. So far there has been no female Chief Executive of the Bank!! When Mrs. Bola Adesola and Mrs. Remi Odunlami were appointed as Executive Directors, there was intense speculation that one of them might make it to the top as the Managing Director/Chief Executive of the Bank. Alas, it did not happen. I am however obliged to confess that I am not an entirely unbiased umpire in the matter as Bola (nee Lardner) is the great – grand daughter of Dr. J. K. Randle. She may not have disclosed this to the Bank. Her later father Mr. Harry Afolabi Lardner SAN, who was a brilliant lawyer was my first cousin as well as the executor of the Estate of Dr. J.K. Randle.

Regardless, we must give kudos to the Bank for the zeal and commitment it devoted to what we now label as “financial inclusion”. Its long reach and vast network which covered the nooks and crannies of Nigeria and other parts of British West Africa was as extensive as it was formidable. Even missionaries, soldiers and policemen in far flung places were within the radar of the Bank which ensured that their stipends (for missionaries), salaries, travelling allowance and other benefits were promptly paid. 
For those who are anxious to avail themselves of a concise bio-data or testimonial of the Bank, both the website and the indefatigable Alex Otti (a former Executive Director) have conspired to deliver the following powerful advertisement:

“The bank began as the Bank of British West Africa (BBWA) in 1894 and quickly began playing the role of the Central Bank of British West Africa in the absence of a regulator at those medieval times in the sub region. The bank witnessed the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates and the eventual independence of Nigeria in 1960. It was founded by Alfred Lewis Jones, a shipping magnate who imported silver currency into West Africa through Elder Dempster shipping company also owned by him.
In 1957, the bank changed its name to Bank of West Africa (BWA). Sequel to Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the bank began to extend more credit to indigenous Nigerians as most of its credit facilities were hitherto concentrated on foreigners living in the erstwhile colony.
Standard Bank acquired the Bank of West Africa in 1966 and changed its name to Standard Bank of West Africa. In 1969, Standard Bank of West Africa incorporated its Nigerian operations and its name had to change once again, this time to Standard Bank of Nigeria Ltd (SBN). In 1971,  SBN listed its shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and placed 13% of its share capital with Nigerian investors. Following the implementation of the indigenisation policy of the then military government soon after the civil war, Standard Chartered Bank reduced its stake in SBN to 38%. This action led to another change in name to First Bank of Nigeria in 1979 as Standard Chartered Bank insisted that since it had lost majority control, the bank should no longer bear its name since by the action, it had failed to be its full-fledged subsidiary.

This marked a watershed in the history of the bank as more Nigerians were appointed to the board and it began to look and operate more like a Nigerian bank. The bank had subsequently moved from a limited liability company to a publicly quoted company and back to a limited liability company which it presently is. The latest status is in compliance with changes in the regulatory environment in 2012 that required that the group operates as a holding company, with the bank as one of its subsidiaries or spin off other operations not related to banking. That marked the birth of FBN Holdings which presently has the bank and non-bank subsidiaries as part of the group.
In 1982, First Bank opened a branch in London and converted same to a full-fledged subsidiary, FBN Bank (UK) in 2002. Two years later, in 2004, a representative office in Johannesburg, South Africa, debuted. At the moment, First Bank has subsidiaries or representative offices in France, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Guinea and Senegal. At the last count, First Bank had presence across 10 countries in three continents. It operates from over 750 locations and employs close to 22,000 people. Its has over N3.3trillion in total assets. It also boasts over N2.5trillion in Customer deposits with a tidy 19% Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR). The bank has over 1.3m shareholders and over 14million customers.”
For those who have attempted to fault the Bank’s assertion:
“Banking for Good”

The least we can do is to remind them that the Bank spread the gospel of banking through missionaries, traders, “Mercantile Houses”, such as the United Africa Company (UAC); Lever Brothers; United Trading Company (UTC); Leventis Stores; G.B. Ollivant; Paterson and Zochonis (PZ); Mandillas; CFAO etc.
The traders were mostly Lebanese, Syrians, Jews; Greeks and of course, British and French. At various times, the Bank was confronted with trenchant complaints that it discriminated against our fledgling entrepreneurs when it came to granting loans in order to assist them in their business pursuits. The bank had a ready self-fulfilling excuse – the “natives” had poor business experience and no collateral.
However, we cannot overlook the fact that while the British managers had what was termed “Terms and Conditions of Service”, the “natives” had none!! It was not until much later that pressure from the Labour Union and the government resolved such glaring cases of discrimination. There was also the delicate matter of segregation. While the white managers lived in exclusive “Government Reservation Areas” (“GRAs”), the natives had to fend for themselves.

Say what you will about the Bank, it is to its credit that at intervals it would select some of the local staff and send them off to the United Kingdom for training or posting, for short periods in order to prepare them for promotion into the management cadre.
One of the earliest beneficiaries was Chief Julius Kosebinu Agbaje who was entrusted with the Bank’s public relations. He facilitated the recruitment of quite a large number of ex-students of St. Gregory’s College, Lagos (his Alma Mater) and many of his protégés served the Bank meritoriously.
Somewhere along the line, the Bank switched its recruitment policy almost exclusively in favour of graduates, who after brief training, entered the management cadre. Inevitably, there was tension and conflict as well as envy as those who were stuck in the rank and file resented the new bunch of managers and bosses whose banking skills were somewhat rudimentary. Regardless, the graduates were rewarded with generous salaries along with cars and accommodation allowances. Quite a few of them gained rapid promotion as well as the much-coveted overseas training.

We are obliged to acknowledge that the Bank was very much part and parcel of the British colonial government which had tentacles all over what would become Nigeria in 1914. Separately, we shall resolve the mystery behind the choice of the dour elephant as the dominant feature of its logo rather than the nimbler and more sure-footed leopard. Incidentally, in 1912, a leopard with its spots et all was shot dead right in front of the Bank’s office at 35 Marina, Lagos. The photograph has been preserved for posterity under the caption:
“Colonialists And Some Nigerians Watch The Remains Of A Leopard Shot Dead In Lagos in 1912.”
It goes without saying that the British managers of the Bank had easy access to the colonial administrators from the rank of District officers to Lieutenant-Governor and Governor/Governor-General. They belonged to the same exclusive social clubs e.g. Ikoyi Club (which was previously known as the European Club); and enjoyed special medical facilities e.g. “European Hospital” (now Military Hospital) while the General Hospital was for “the natives”.
All over Nigeria, the Bank worked the same hours as the colonial government officials.
Government offices and banks would open on the dot of 8 o’clock in the morning and close at 3 p.m. which left plenty of time for lunch and siesta followed by golf, tennis, squash racquets or billiards at the club.
Cocktails and dinner either at club or at each other’s homes were regular features of the day and night. At the weekends, cricket, beach parties/picnics, boating, fishing, swimming and horse-riding were generally available for the expatriates.

As for “the natives”, they had to make do with whatever leisure activities they could rustle up by relying on their ingenuity. Entrance to the exclusive clubs and residences of the expatriates was only through the back door or the kitchens. The only leveller was the scourge of malaria and diarrhoea which ravaged West Africa with vicious frequency. It provided the colonial officers and British bank managers with a ready excuse for the consumption of large quantities of gin and tonic, with whiskey and soda as the alternative to be chased with brandy and cigars. Champagne came much later.
As if to ape their colonial masters and British bank managers, “the natives” took to smoking cigarettes and pipes stacked with imported (or local) tobacco. In addition, they made do with beer and football.
Even in the Churches, the front row was reserved for the colonial government officers and British bank managers. Right here in Lagos, the Church that was within shouting distance of King’s College was “christened” the Colonial Church (European Church) and it was exclusive for prayers to the Almighty by Europeans. Thankfully it is now known as St. Saviours Church. 

It would be unfair to heap the blame on white officers of the Bank who only swam with the tide. In any case, it is too late to demand reparation. 
Instead, we should focus on the three critical areas that circumscribed the matrix of the Bank and galvanized its strategic thrust into the fabric of its society: 
Customers and
Rather than conclude that, that it is “The Heart of The Matter” going by Graham Greene’s experience in Freetown, we should rely instead on Peter Drucker’s declaration:
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
In order to put matters in context, it is of utmost importance to appreciate that one hundred and twenty – five years is a really long stretch. In the Netherlands, any organisation that has lasted one hundred years is automatically conferred with the honorary title “Koninklijke” or “Royal” which it may apply to its name. A case in point is Royal Dutch Shell. Other examples are Feadship Royal Dutch Shipyards, Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij [KLM] or translated – Royal Dutch Airlines.
Also, we must not forget that 1894 to 2019 straddled two World Wars from 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1945. It says much for the resilience of the Bank of British West Africa in war and peace, that it maintained its duty of care to its people (staff), customers and culture. In the event of a Third World War, the Bank has its template for survival ready. There would be no need for underground bunkers or tunnels. 

It is to the credit of the Bank that it kept meticulous records of its staff who perished during the wars that had little to do with banking.
Without oversimplifying matters, the temptation to shift our focus on how the Bank survived the spate of bank failures and financial meltdown/economic disasters is overwhelming. 
Perhaps it was the formidable combination of people, customers and culture that provided the robust defence wall, safety net, survival moat and ballads.     

Within the expatriate community, every now and again, there were rumours of wife swapping and husbands snatching. Sometimes, the predators were the bankers while the colonial government officials were the victims. 
However, more often than not it was vice versa (the other way around). We shall have to dig the records of the Bank in order to extract how such delicate matters were dealt with. 
However, what was well known is that some of the bankers strayed into forbidden territory to sample the “local content” and ended up fathering babies. Nine months later the half – caste son and daughter would emerge leaving little doubt as to who the father was considering that there were only one or two white people in vicinity. For some reason, the “native women” of Calabar, Sapele, Warri, Jos and Kaduna who had a reputation for being sultry, seductive and willing were fair game. 
However, brazen cases of financial misconduct, violent behaviour, mental instability or outright insubordination by managers of Bank of British West Africa would leave the Bank with no option other than to swiftly book a passage back to England on the next available ship for the offender. 
In order to properly appreciate the formidable role the Bank played in enquiring financial inclusion (for the right reasons), management of the fledging economy, transparency and accountability, perhaps we should take a snapshot of how matters stand today: 
Front page of “The Nation” newspaper of March 28, 2019
“A Software developer, Eyo Bassey Francis, yesterday told the Federal High Court in Lagos that he received N769.5 million from Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Executive Director of Projects, Mr Tuoyo Omatsuli, for no specific job done. 
Francis, the first prosecution witness in Omatsuli’s money laundering trial, said the huge sum was not for any particular contract. He said he came in contract with Omatsuli in 2014 and told him that he ran an online platform, did a lot of imports and was able to souce for foreign currencies. 
“He later called me on phone and told me that some money will be transferred to my account.
“I got initial sum of N80 million transferred into the Heritage Bank account of one of my companies, Asiladrrin Global Consulting Ltd.
“When the money was paid I converted it to dollars as directed by the first defendant (Omatsuli),” Francis said. 
The witness said N340 million was also paid into his firm’s account in two traches of N160 million and N180 million on Omatsuli’s instruction. He said he also converted the money, which he said came from Starline Consultancy Services Ltd, into dollars and disbursed it as directed by Omatsuli. 
“Sometimes in January 2015, I also got a call from the first defendant telling me that I will be getting a payment from a company known as Building Associates.
“I later got an inflow of N349, 650, 000 into Heritage Bank account of my company, College – Pro Synergy Ltd. 
“I was furnished with an account of a firm, Greenhouse Investment, owned by the Special Assistant on Finance to the then NDDC’s MD to which I transferred N100 million. 
“The balance was converted to dollars as directed by Mr. Tuoyo,” the witness said.
Asked by prosecuting counsel Mr Ekene Iheanacho if he executed any contracts for the companies from which funds were transferred to him, he said: I never had any contract with Starline Consultancy Services Ltd or business relationship with it. 
“I never had any contract with Building Associates.”
Under cross-examination by Omatsuli’s lawyer Prof Amuda Kehinde (SAN), the witness said he did not transfer any money to the first defendant’s account. 
“I don’t have any documents on the instructions the first defendant gave me,” he said. 
Francis said he did not know what the money sent to his accounts was meant to used for.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Omatsuli for allegedly receiving N3.6 billion bribe from a contractor, Starline Consultancy Services. 
He was charged with Don Parker Properties Limited, Francis Momoh and Building Associates Limited before Justice Saliu Saidu on 45 counts. 
EFCC said Omatsuli procured Momoh and Building Associates to utilise a total sum of N3.6 billion paid by Starline Consultancy Services. 
It accused Omatsuli of conspiring with the others “to disguise the illegal origin of N3,645,000,000, being proceeds of an unlawful activity, to wit: corruption and gratification.”
 The alleged offence, which EFCC said was committed between August 2014 and September 2015, contravened Sections 15 (1), 15 (2), 15 (3) and 18 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011, as amended by Act No 1 of 2012. 
The defendants pleaded not guilty. 
Justice Saliu Saidu adjourned until April 11, 2019 for continuation of trial.”

Front page of “Daily Sun” newspaper of March 28, 2019
Headline: (From the archives) “IG OF POLICE TAFA BALOGUN ARRESTED”

“On this day in March 2005, a former Inspector General of Police Tafa Balogun was arrested for money laundering Mustafa Adebayo Balogun became IGP in March 2002, replacing Musiliu Smith. He was responsible for overall police security during the April 2003 national elections, which were marred by reports of police abuses. In August 2003, Tafa Balogun presented a paper on "Nigeria: Electoral Violence and National Security" in
which he advocated improvements such as use of national identity cards, mass education, electoral law reforms, citizens participation in politics, good governance and establishment of a constitutional court.

In December 2003, Tafa Balogun organised extensive security measures across Nigeria to ensure that there were no disturbances during the Commonwealth of Nations summit. Following various incidents in 2004 where reporters were beaten and their equipment damaged by policemen, Tafa Balogun made apologies and promised that those responsible would be punished Towards the end of 2004, newspapers published allegations of corruption on a massive scale, asserting that Tafa Balogun had pocketed public money and
bribes from politicians and criminals. These led to his forced retirement in January 2005.

On 4 April 2005, Tafa Balogun was arraigned at the Federal High Court, Abuja on charges involving about N13 billion obtained through money laundering, theft and other sources. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission under Nuhu Ribadu brought 70 charges against Tafa Balogun covering the period from 2002 to 2004. 
He allegedly made a plea bargain with the court in exchange for returning much of the property and money. He was sentenced to six months in jail. He was released on 9 February 2006 after serving his sentence, part of it in Abuja National Hospital. In November 2008 and again in February 2009, the Chairman of the House Committee on Police Affairs, Abdul Ahmed Ningi, asked the Inspector General of Police Mike Okiro, to provide details of the money recovered from Tafa Balogun, a request that he passed on to the EFCC chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri. 
However, the EFCC stated that they did not have records of the exact properties recovered from Balogun. It was said that some of the houses had been secretly sold to certain individuals at giveaway prices. In April 2009, the House of Representatives Committee on Police Affair invited Tafa Balogun, Mike Okiro and Mrs. Farida Waziri to explain how the N16 billion allegedly recovered from Balogun got missing.

Front page headline of “Daily Sun” newspaper of March 27, 2019
“Centre for Social Justice, a Nigerian knowledge-based institute, yesterday, declared that Nigeria is broke and that the 2019 budget was dead on arrival.

While justifying this claim, the Lead Director of the centre, Mr. Eze Onyekpere, noted  that the budget deficit is at 1.33 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the economic diversification, which would have been a source of revenue, is not effective.

Speaking with newsmen in Abuja, Tuesday, Onyekpere said the deficit is in the sum of N1.859 trillion, or 21.06 per cent of the overall expenditure and 26.68 per cent of the retained revenue.

“It is to be financed mainly by borrowing the sum of N1.649 trillion from external and domestic sources – N824,82 billion from each source,” he said.

This, he said, leaves a balance of N210 billion to be funded from privatisation proceeds, adding, however, that it is an expectancy which is yet to materialise.

“From the experience of the 2016, 2017 and 2018 budget implementation, the president and National Assembly need to start the approval and implementation of the borrowing process early so that funds can be available to execute the proposed 2019 capital budget when approved,” he advised.

According to him, notwithstanding the mantra of economic diversification, the nation is still faced with the dominance of oil as the single most important revenue source. This implies that the diversification efforts have not yielded the desired dividends.

“The efforts need to be intensified for non-oil revenue to gain ascendancy. At 52.94 per cent of expected revenue, oil is still the dominant factor. However, Nigeria is yet to fully explore, exploit and expound the frontiers of oil-based revenue through income from refineries, petrochemical complexes and the full value chain of the sector. Thus, while diversifying, we need to fully explore the potential of the sector,” he said.”

If the Bank should ever contemplate a change of name, the obvious choice is ENDURANCE BANK!! Truly, over the last one hundred and twenty – five years, it has been battered and assaulted by the turbulence of its volatile environment – both political and economic as well as the social tapestry and lattice of governance. Regardless, the Bank has emerged as a national treasure with regional tentacles and global foot prints. 
At its birth in 1894, the Bank shared its page in history with launching of the Hong Kong Jockey Club which is still flourishing even after the handing over of Hong Kong (at Victoria Harbour) to China by Britain. 
Long before “Rural Banking” infiltrated the praxis and lexicon of banking, the Bank was already firmly planted in our rural areas – particularly where the commodities for export to Britain were ready for evacuation. Consequently, those who extracted tin from alluvial mining, the cocoa farmers, palm oil tappers, rubber plantain owners etc. were on the radar, if not directly at least through agents and middle men who assured them that payment would be effected promptly by the Bank. 
The ruggedness of the Bank must have been put to test during the First World War (1914 - 1918) and again between 1939 and 1945 while the Second World War raged. Inevitably the Bank hooked its wagon to the British train and adopted strategies which left nobody in doubt about its allegiance to Britain. It is also instructive that the Bank’s spunk and grit were very much on display as our nation went through numerous coup d’états and putsches starting on 15th January 1966 followed in rapid succession by the revenge coup of July 29 1966 and spiralling into Civil War (1967 to 1970). Regardless of the turmoil, the Bank for the most part kept its door open with due caution for the safety of lives and cash. It must have been a monumental task and agonising judgment call. 
Perhaps when we delve into the archives of the Bank, we shall retrieve records of how it handled some of the most epochal events in our nation’s financial landscape and economic history such as: 
The Goschalk award 
Adebo Award
Udoji Award
We may also be pleasantly surprised when we discover (or uncover) the discreet role played by the Bank in elections all over the country starting with the first one in 1923 right up to the most recent one regardless of the alarming report and lament by Edwin Enabo, INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) Head of Department of Voters Education and Publicity in Rivers State: 
“The INEC office is under siege by men in army uniforms, uniforms of the Air Force and police who have taken over.
They are stopping and screening people.
They are clearing results before they enter the office to the extent that up till now no collation has been done.
We don’t understand where the people are deployed from.
We are not accusing the Nigerian Army or the Nigerian Air Force, but we say the people right now in the office are wearing uniforms of Army and Air Force.
If they are not from them, we are calling on them to come and rectify the situation and allow our officers to enter with their results without molestation and harassment.
Throughout the elections, we had so many reports of insecurity, molestation, harassment and assault on our staff and ad-hoc staff, disruption of the electoral process throughout the state in all the Local Government Areas with the consequence that by yesterday evening we were unable to get any results and by 1 pm today, the office is under siege by men in Army, Air Force, and Police Uniforms.”  

The Bank readily availed the government and the election authorities of its advice, observations and support in terms of its trusted officials combined with logistics and communication facilities.
In similar fashion the trust and reputation of the Bank extended to other sensitive matters such as the examination papers of the West African School Certificate; Higher School Certificate and the professional examinations of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria [ICAN] whereby the examination papers would be sent in advance in sealed envelopes to the branches of the Bank closest to the examination centres with strict instructions that the envelopes should only be opened at the examination centres. There is no record of failure to exercise due care on the part of the Bank.
Clearly, following the Nigerianisation of the Bank, no ethnicity can claim that it is its exclusive preserve or turf for the pursuit of primordial interest.
Also, considering the role the Bank has played behind the scenes in defining not only the ethics of banking but also the ethos of professionalism as well as the delicate matter of endemic corruption and its consequences, the least we can do is to line up behind Transparency International and the recent publication of Nigeria’s Corruption Perception Index (1996–2018).

Thankfully, Nigerian-born World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Anthony Joshua has gone viral and lyrical:
“There has always been a big piece of my heart as a Nigerian and I do believe that it is that piece that sets me apart. It always says to me, “never give up, dream big!” We come from a nation of warriors....we have that same tenacity, that Nigeria fighting spirit that makes us game changers! We are relentless. We don’t just face our challenges, we step into the ring to win again and again. If you believe in yourself there is no limit to what you can achieve.”
Undoubtedly, First Bank of Nigeria subscribes to the same article of faith.
For those who are tempted to conclude that one hundred and twenty-five years is more than enough to enable the Bank to instil financial discipline and robust prudence in our nation, the front page of “Business A.M.” newspaper of March 25, 2019 has delivered a severe jolt.
“As the Federal Government’s borrowing in the last three and a half years has progressively doubled Nigeria’s stock of public debt (both domestic and external), there are palpable fears in fiscal and monetary policy analysts’ circle that the country could soon really become broke and be unable to meet its obligations. Fears have also been expressed that the nation may become stuck in a debt quagmire in the event of a major currency crisis or face foreign exchange risks that could double the current debt profile.
Nigeria’s debt profile, according to the Debt Management Office (DMO), stood at $73 billion (N22 trillion) at the end of June 2018 compared to $63 billion in June 2015.  According to debt statistics obtained from the DMO, the country’s external debt rose from $10.32 billion in June 30, 2015 to $22.08 billion as of June 30, 2018.
This means that the country’s external debt commitment has grown by 114.05 percent in the last three and a half years.
Although multilateral debt made up $10.88 billion or 49.28 percent of the country’s external debt profile, most of the increases in the last three years occurred in the area of commercial loans.
According to the DMO, commercial foreign loans, which stood at $1.5 billion as of June 30, 2015, had risen to $8.8 billion as of June 30 2018.
This means that in the last three years, the country’s exposure to commercial foreign loans has risen by $7.3 billion or 486.67 per cent.
Oil revenue appears to be the only certain source of revenue that is constant. But despite government promises to beef up non-oil revenues, they have remained elusive.
Even as revenue has declined, government spending has skyrocketed, growing by 56 percent since 2012 and as much as 26 percent between 2016 and 2017 alone, one analyst told business a.m., adding that it was a worrying position to be right now for the country.
The country’s spending has not been particularly efficient either, noted another analyst who would rather not be named, but said he was speaking to draw the attention of policy makers to the danger that lies ahead, if nothing was done quickly now that elections are over.
“Nigeria spends more on salaries and servicing debt than on capital projects – even in 2017 when capital expenditure was at a record high,” he said, suggesting unproductive expenditure concentration.
“Personnel costs haven’t changed much in recent years,” said a policy analyst, adding that this was despite government promises. “They even consume a greater share of what the government earns. In 2013, half of what the government earned was committed to salaries; by 2017, that number was 70 percent,” he said, describing it as most inefficient and unproductive use of falling earnings of government. “And of course, as global crude oil prices rise, Nigeria spends more and more on wasteful fuel subsidies,” he pointed to a much-vexed issue that has been widely condemned by very many in business and policy corridors, except those who tap political capital and other benefits from the system.

Analysing the scenario further, he said: “It is important to note here that the Nigerian government doesn’t spend that much compared to its peers. Federal government spending was just 5.6 percent of GDP in 2017, compared to 13.4 percent and 20.9 percent in Angola and South Africa respectively, according to the World Bank. The issue is that the government doesn’t earn much money, meaning that even the little spending that is done seems reckless.”
Indeed, financial experts at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have advised that the revenue-to-debt ratio is unsustainable and it portends a serious danger for future generations of Nigerians.
The disturbing public debt situation has drawn concern from various groups and bodies in the country who see the trend as a danger to the nation’s sovereignty.
Timothy Olawale, director general of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Assembly (NECA) described the trend as very disturbing, which could have a negative effect on the developmental capacity of Nigeria.

Tajudeen Yusuf, a member of the House of Representatives who brought the issue up for discussion at plenary, noted that the House was concerned that aside from the rising national debt profile, there was a sharp increase in sub-national borrowing in the last three years, such that the domestic debts of state governments rose from N1.69 trillion in June 2015 to N3.4 trillion in June 2018.
He noted that though external or domestic borrowing was an important and necessary strategy to reflate the economy and stimulate national growth and development, “the positive impact of Nigeria’s borrowings since June 2015 has yet to be seen.”
Tajudeen added, “Unlike global practices where borrowings are tied to specific projects mutually agreed by respective organs of the government, various borrowings by the federal government since June 2015 have not been transparent, a situation which gives room for doubts, misconception and prone to manipulations.
“Nigeria’s revenues are sharply declining, which makes it increasingly difficult to attract and sustain higher debts, ultimately portend micro and macro dangers to the national economy amidst numerous developmental challenges,” he noted.
Nigeria has in recent times used the Eurobond market for its external funding, rather than concessional lenders. It sold $5.4 billion of bonds last year and $4.8 billion in 2017, making it Africa’s most prolific issuer in that period after Egypt. Bank of America said in a research note this month that Nigeria would probably print another $3 billion of securities in the second half of 2019.

Patience Oniha, director general of the DMO, while speaking on the high cost of servicing the public debt, said: “If you were to ask me if we’re going to issue Eurobonds this year, I’d say we’ll explore all the options.
“Our preferred option is to explore concessional sources. One of our major objectives is to reduce debt-service costs,” she said.
Out of the N8.9 trillion proposed national budget before the parliament for approval, over N2.3 trillion has been set aside for debt servicing, a development economists said was unhealthy for national development and economic growth.”

The founding fathers of Bank For British West Africa deserve kudos for forging ahead regardless of the mischievous scheming and cynical tunnel vision of Lord Macaulay as conveyed in his address to the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835:
“I have travelled across the length and breadth of Africa and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country (sic), such high moral values, people of such  calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country (sic), unless we break the very backbone of this nation (sic), which is her spiritual and cultural heritage and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Africans think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them (to be) – a truly dominated nation (sic).”

What was most remarkable about the Bank is that right from its inception, the managers were close to the powers that be – from the colonial administrators to kings, emirs, politicians etc. but they were careful to draw the boundary in order not to appear to be rivals (or contenders) of the power brokers.
They were also adept at managing crisis or dislocation. A case in point is the Civil War that engulfed Nigeria from 1967 to 1970. Igbo officers of the Bank who were trapped in the North and the South-West (particularly Lagos) fled in droves to the East and sought the assistance of the Bank for survival. 
How the Bank coped with the tragedy of closing its in branches in Biafra while dealing with refugees is a matter for another book. Even more challenging was the enormous burden which the Bank had to shoulder as it strove to resuscitate its abandoned branches and rehabilitate Igbo managers/staff who had lost everything on account of the war as well as the change of the Nigerian currency which left them mostly destitute, homeless and helpless.
The Bank of British West Africa evidently maintained a professional relationship with the colonial government and its civil servants. Fortunately, the Civil Servants were obliged to adhere to the Code of Conduct which was enshrined in the “GO” (General Orders) and “FI” (Financial Instructions). Consequently, the system provided a formidable bulwark against what we are now witnessing on a regular basis whereby corruption has run riot with reckless abandon combined with nauseating impunity. 
The following report has gone viral: 
Details have emerged of how Nigerian government officials extracted from funds looted during the regime of late General Sani Abacha, through JPMorgan Chase, an American multinational investment bank and financial services company headquartered in New York.

Nigerian government has, however, filed charges against the bank for working with the said government officials to “extract nearly $900 million between 2011 and 2013 from a government bank account in London”, according to a report by New York Times.
The $900 million is part of the billions of dollars looted by government officials during the regime of the late General Sani Abacha.
A report by New York Times, a version of which was published in print on April 1, 2019, noted that the case has been filed before a court in Britain although JPMorgan Chase has insisted that the withdrawal of the money followed instructions by certain “senior government officials” from Nigeria. This is in spite of the refusal of the two banks, to which the money was wired, to accept the transfers over concerns bordering on violation of money laundering laws.
Another major source of concern is why JPMorgan Chase went ahead to approve the release of the funds, despite the issues it had with the request, which it reported to financial regulators. However, in spite of its suspicion that the request for extraction could have come from the basis of money laundering, it went ahead to make the transfers.
As a result, the Nigerian government is now requesting the court to compel the bank to pay up in damages. JPMorgan Chase has countered the suit with its own court documents, basing its position on the fact that the agreement signed between both parties was also subject to following instructions of the Nigerian government even if the bank had its misgivings that the transactions “were not in the best interest” of the former.
However, the back-and-forth on the funds did not begin in 2019. Flash back 20 years ago, specifically in 1998, Sani Abacha had awarded an oil licence to Dan Etete, Nigeria’s oil minister at the time for $2million. However, the transaction was projected to yield billions of dollars in revenue, and there were unsuccessful attempts by the successive government to revoke the licence on the grounds of corruption.

Fast-forward to 2007, asides being convicted of money laundering in France in an unrelated case, a deal was struck involving Etete, the Nigerian government and two oil companies, Royal Dutch Shell and Eni for sale of the licence. However, Etete and friends of former President Goodluck Jonathan were said to have benefitted more than $1billion in the deal and the case is currently on trial in Italy.
In February 2018, Bayo Ojo (SAN), a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, had admitted to the court that he received a “compensation” of $10million from Etete for his work as a legal adviser during the sale of OPL 245.
An account was opened by the Nigerian government officials with JPMorgan in London, and a subsidiary of Eni deposited about $1.1billion on May 25, 2011, of which a transfer-request to the Banca Svizzera Italiana, a Swiss Bank, was made. However, the Swiss bank rejected the transfer request on the grounds of that it suspected that the funds would eventually find its way to Etete. These were presented in the documents made available to the Italian court. With the situation on ground, JPMorgan Chase also expressed reservations on the funds to financial regulators in Britain, but did not take any action to limit activity on the account.

Weeks later, in July of the same year, a transfer request was made for the bank to transfer the funds to a bank in Lebanon. A document on this request was made available to the British court, signed by Nigeria’s Attorney General. This was to enable release of the funds because some part of the funds were affected by a court-ordered freeze ruling. The judge approved the release of $800million of the said funds, but also expressed particular concern about the fact that the request may “a money-laundering exercise”.
However, the $800million was transferred as requested, but the Lebanese bank, Banque Misr Liban, rejected the transfer. After the rejection, a transfer request was sent to JPMorgan Chase to send the funds in two deposits of $400million each to two Nigerian bank accounts owned by Etete. While JPMorgan reported the transfers to the British Serious Organised Crime Agency (now the National Crime Agency) as suspicious, it went ahead to make the transfers anyway. In 2013, another $74million was requested to be transferred to a corporate account belonging to former oil minister based in Nigeria.”

The robustness of the entrenched system of prudence and accountability would have averted the report on the front page of “Vanguard” newspaper of April 2, 2019. 
“At the backdrop of the continued comatose state of Nigeria’s refining capacity, the country may have spent about N10 trillion in the provision of pump price subsidy on imported petroleum products from 2006 to 2018.
A research report by BudgIT, a public finance focused Non – Government Organisation, NGO, said this amount came from the price shocks in the international energy market as well as the exchange volatility. 
However, the report also indicated that the subsidy regime has opened Nigeria’s public finance to huge corruption and illegal exportation of petroleum products to neighbouring countries. 
The report titled, “Nigeria’s Petrol Subsidy Regime: Dilemma of the World’s Most Populous Black Nation”, stated: “Nigeria currently imports an average of 91 percent of its daily petrol needs, thus disproportionately exposing local petrol prices to price shocks from international factors of production and exchange rate volatility. 
There is a near perfectly inverse relationship between the fall in the value of Naira and the rise in the cost of imported petrol. That is, when next the Naira is devalued, Nigeria’s subsidy bill can be expected to jump.”
It stated further: “The continuation of petrol price regulation perpetuates safety nests for exception forms of corruption within the country’s subsidy regime. Import subsidy creates petrol price arbitrage – the differential between the regulated price in Nigeria and the high petrol in Nigeria and the high petrol prices in neighbouring countries – which is big enough to incentivise smuggling of subsidized products to neighbouring border towns.”
On the implication of the adverse development, the report stated: “BudgIT notes with dismay fuel subsidy deprive Nigeria of funds needed for critical socio-economic development as it discourages investors, who generally prefer a deregulated industry, from investing in the downstream sector especially in the area of refinery construction and operation. For instance, the 10 trillion consumed by the subsidy regime is sufficient to construct 27,000MW of electricity or build about 2,4000 units of 1000-bed standard hospitals across 774 local government areas of Nigeria, found our research. 
“We equally note that the Nigerian masses worship low oil prices. More so, the political class fears that increases in petrol price (and in the cost of living by extension), occasioned by a deregulated price regime, and could become a flashpoint for mass uprisings and political instability. Nonetheless, we can never shy away from the opportunity cost of the corrupt subsidy regime.”

Rather than restrain itself based on the conviction that silence is golden, “Vanguard” newspaper of April 1, 2019 adopted the garb of the town crier and went to town with the consequences of our brazen misconduct, sheer incompetence and monumental mismanagement of our affairs. What we are handed is one score card as if to remind us that if the Bank had managed its affairs with similar complacently it would not have lasted one hundred and twenty – five years. 
“Data compiled by Steve Hanke, an economist from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, United States, has classified Nigerians as the sixth “most miserable people in the work.”
The Misery Index was calculated using economic indices, including unemployment, inflation and bank lending rates. 
Venezuela, Argentina and Iran, the countries, which topped the index, had high inflation rates as the major contributing factors. 
For Nigerians, the unemployment rate was the major contributing factor. 
Meanwhile, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has described Steve Hanke’s report as a vindication of its position “all this while,” saying the nation has sunk into a new low since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed power in 2015. 
“The original Misery index was just a simple sum of a nation’s annual inflation rate and its unemployment rate. The Index has been modified several times, first by Robert Barro of Harvard and then by myself,” Hanke, the economist who compiled the list, told Forbes. 
“My modified Misery Index is the sum of the unemployment, inflation and bank lending rates, minus the percentage charge in real GDP per capita. Higher readings on the first three elements are “bad” and make people more miserable.

“These are offset by a “good” (GDP per capita growth), which is subtracted from the “bads.” A higher Misery Index score reflects a higher level of “misery,” and it’s a simple enough metric that a busy president, without time for extensive economic briefings, can understand at a glance.”
In total, three African countries, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt, fell between the top 10 most miserable countries.
Report shows Nigeria is sinking under Buhari – PDP.
Reacting to the development, PDP’s spokesman, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, tasked the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to perish the thought of the planned increment in Value Added Tax, VAT, saying such would only make it more difficult for the “already traumatised Nigerians.”
Ologbondiyan said “That report is a vindication of the position of the PDP, all this while. The economy has virtually collapsed under President Buhari and the man is even mooting the idea of piling more pressure on Nigerians. 

“Nigerians have never suffered like they are suffering today because those charged with the responsibility of managing the economy have failed completely. They have no idea of what it takes to manage an economy like ours. 
“As an opposition party, we call on the Presidency to take urgent steps to fine-tune the economy, create jobs for our teeming youth if only to justify that a government is in place. 
“In the interim, we advise them to stop their plan to increase VAT as that will only fetch millions of Nigerians additional pain and discomfort.”      

In the old days, the Bank would have mounted huge pressure on the government in order to ensure that the budget was passed by the parliament well before the commencement of the financial year in addition to ensuring proper co–ordination between the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank in order to ensure cohesion between fiscal policy and monetary policy. Prudent management of the economy was paramount and it was anchored on the balanced budget.
What now prevails is unrealistic budget projections whereby revenue expectations are not aligned with the realities on the ground. Inevitably, the government has been piling up huge local and foreign debts leaving a trail of unsustainable debts, massive unemployment (especially amongst women and youth) and wobbling economy.
On CNN, the Minister of Finance, Hajia Zainab Ahmed solemnly declared:
“We intend to fund the 2019 budget through borrowing locally and internationally with a spread of 50:50. Our focus is on concessionary long-term loans.”
It was more or less the same narrative when her predecessor Kemi Adeosun was on Aljazeera: 
“The first thing to note is that there are no quick fixes, but our strategy is clear and the expected outcomes are pretty compelling. Our immediate economic imperative is to provide a Keynesian stimulus to reflate the economy. The 2016 focus is underpinned by a desire to radically reposition Nigeria’s economy.
The 2016 budget is being debt funded and the borrowings are targeted at the financing of capital projects to address the infrastructure deficit, create jobs and build the platforms for optimisation of the non-oil economy that will see Nigeria prosper. 
Our borrowing policy will remain conservative and will see us access the lowest available funds, hence our decision to approach multilateral agencies in the first instance, for budget support at concessional rates as low as 1.5% per annum.”
Therefore, it was no surprise that the front page of “New Telegraph” newspaper shrieked with bold headlines its concern and alarm:
“As Nigeria's debt managers seek concessionary loans to tame the rising debt servicing cost, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the nation's interest payments may rise to unsustainable levels of over 82 per cent in 2022.

It disclosed that while Nigeria's ratio of debt-to-gross-domestic product is low relative to other governments at about 25 per cent, the country's small tax base means interest costs as a proportion of revenue are high.
According to IMF, the Federal Government's interest payments-to-revenue more than doubled to 60 per cent last year from 27 per cent in 2014. The figure is on course to rise to 82 per cent by 2022, which the Washington-based lender says is "unsustainable."
This is coming as the Director General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Ms Patience Oniha has said that though Nigeria has the best-performing Eurobonds in emerging markets this year, the office would prioritise borrowing from concessional lenders such as the World Bank and African Development Bank.
If you were to ask me if we're going to issue Eurobonds this year, I'd say we'll explore all the options," she said in a recent interview with Bloomberg in Abuja. "Our preferred option is to explore concessional sources. One of our major objectives is to reduce debt-service costs."
The yet to be passed 2019 budget presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari in December, envisaged the government issuing about N1.65 trillion ($4.6billion) of new debt, half of which would be in foreign currency.
Nigeria has mostly used the Eurobond market for her external funding in recent years, rather than concessional lenders. It sold $5.4 billion of bonds last year and $4.8 billion in 2017 making it Africa's most prolific issuer in that period after Egypt. Bank of America said in a research note this month that Nigeria would probably print another $3 billion of securities in the second half of 2019.
The country's Eurobonds have returned 14.4 per cent since the end of 2018, second only to Kenya among sovereigns in emerging markets, according to Bloomberg indexes. 
African Eurobonds have been in heavy demand this year as the U.S. Federal Reserve's cautious approach to raising interest rates spurs investors to buy higher-risk assets. Ghana and Benin sold $3.6 billion of bonds between them on Tuesday.

Oniha reiterated that while the government is "always speaking" with the World Bank and African Development Bank, it won't borrow from the IMF.
"We've made it clear we're not in the situation where we need IMF support," she said.
The DMO is continuing with a plan to increase its proportion of foreign liabilities to 40 per cent to reduce funding costs. The ratio is probably somewhere between 30 per cent and 40 per cent following the sale of $2.9 billion of bonds in November, Oniha said. Yields on Nigerian Eurobonds average 7.3 per cent, half that for naira bonds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
"The debt service-to-revenue ratio is rising," she said. "We're not sitting and saying we're comfortable. Part of the reason for borrowing externally is to borrow at 8 per cent rather than 18 per cent. It's cheaper. And we're assuming the naira will be stable."
Nigeria also plans to sell a NI5 billion green bond, Oniha said, without giving a time frame. The country issued its first green bond, a N10.7 billion five–year security, early last year.”

It is a matter of concern that matters have deteriorated so badly in Nigeria that the competition between legitimate banks and parallel financial conduit pipes have intensified and escalated to outrageous dimensions.  It does little credit to our beloved nation when we are confronted and assaulted by the following report which has gone viral on internet:
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] has intercepted N54 million at Maiduguri International Airport.  Also, four suspects and two Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are already under investigation in connection with the seized cash.
Those being investigated are Abdullahi Yarima, Francis Bako, Saraya Umaru, James K. Yadzugwa, Mercy Corps and The EFCC alleged that a BVN search on Mercy Corps indicated that it has 15 banks accounts with different Bank Verification Numbers (BVN).
Also a BVN search on Development Exchange Centre showed that it had 40 bank accounts with different Bank Verification Numbers.
The document said the anti-graft agency was probing alleged “cases of criminal conspiracy, money laundering and terrorist financing initiated following an intelligence report to the commission on the 18th March, 2019 against Mercy Corps and four others.”
The document said: “On 18th March, 2019, an intelligence report on suspicious movement of large sum of money by some airport users was received from the Maiduguri International Airport.
“The Commission immediately deployed a team of operatives to the airport base on which Francis Bako and Saraya Umor ‘F’ both of Development Exchange Centre (DEC) were arrested with the cash sums of N45 million and N9 million respectively.
“In the course of the investigation carried so far, the following facts have emerged:  The trio of Francis Bako ‘M’, Saraya Umaru ‘F’ and James Yadzugwa ‘M’ are staff of Development Exchange Centre, which Abdullahi Yerima is a staff of Mercy Corps.
“The Development Exchange Centre is a Non-Governmental Organisation that is a financial service provider.
“The Development Exchange Centre was engaged by Mercy Corps to carry out cash-out services in Ngala and Dikwa Internally Displaced Persons Camps.
"On 18th March, 2019, Francis Bako of Development Exchange Centre was in possession of N45 million which was recovered from him by operatives of the commission at the Maiduguri International Airport on his way Ngala.
“That Saraya Umaru of Development Exchange Centre was also in possession of N9 million which was recovered from her by operatives of the commission at the Maiduguri International Airport on his way to Dikwa.”
The EFCC gave more insights into the international NGO and some of those questioned.  The EFCC was said to be more curious in its investigation following strange discoveries on the BVN of the two agencies being probed.
It said: “A BVN search on Mercy Corps shows that it has 15 Bank accounts with different Bank Verification Numbers.
“A BVN search on Development Exchange Centre showed that it had 40 Bank accounts with different Bank Verification Numbers.  The EFCC insisted that there strong suspicions of alleged conspiracy, money laundering and terrorist financing.”
It said: “The cash movement of the total sum of N54 million through the Maiduguri airport provides strong grounds for suspicion of conspiracy, money laundering and Terrorist financing.

“Mercy Corps has also not been able to furnish the investigating  team with vital details on the beneficiaries of the said grant to enable us cross-check and verify them.
The Operation’s Director of Mercy Corps in his written statement specifically stated that beneficiaries’ data could not be provided to the Commission “as the donor for this particular program did not authorise Mercy Corps to share this date”.
“The investigation has revealed that the intercepted fund was withdrawn from Sterling Bank account of Development Exchange Centre.  The Sterling Bank account was funded from the Zenith bank account of Mercy Corps, while the Zenith bank account was funded by Int’l FCStone Nigeria Ltd accounts at Guaranty Trust Bank.  The BVN search revealed four GTB accounts linked to Int’l FCStone Nigeria Ltd, on which further search is being conducted.”

The least we can do under these circumstances is to appreciate the intermission of Apostle Alexander Bamgbola who was previously the American-trained Managing Director and Chief Executive of Victory Merchant Bank Limited.
“Apostle Alexander Bamgbola, Overseer of Zion The City Of The Lord Ministries and Chairman of the Lagos Chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) recently spoke with journalist on the challenges of running a church ministry, the pitiable condition of Nigeria, the need for attitudinal change ….Chinyere Ablaziem brings the excerpts:
In your welcome address, you said the church is the most challenging ministry: can you expatiate on this?
Even in all creation of God; God himself mentioned it that he regretted creating man in the book of genesis.  So, what I was alluding to is the fact that to be called to oversee men on earth is challenging.  It is challenging for God himself the creator; it is challenging for any human being because it is not an ordinary calling.  It is the highest calling; being called to be the servant of God is higher than being the president of any nation because you are responsible for the souls created by God – so, it is a very serious responsibility.
How can we relate the theme of the seminar ‘Building the Builders’ to national issues in Nigeria?
You relate it in the sense that we need to have a new beginning in our nation, because the Bible says if the foundation be rotten; what can the righteous  do?   That is, this nation has a rotten foundation; a foundation of corruption.  So, what the church is doing here is what we have to do in politics, business, and in all areas of human endeavour in our nation.  Yes we started well in 1960, but we are still reaping what we sowed.  The election of 1959 – I am old enough to say this because I was part of it; was a rotten election.  So, every subsequent election since then has been rotten, and that is why we are still complaining.  Look at the resources of this nation:  I read it with my own eyes when I was in school in America in the early 70’s that the United Nations research indicated the three developed nation by 1970 would be Brazil, Korea, and Western region Nigeria.  When they talked about Western region Nigeria then (1954), they were talking of Nigeria.  Why would they talk about Western region Nigeria to grow like Korea?  At that time South Korea was just finishing war – it was worse than what we have in Syria today; but look at what Koreans have made of South Korea.  Look at what Brazilians have made of Brazil, and look at what we Nigerians have made of our Nation.  When I came back into this nation in 1979 as an expatriate, I thought things were so bad; I almost went back, since 1979, it has been from worse to worse.”

“Nigerian Tribune” newspaper deserves commendation for devoting the front page of its April 3, 2019 edition to two sobering issues in its editorial:
“Almost half of Nigeria’s adult population have indicated their willingness to abandon all hope and vote with their feet in the next five years, according to a survey conducted by a US-based research firm, Pew Research Center (PRC).  In the report tagged “Many Nigerians, Tunisians and Kenyans say they plan to leave their countries in the next five years” and published on the Fact Tank webpage recently, the research firm indicated that the survey was conducted in 2018 across 12 countries.
To be sure, the research merely echoed the inclinations of the youth population which prefers the adventurous route through the desert into Europe to legal migration.  The truth is that the African continent has consistently proven to be a hostile environment to its native populations.  The increasing barriers to self-actualisation due to poor governance are making many people forlorn and desperate.
In many African countries, the profligate political class ensures that citizens bear the brunt of its own criminal enrichment.  The fact that this predatory system ensures the continued impoverishment of the citizenry is well known.  Left entirely despondent, the adult population resorts to the gambit of survival in foreign lands.  These destination countries are stable and more commodious to existence, and African citizens do not wish to pass up the opportunity to infuse some meaning into their otherwise dreary, miserable lives.  Already, some of these adults who have trouble in relocating abroad have devise a way of providing cheap labour during their annual leave, earning foreign exchange in order to lift themselves out of the jaws of misery.  The preference for migration should be seen as a loss of confidence in the governance and leadership climate of the affected countries.  For instance, with Nigerians being recently rated as the sixth most miserable people on earth, it should not be surprising that a major chunk of the adult population rendered hopeless by governments at all levels is determined to exit the country’s shores by any means.
The real tragedy, though, is the loss of human resources which such emigration of trained manpower constitutes to the economy.  It is tragic enough to export Africa’s primary products to Europe and America just to earn a pittance as foreign exchange.  But to lose trained manpower and skilled human capital is a monumental catastrophe.  
The implication is that poor, underdeveloped African countries are subsidising the rich, developed Western and Asian countries because of the refusal of the political elite to create an environment of possibilities on the continent.  Nigeria and the other countries covered by the survey incurred huge expenditure in training and developing human capital, only to lose it to the developed climes.
This development is a serious challenge which underscores the serial failures of what is called national planning in the affected countries.  If any planning took place in these countries, their human resources would not be up for grabs by the outside world.  For instance, things have become so bad that medical doctors and engineers who have become consultants in their respective fields here in Nigeria are writing basic exams in foreign countries in order to be able to ply their trade.

Sadly, governments in Africa do not see anything untoward in this situation.  Rather, they dedicate themselves to the looting of the treasury.  For Nigeria, the fact that it is the most populous country in the continent makes the problem unique in the sense that many of its citizens are now proudly in the Diaspora.  It has in fact become a kind of status symbol to have these citizens abroad as the government regularly exults in their contributions to the GDP via remittances.  To be sure, Nigerians may work abroad, but to do so solely on account of a hostile socioeconomic environment at home is a crying shame.”

“Ibrahim Magu, the Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recently stated that between 2011 and 2015, more than N1.3 trillion was stolen by 32 entities.  Such monies stolen could have been used to provide some basic infrastructural needs for Nigerians.  He said 1/3 of the stolen money using World Bank rates and costs could have provided for the construction of more than 500 km of roads, build 200 schools to educate 4,000 primary-tertiary level students at N25m per child, build 20,000 units of two-bedroom houses across the country and much more.
It is therefore not an understatement to concur with the view of Magu that ‘some rapacious individuals have cornered for themselves what would have helped serve the lives of our future generations through depriving them of quality education and health care among others’.
The truth of the matter is that there was massive corruption and looting of public resources and properties under the watch of the President Jonathan than in any administration in this country in its existence.  Reports indicate that in October 2016, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, PACAC, Professor Itse Sagay, confirmed that N1.4 trillion was stolen by top government officials and businessmen under the watch of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua and Jonathan Goodluck.  Worth mentioning here is the statement credited to former Governor Adams Oshiomole and now National Chairman of the ruling APC that a former Minister alone stole $6 billion, equivalent to N2.1 trillion.

Under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, the EFCC and all other state institutions have been given free hands to do the needful in their statutory assigned responsibilities free of any executive interference.  This has made the EFCC leadership to in 2017 made substantial progress in its fight against corruption and recovered some looted funds and properties from looters.  EFCC in 2017 recovered N871 billion, $261 million and 1.1 million pounds sterling.  Other recoveries include 407 mansions in choice places in Abuja and other major cities of the countries.  The agency also secured 703 convictions from various courts of competent jurisdictions.
It is therefore very glaring that the Buhari’s fight against corruption is on course and shall not be compromised no matter the bashings and attempts to discredit it by looters.  The successes recorded in this direction by the administration are largely due to PMB’s commitment in the fight against corruption through strengthening of government’s anti-corruption agencies and the country’s procurement processes.”

However, “Daily Trust” newspaper insisted on the same day (April 3, 2019) that our risk assessment/management should extend beyond human beings to reptiles.
Front page editorial headline: “NIGERIA HAS HIGHEST BURDEN OF SNAKEBITES IN AFRICA – Expert.”
“Expert in the health sector says Nigeria has the highest burden of snakebites in Africa with about 2,000 killed every year.
At a one-day training on management of snakebite organised for health workers in Abuja yesterday, the team leader of Snakebite Research and Intervention Centre of the Bayero University, Kano, Prof. Abdulrazaq Habib, said one out of every five people bitten by a carpet viper, puff adder or the cobra snake might die of the poison.
He said the effects of snakebites, depending on specie of snake, could include paralysis, tissue damage leading to amputation of affected parts, bleeding and inability to breathe.
“By way of death, about 2,000 Nigerians die every year and a further 2,000 to 3,000 are maimed and left either disabled, amputated from snake bites but by whatever measure, Nigeria has the highest burden within the Africa continent,” he said.
Head, Neglected Tropical Diseases Elimination Programme, Dr. Chukwuman Anyaike, noted that due to lack of awareness on prevention and effects of snakebites, a lot of farmers, hunters, herdsmen and children fall victim especially in the North and the South-Eastern parts of the country.”

It was left to “The Punch” newspaper of April 3, 2019 to forcefully remind us that our problems extend beyond snakebites.
“The World Health Organisation in a new report at the second Africa Health Forum in Praia, Cape Verde, estimates that nearly 630 million years of healthy life were lost in 2015 due to diseases that afflicted the population across its 47 members states in Africa, amounting to a loss of more than $2.4tn in the Gross Domestic Product annually.
The report, titled, ‘A Heavy Burden – An Indirect Cost of Illness in Africa,’ helps to establish a link between ill health and GDP, building upon a growing body of evidence.
A Health Economist at WHO Africa, Dr. Grace Kabaniha, said the report presented country-specific data in terms of the loss in GDP for 2015 so that every country could see where they were and improve.
According to the report, non-communicable diseases are driving the loss of GDP by 37 per cent of the total loss, while communicable diseases come up at 36 per cent, followed by parasitic diseases, maternal, neonatal and nutrition-related conditions, and injuries.

The report also revealed that non-communicable diseases, which include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, stroke, and diabetes, were presently the leading killers in Africa, causing seven in 10 deaths globally.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, saif if Africa countries acted collectively and achieve their sustainable development goal targets, the loss on diseases would be reduced by almost 47 per cent.
The report further stated that, most countries’ spending on health does not comply with their economic status and their needs, which leverages other stakeholders and the private sector to come in and help governments, as countries grapple with the need to move towards the goal of Universal Health Coverage.
The Deputy Director, Prevention and Programme Coordinator, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Emmanuel Agogo, in an interview said there was the need to increase funding to prevent disease outbreaks.
“There has not been enough funding in curtailing disease outbreaks.  Government and individuals must, therefore, collaborate by pulling resources together to curtail disease outbreaks.  We cannot carry out any proper response without materials.  The materials include laboratory, diagnostics, specialised equipment and consumables that allow us to carry out diagnostics.
“In terms of manpower, they are of two levels – enough staff members and ad hoc staff.  We may need experts and consultants as well.  When we deploy people in the field, they need motivation.  We need ad hoc workers to be able to get the work done during outbreaks,” Agogo said.

The contribution of “The Guardian” newspaper of April 3, 2019 is a stringent warning of dire consequences for waywardness and crime.
“The Federal Government yesterday condemned Monday’s execution of a Nigeria woman by Saudi Arabia for alleged drug-related offences, describing the development as tragic and pathetic.
Specifically, the Saudi Interior Ministry claimed that two Pakistani men, a Yemeni man and the Nigerian were executed for drug trafficking, bringing to 53 the number of people so far killed this year.  
The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who communicated government’s displeasure in Abuja, alleged that some airlines collude with drug syndicates to implicate unsuspecting Nigerian passengers.
According to her, they bury the substances in the baggage and luggage of pilgrims and flyers without their knowing.
She told State House Correspondents that the woman was the eighth national to be executed by the Saudi authorities in the last three years.

Dabiri-Erewa said 20 more Nigerians were on death row in the Asian country for similar offences while 12 had been prosecuted and are to serve various jail terms.
Her words: “So we have had cases where truly they didn’t commit the offence.  We have appealed to the Saudi authorities to make the trials fair, open and ensure that justice is done.
“Even if you are going to die, you will know that you die for an offence you committed.
“We appeal to Nigerian government to Saudi Arabia to obey the laws of the land.  Even Kolanut is treated as a drug.  We will continue to appeal to the Saudi authorities to treat some of the cases with some form of leniency.”
The Presidential aide described as disgraceful the arrest of five Nigerians for allegedly robbing a bureau de change in Sharjah of Dh2.3 million (about N226 million).
The men were said to have been caught on camera as they went into the bureau and smashed the glass barrier separating customers and staff before stealing and escaping with the sum in multiple currencies.
Listing their names as Chimuanya Emmanuel Ozo; Benjamin Nwachukwu Ajah; Kingsley Ikenna Ngoka; Tochukwu Leonard Alusi and Chile Micah Ndunagu, the former member representing Ikorodu Federal Constituency of Lagos State in the House of Representatives maintained that the suspects were “a disgrace and an embarrassment to the country, themselves and their families.”

Regardless of the massive investment of the Bank in Nigeria’s potentials, the European Union issued a statement yesterday.  
CNN carried it as “Breaking News” and confirmation that our country is unravelling:

“Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children victims of sex trafficking and forced labour in the forms of prostitution, domestic servitude, begging and sometimes trafficking in human organs.”

Surely, the Bank did not bargain for this in crafting its Business Model; Business Plan; Strategy; Scenario Planning; Continuity and Sustainability Document; Succession Planning etc.
More bad news was provided by the office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Antonio Guterres.  It was quoted on CNN, Sky News and Al Jazeera.
“No fewer than 113 million people experienced high levels of food insecurity in the world’s most severe food crises in 2018, the Global Report on Food Crisis 2019 has found.

The report, which was released on Wednesday in Brussels, warned that these food crises were primarily driven by conflict and climate-related disasters.
One of the key findings of the report showed that nearly two-thirds of those facing acute hunger were in just eight countries.

These countries were Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

“The worst food crisis in 2018, in order of severity, were: Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Sudan, South Sudan and northern Nigeria.

“These eight countries accounted for two thirds of the total number of people facing acute food insecurity – amounting to nearly 72 million people,” according to the report.

Similarly, short-term outlook of food insecurity for 2019 showed that “Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Sudan. South Sudan and northern Nigeria are expected to remain among the world’s most severe food crises in 2019.
“Large segments of populations in most of these countries risk falling into Emergency (IPC/CH Phase 4) levels of acute food insecurity, it stated.
The report further added: “In the 16 states of  northern Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory, the number of people in ‘Crisis’ and ‘Emergency’ decreased by 40 per cent between June and August 2017 and 2018 to 5.3 million.”

From the ardent supporters of newly re-elected President Muhammadu  Buhari was an earnest reminder regarding a long outstanding matter which was splashed on the front page of “ThisDay” newspaper of April 4, 2019.


“The Buhari Media Organisation [BMO] has urged the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) to prosecute 400 public servants alleged to be involved in the latest recovery of N594 billion made by the agency.

The group said in a statement issued yesterday and signed by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju, and Secretary, Cassidy Madueke, that it was instructive that the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) revealed that the fraudulent acts were perpetrated by a tiny clique in the civil service.

“We urge the ICPC to ensure that all public officials found involved in corrupt acts that led to the recoveries are prosecuted in order to send a clear signal to others who may be thinking of doing same,” it said.
BMO said it was unimaginable that an amount, which was more than the annual budget of several states combined was taken from the public coffers by different categories  of people without a thought for the larger national interest.

According to the group, it is even more surprising that about 400 public servants who are still in active service were part of what could be described as brigandage against the Nation.
“This is aside the 1200 others whom, according to ICPC officials, were conniving with microfinance banks to short-change the system between 2016 and 2018.

“All these show the magnitude of corrupt practices in the public service and how, in spite of the zero-tolerance of the administration  to corruption, some people are still bent on circumventing government policies for personal gains” it said.

The final nail in the coffin regarding the perversion of the “Ease Of Doing Business” presumably through the legitimate banks was provided by the News Agency of Nigeria [NAN] report which made it clear that even a former Chief of Army Staff could be compromised.
“Mr. Olalekan Ojo (SAN), the lead defence counsel for Fred Ajudua, a former Lagos socialite and alleged serial conman has alleged that the 8.4 million dollars Lt.-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi, a former Chief of Army Staff gave his client was initially to be used to bribe Lagos State judges and judicial officers.
Ojo made the allegation while cross-examining Bamaiyi yesterday at an Ikeja High Court at the ongoing trial of Ajudua over the alleged fraud.

The defence counsel alleged that the former Chief of Army Staff gave Ajudua the funds to secure his release from the Kirikiri Maximum Prisons, where he was incarcerated over the alleged attempted murder of Mr. Alex Ibru, the former publisher of the Guardian Newspaper.
“You lodged a complaint to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) through Daniel Amos.  The complaint was that the defendant, Ajudua and one Ade Bendel who is now at large, had with your knowledge and consent promised to bribe Justice Joseph Oyewole, some other judges of Lagos and some court officials.

“The bribe was to facilitate your release from prison.  As a high profile  citizen of Nigeria, are you aware that it is wrong and criminal to attempt to compromise judicial officers?
“Do you know that it is totally wrong to send someone who is a judicial officer to someone presiding over case in which you are a defendant?”
Bamaiyi said “It is not true, I did not attempt to bribe anybody, I know it is criminal to attempt to compromise judicial officers.

This case is adjourned to May 8 at 11 am and May 14 for continuation of cross-examination and trial.”

As confirmation that the depravity and perfidy which have engulfed our nation as well as customers of the Bank are not restricted to financial matters.  
“The Nation” newspaper of April 4, 2019 carried on its front page with hold headline:

“A 17-year old girl has narrated how the resident pastor of a Pentecostal church in Edo State allegedly introduced her to alcohol and had sex with her several times.
The teenager, who spoke to reporters in Benin biriCity, said the cleric had sex with her in her father’s house and at hotels.

She was in tears as she narrated how the affair began last September shortly after she finished her secondary school education.
Stating the reasons for opening up on the love affair, she said she wanted to leave the state for last of concentration, adding that she wanted the pastor to be jailed.
The girl said:  “The pastor used to advise me to stay away from boys, live a good life and respect my parents.  I regarded him as my father.  I trusted him and confided in him.

“That was how he started calling me, talking to me till it got to a time he told me that he liked me.  I took it as a normal thing.  He started taking advantage of me.  He showed me things I had not seen before and took me to.  That was how it started.  He was the first person to show me a condom.  He taught me how to drink alcohol.

“He told me not to tell my parents.  He said they would understand what he was doing.  He slept with me many times, even in our house, whenever my parents were not around.
“Thinking about the affair has affected me psychologically.  I cannot read again.  The whole thing is disturbing me.  Then I told his wife, she said I was lying and told me to come to their house and repeat it before her husband.
“I want the pastor to be jailed.  I’m always shocked anytime I am in church and see him preaching.  I was initially afraid of telling my mother about the affair I had with him.”

The victim’s father who is the board chairman of the church, said he was shocked that a pastor he trusted could defile his only daughter.
He said what pained him most was that the cleric had sex with his daughter” in my home when she was menstruating.”
He said he wanted the pastor to be prosecuted.
The teenager’s mother said what happened to her daughter was sad and unacceptable.
The Nation learnt that the pastor has been arrested and detained by men of the Department of State Services (DSS).

Sources said his wife has also been nabbed.
A senior pastor of the church, who preferred anonymity, said the church was still investigating the matter.”

From totally unexpected quarters a bombshell or nuclear weapon was launched at the Bank.  The consequences and aftershock of the earthquake were sufficiently grave to compel the Bank to suspend any further celebration of its one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary.  The Government delivered a huge snub to its long-standing advisers – First Bank of Nigeria Limited:

There it was on the front page of “Daily Sun” newspaper of April 4, 2019

“The Federal Government yesterday appointed three local banks among other financial institutions as transaction advisers for the issue of its N3.4 trillion of promissory notes that will be deployed to settle a back-log  of the state obligations, the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed said on Wednesday.

Ahmed had presented a memo to Federal Executive Council which met in Abuja on Wednesday seeking approval for the notes, which she said would help revive the Nigerian economy battling low growth since emerging from its first recession in 25 years in 2017.
According to the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth should reach 3 per cent in the first quarter, buoyed by election and government spending, compared with 1.9 per cent last year.

“Council today approved our memo seeking the approval for the appointment of seven transaction parties for the payment of N3.4 trillion local debts,”  Ahmed told reporters in the capital, Abuja, after a cabinet meeting.  The obligations to be settled by the government include pension liabilities, unpaid salaries, accrued fuel supply interest and debt owed to contractors, according to her memo.

The transaction advisers include Zenith Bank, Access Bank, United Bank for Africa, and some merchant banks and law firms, she said.
Nigeria, which has Africa’s biggest economy, had planned to issue a 10-year promissory note to offset 2.7 trillion naira of debt owed to government contractors and employees, but the programme had to be approved by parliament.

Ahmed said on Wednesday that parliament approved the note issuance program, which would held the government to account properly for its liabilities, as at December.
The government has said it found unrecorded debts of N2.2 trillion left over from the previous administration after an audit aimed at improving transparency.

Nigeria has borrowed abroad and at home over the past three years to help to finance its budgets and infrastructure projects, but debt servicing costs are rising astronomically.”

On account of the Bank not “making the cut” (to borrow a golfing expression) with regard to the deal on the table by the Federal Government of Nigeria, social media has gone into a frenzy with wild speculations about why and how Zenith Bank, access Bank and United Bank for Africa [UBA] – “the new generation banks” – supplanted First bank of Nigeria. Some shareholders are insisting that the Bank should suspend any further celebration of its 125th Anniversary.
Fortunately, more sober minds have called for restraint and sober reflection. They argue that the disappointment should be regarded as a wake-up call which requires a recalibration of the Bank’s strategy. Fortunately, “Business Day” newspaper of April 10, 2019 carried the following front-page report: 125 YEARS: FIRST BANK AND THE FIRST LAW OF BUSINESS SUCCESS
“The milestone celebration of a bank of many milestones provides an occasion for reflection on its contributions to Nigeria in various areas. Congratulations to the board, management, staff shareholders and customers of First Bank of Nigeria Plc on 125 years of the institution.
Its longevity speaks to strength and dynamism.
The first recourse of most respondents is to define the overall goal of business as operating profitably. Deeper reflection shows that this is a wrong diagnosis. Records show businesses that operated profitably and went down before the ink recording their success had dried.
The primary objective of business is to operate in such a manner as to ensure a continued stay in
business. One hundred and twenty-five years after its incorporation, the trajectory of one of Nigeria’s foremost business enterprises proves that sustainable operations are a principal and principled objective of business worth pursuing. Sustainability is the first law of business success, and the promoter of sustainability, First Bank plc, is the proof of concept.
From its base on the then evolving Lagos marina in 1894, and subsequent offices in Calabar and
Zaria, First Bank plc now operates in ten countries across three continents. Its records show it currently has 758 business locations, has issued about ten million cards while deploying approximately 3000 ATMs and runs with 7, 616 employees.
First Bank has total assets of more than N3.3 trillion, customer deposits of N2.6 trillion. Capital adequacy ratio of 18.9% is well above the mandatory base of ten per cent recommended by the regulator.
Until the Access-Diamond bank combination, First Bank Plc was the biggest bank in Nigeria. It continues to play as one of the most significant corporate and retail financial institutions in sub-Saharan Africa and proudly answers to its self-description as “the premier and most valuable bank brand”.

Officials of First Bank of Nigeria plc hoisted a flag March 31, 2019, to symbolise its 125th birthday. They also staged a road walk, customer forums and several other events. Thy have good reasons to
Since the effort of shipping magnate Sir Alfred Lewis Jones, the Bank of British West Africa has borne different names reflecting ownership and legal demands. It introduced modern banking to the countries that made up English-speaking West Africa. It was Bank of West Africa, Standard Bank and First Bank.
Managing Director Dr Adesola Adeduntan declared triumphantly during the celebration: “As a longstanding 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 fists over time.”
The bank has played pivotal roles in financial services in Nigeria and West Africa. It was in its salad days the financial services regulator and banker of last resort for English-speaking West Africa. It financed the expansion of the railways in Nigeria. It listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 1971 and played significant roles in the growth of electronic payments and mobile banking.
Th market regards First Bank as one of the most credible institutions in the land with high corporate governance standards and commitment to best practice. It is one of the few institutions in Nigeria with standards certification from the International Standards Organisation (ISO) in Information Security Management Functions (ISO/IEC 7001-2005) and Business Continuity Management System.
With growth has come expansion and diversification. First Bank is part of a diversified holding group that plays in several fields. These include merchant and mortgage banking, securities trading, and asset management. Others are trusteeship services, insurance and brokerage.
First Bank is proof of the value of a good name in the business. Regulatory shakedowns strengthened its sinews and enhanced its reputation. It has also kept pace with changes in technology and other support services.
An abundant and overflowing trophy cabinet attests to the high-performance credentials and regard of the market for this eponymous bank. We toast to the next 125 years of First Bank and urge it to continue treading the right path. Its call now is to do more and better in financial intermediation for the economy.”

As a reminder that age is not all that counts, we should avail ourselves of the vignette delivered by the late President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln:
“What matters is not the number of years in your life but the number of lives in your life.”
Regardless, the challenges of conducting banking or indeed any business under dodgy legal environment and judicial uncertainty is a huge factor which Dr. Charles Omole (a New York based lawyer and judge) insists must not be swept under the carpet.
He has taken to Twitter in order to deliver his message:
“Issues surrounding corruption in the Judiciary in Nigeria has been a matter of concern for many for a long time & I will like to shed some light on what is going on. As a Judge, I have many friends in the Nigerian Judiciary at all levels.
I will be revealing facts many may not know, but I will protect the anonymity of my sources so I will not be naming names.  I want to explain the categories of undue Influence on Judges and exactly how Judges who bow to these pressures corruptly decide cases to favor litigants
But before I go into judges, let me quickly say this. There is massive corruption through administrative misconducts by clerks, registrars and admin staff in courts all over Nigeria. These are mainly financially induced to hide files, backdate cases, lose files & evidence etc.
I was told by a lawyer in 2018 of how he had a client whose case was out of time based on the Statues of Limitation. This chap simply went to the High court, bribed the clerk and the case was filed and stamped with a backdated date of 2014 to keep the case "in date" & justiciable
This happens daily all over Nigeria. Admin staff are bribed to destroy files and hide papers to slow down cases for many years. Other than the recent intro of electronic filling my the Supreme court, our courts are still mainly paper-based. And papers go missing all the time.
So back to the judges. There are 4 Categories of Inducements & Influences brought to bear on Judges. 
1. Money. This is the popular method of buying judgments in Nigeria. But unknown to many, it is most rampant in the lower courts. Magistrates & High Court Judges are most guilty
Magistrates are paid daily by corrupt police officers to issue all manner of warrants and judicial decisions that taints the rule of law. Litigants also bribe these judges all the time. High court judges collect bribe to rig cases daily (I will explain how they do this later).
While the Appeal & Supreme court Justices are also bribed; this is not the dominant way to buy judgment at that level. Not many can afford the level of money needed to bribe them; & many of the Judges are already wealthy in their own other methods are used
2. Blackmail. This is the 2nd way Judges are influenced in Nigeria. I met a Judge recently who confided that he has to throw a case bcos he was approached with a video of him & a lady (not his wife) having sex in a hotel room. The price of keeping d video private is his judgment
Many judges in Nigeria are being blackmailed into bending their judgments especially at the High & Appeal court levels in the States and federal courts. This method is usually used after a judge has refused money inducement offered by litigants. Blackmail comes in diff forms
3. Spiritual Attack. Although this may sound strange to some, there are judges who call me with strange happenings in their lives during certain cases. Some even recuse themselves to save their lives. Strange illnesses, both to them and their family members is common.
I know many judges who have been threatened after refusing financial inducements.  This reality leads many to become a victim of the next category of inducement.
4. Fraternity & Cult Memberships. I can confidently say over 60% of the senior Judges I have met belong to one cult or another in Nigeria. Many used this cult membership to progress their legal careers, others joined to seek protection from spiritual attacks common to Judges
The problem is; once you join these cults, you have to favour fellow members who have cases before you in return for the 'protection' they offer. I will not like to say more about this at this stage.
So, HOW exactly do induced Judges show favour? There are 2 main ways corrupt Judges damage d rule of law. 
1. Evidence Denial. Admissibility of evidence although governed by rules is also a major area for judicial discretion. Judges have lots of power to reject or admit evidence

If there is a video of Mr A killing Mr B; if that video is admitted as evidence, the hands of the Judge is tied by law in the fact that a GUILTY verdict has to be given to Mr A. So an induced Judge will simply find a technicality & refuse to admit d video in evidence. Case closed.
So, a lot of cases fail due to "lack of evidence". This is the most regular way corrupt Judges use to throw cases. Of course, a corrupt Judge will also admit as evidence what he should procedurally reject if that favours his inducer.
2. Unreasonable Adjournments. When you hear a case has been adjourned 25times over a certain number of years, just know that something is wrong. It is not uncommon for a case to be on the books and been adjourned repeatedly over 6yrs and the case has not even started yet.
This is one of the ways, corrupt judicial officers show favour if the evidence against their sponsor is too strong to ignore. Are there honest Judges? YES there are. But they are in the minority sadly. Those not normally corrupt are being blackmailed. This is a serious problem.
Some of these inducements happen in all countries, including the West. But how do they deal with it? So what are the solutions for Nigeria? That will be the subject of another Thread coming soon. Being informed is key to reform.”

We are also compelled to ponder on what the “Daily Trust” front page editorial of April 8, 2019 headlined as “THIS IS SERIOUS” 
“A very strange event on Monday last week, April 1, and it was no April Fool prank. Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Dr Okechukwu Enelamah appeared before the Senate Committee on Industry, Trade and Investment to defend his ministry’s 2019 budget proposal. The committee, chaired by Senator Sabo Mohammed [APC Jigawa], accused the minister of trying to appropriate N42 billion in federal funds to a private company.
Enelamah presented a booklet containing 2019 budget proposals for his ministry’s 17 agencies. When he finished, committee chairman Sabo Mohammed referred him to item 2 on page 7 of the booklet, where N42.091billion was allocated to Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company [NSEZC], an unknown agency under his ministry. Enelamah then said the company was established through a presidential initiative and approval was given at a cabinet meeting in May last year. Asked to name the company’s owners, the minister mentioned “federal government and other shareholders.”

The committee chairman however produced a document from Corporate Affairs Commission [CAC] which showed that the company’s real name is Nigeria Sez Investment Company Limited and not Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company listed in the minister’s documents. The CAC documents also showed that Dr Bakari Wadinga, Mr Olufemi Edun and Ms Oluwadara Owoyemi are its directors. Mohammed said, “The document clearly states that the company is a private company and that liabilities of the members are limited by share which as shown, gives the federal government 25 per cent and 75 per cent to the private individuals.”
Media investigation later revealed that two of the firm’s three directors are serving aides of Enelamah. While Femi Edun is his Special Assistant on Special Economic Zones, Ms Oluwadara Owoyemi is Enelamah’s Special Adviser on Investment. The third director, Dr Bakari Waringa, is a public servant, Director of Finance and Accounts at the Bureau of Public Service Reforms.
Enelamah’s adviser on strategy and communications Bisi Daniels later said Nigeria SEZ Investment Company Limited (NSEZCO) was incorporated as a special purpose vehicle to deliver Project MINE (Made in Nigeria for Exports), which is a presidential initiative. “The FEC approval also provides that all current and future capital appropriations for Project MINE should be transferred to NSEZCO’s account, as soon as opening formalities are completed.” He also said he requested the Budget Office to domicile the funds for the MINE Project in NEPZA’s 2017 and 2018 budgets because then, NSEZCO had not been created.

The Senate had written to the Accountant-General of the Federation in January this year insisting that on no account should the company be recognised “for the purpose of transferring the funds meant for NEPZA as requested by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment (via a letter dated 22nd October, 2018).” The Senate urged the Accountant-General to release the funds “only” to NEPZA as they were “only budgeted for the NEPZA capital projects in the 2017 Appropriation and not an intervention fund.”
Following the detection of this illegal budgetary allocation to a private company masquerading as a government agency, the Senate Committee rejected the ministry’s entire N15.633 billion 2019 budget and threatened to reallocate the disputed funds to other agencies unless the minister forwards a written explanation on how the company got into the Budget, plus its management staff, staff strength and statement of account.
If money is to be appropriated for a project, why wouldn’t it be allocated to the relevant agency, and later paid out as contract fees to a company? Why should a company with 75% private ownership be smuggled into the budget as a so-called special purpose vehicle? And what are the minister’s aides doing there as the special vehicle’s owners? 
This is fishy, very fishy. Besides, the creation of NSEZC negates the Buhari administration’s objectives of pruning the number of existing MDAs. The Senate and Presidency must get to the root of this matter. Unless the public gets a cogent explanation, the inescapable conclusion is that someone tried to play hanky panky with public funds.”
In other climes, the selection process for such contracts is manifestly transparent and competitive in order to re-inforce public trust. It is an oversimplification to presume that the Government just got tired of a long standing devoted and loyal wife (First Bank of Nigeria Plc) and proceeded to dump her in order to pursue exotic younger wives!!

In any case, rejection can be a traumatic experience and it goes in tandem with depression. On CNN, Casmir Igbokwe provided us with the following vignette:
“In 2011, a Gallup Poll classified Nigeria as the happiest place in the world. In 2018, the World Happiness Report classified the country as the 91st happiest in the world. What this means is that gloom is gradually replacing happiness on our faces. Things continue to go wrong, yet no concrete action is taken to put those things right.”
This was followed by “Breaking News”:
“I was heartbroken when I saw the recent video of a young girl crying and lamenting the alleged killing of her father by kidnappers. According to the girl, the kidnappers operated Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday of the week they kidnapped her father unchallenged. Unfortunately, her father did not survive the ordeal.
(No matter what, the Bank must survive its ordeal or deal!!). After many searches, they discovered his corpse somewhere in the bush. Can this girl and many others in her shoes easily overcome the trauma they were forced to go through in life?”
CNN did not insist on extracting an answer or response from the Bank.

Neither is the Bank obliged to comment on the lamentation in Kaduna at 4th Kaduna economic Summit, by Africa’s richest man and philanthropist:
“Northern Nigeria is the living room of poverty. While the overall socio-economic situation in the country is a cause for concern, the regional imperatives are in fact very alarming. In the north-western and north-eastern part of Nigeria, more than 60 per cent of the population live in extreme poverty. It is instructive that the nineteen northern states which account for over 54 per cent of the country’s population and 70 per cent of its landmass collectively generated only 21 per cent of the total Sub-National Internally Generated Revenue.”

He added a quotation from the late Secretary-General of the United Nations:
“Extreme poverty anywhere is a threat to human security everywhere.”
Perhaps it was in order to raise an alarm that First Bank of Nigeria may dump Nigeria for Ghana, the warning has gone viral: 
“Cry, My Beloved Country: While Our Leaders Are Considering Increasing VAT...
I watched a most distressing video this morning. The video was forwarded to me by Eze Nwakanma. It's a video you'll watch and almost throw your hands up in hopelessness. Sincerely, I'm a very optimistic person and I believe in the potentials of this nation but one can't just but feel despondent a few times.
While our leaders are considering increasing VAT in Nigeria and companies are slammed with all sorts of funny tax liabilities (my wife's school was slammed with merriment tax for holding Christmas party for the kids in her school), our neighbour Ghana is thinking outside the box.  For the benefit of all, I'll summarize what was said in this video:
Ghana has abolished VAT on real estate sales.
Ghana has abolished VAT on financial services.
Ghana has abolished capital gains tax on sales of shares on the stock exchange.
Ghana has abolished import duty on spare parts.
Ghana has abolished the 1% import levy.
Ghana has abolished VAT on domestic airline tickets.
Ghana has reduced very significantly VAT on small traders from 17.5% to 3%.

Ghana is going to abolish all import duty on raw materials and machineries imported into Ghana.
Ghana is embarking on a massive industrialization drive called One District, One Factory. And there are 216 districts in Ghana. There is now a focus on production. 
Now, Ghana has two major advantages: power issues sorted out and a peaceful democracy. Ghana with a population of 28m generates 4,577MW as at 2017. Nigeria with a population of 200m generates 5,000MW. Meanwhile, Ghana is building 2 power plants- a 400MW LNG-fired plant and a 600MW plant being built by Siemens. 
Ok. What are the implications for Nigeria? We don't need soothsayers to predict how factories/companies will shut down in Nigeria and move to Ghana. Nigeria will just become a mere trading post for these companies because of our population while Ghana becomes the economic hub of West Africa. Our homes will be flooded with goods made in Ghana. 
Other countries are thinking. Rwanda has taken our shine. Ethiopia has put on its thinking cap. Ghana has started an upward trajectory. Nigeria sits with its giant feet of clay. Cry, my beloved country.”

The response has been overwhelming. Here is a sample:
“Good times lead to bad policies; bad times lead to good policies. We can only hope that this will apply to Nigeria.”
The World Bank has waded into the fray courtesy of the front-page report of “The Punch” newspaper of April 9, 2019.
“The World Bank has said that the Nigerian economy has been slipping since 1995 and this continued till 2018.
The bank, in its latest report on the regional economy titled, ‘Africa’s Pulse’, released the taxonomy of growth performance in sub-Saharan Africa, which focused on the macroeconomic and financial features that led to growth resilience on the continent.
According to the bank, the taxonomy is used to help identify the factors that are correlated with success or failure in economic growth performance in sub-Saharan Africa, with emphasis on macroeconomic and financial variables.
The analysis, it said, involved a series of macroeconomic variables for 44 sub-Saharan African countries from 1995 to 2018.
The key elements that determined the positions of each of the 44 sub-Saharan economies in the taxonomy, the World Bank said, included the level of income per capita of the countries; structural transformation, as captured by sectoral value-added share and sectoral employment share; and capital flows.
Others are level and composition of public sector indebtedness, as captured by the general government gross debt and its currency composition, and the outstanding external public debt.
The last of the indicators has to do with governance vis-a-vis government effectiveness, regulatory quality, control of corruption, voice and accountability, political stability, and absence of violence and rule of law.
According to the World Bank, the taxonomy compares the average annual GDP growth rates during 1995–2008 and 2015–2018 against predetermined thresholds.
It also categorised growth performance into five groups: falling behind, slipping, stuck in the middle, improved, and established. The five groups were further reclassified into three groups: Top tercile, middle tercile and bottom tercile.
The Bretton Wood institution said, “If a country’s economic performance declined from 1995–2008 to 2015–18, the country is categorised in the bottom tercile, which includes ‘falling behind’ and ‘slipping.’ If a country’s growth rate remained invariant over time, between 3.5 and 5.4 per cent in both periods, it is categorised in the middle tercile (or stuck in the middle). If a country’s economic performance improved from 1995–2008 to 2015–18, with the growth of more than 5.4 per cent per year, the country is categorised in the top tercile, which includes the ‘improved’ and ‘established’ groups.”

Based on the above classification, the Nigerian economy was categorised alongside 18 other sub-Saharan African economies as slipping having recorded declined economic performance between 1995 and 2018.
The World Bank said, “The bottom tercile consists of 19 countries: Angola, Burundi, Botswana, the Republic of Congo, the Comoros, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Lesotho, Mauritania, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Eswatini, Chad, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  These countries did not show any progress in their economic performance from 1995–2008 to 2015–18. For instance, their median economic growth rate decelerated, from 5.4 per cent per year in 1995–2008 to 1.2 per cent per year in 2015–18.”
The bottom performing economies, according to the World Bank, produce almost 60 per cent of the region’s total GDP, emphasising that the three largest countries in the region—Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola—and many commodity exporters are in this group.
Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, and Tanzania made the top tercile.
The middle tercile countries are Benin, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, the
Democratic Republic of Congo, Cabo Verde, The Gambia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Mauritius, Niger, Sudan, São Tomé and Príncipe, Togo, and Uganda.
The World Bank also cut its growth forecast for sub-Saharan Africa this year to 2.8 per cent from an initial 3.3 per cent.

The commodity price slump of 2015 cut short a decade of rapid growth for the region, and the bank said growth would take longer to recover as a decline in industrial production and a trade dispute between China and the United States take their toll.
The bank’s 2019 forecast means economic growth will lag population growth for the fourth year in a row and it will remain stuck below three per cent, which it slipped to in 2015. “The slower-than-expected overall growth reflects ongoing global uncertainty, but increasingly comes from domestic macroeconomic instability including poorly managed debt, inflation and deficits,” the bank said.
The Bretton Wood institution equally cut Nigeria’s growth forecast by 0.1 per cent.
It said, “Growth in Nigeria is projected to rise from 1.9 per cent in 2018 to 2.1 per cent in 2019 (0.1 percentage point lower than last October’s forecast).
This modest expansion reflects stagnant oil production, as regulatory uncertainty limits investment in the oil sector, while non-oil economic activity is held back by high inflation, policy distortions, and infrastructure constraints.
Growth is projected to rise slightly to 2.2 per cent in 2020 and reach 2.4 per cent in 2021, as improving financing conditions help boost investment.
“In Nigeria, although the manufacturing and non-manufacturing PMIs remained above the neutral 50-point mark—which denotes expansion—they fell further in February, due to weaker rises in output and new sales orders across firms.

Household consumption in Nigeria has remained subdued, while multiple exchange rates, foreign exchange restrictions, low private sector credit growth, and infrastructure constraints have continued to weigh on private investment.”
The Chief Economist for Africa at the bank, Albert Zeufack, said the region could boost annual growth by about nearly two percentage points if it harnessed Information Technology more effectively.
 “This is a game-changer for Africa,” he added.
However, the spokesperson for the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Isaac Okorafor, said the CBN under the current governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, had shown so much ingenuity in managing the economy.
“You know the crisis that we have faced in the past three years. The bank has shown ingenuity in managing the situation and ensuring that everything is stable.”

Theses alarming circumstances probably provoked the Northern Elders Forum to issue a red alert warning with the headline: “THE DISASTROUS SECURITY SITUATIONS IN NIGERIA TODAY”
“The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) is alarmed and its members saddened by the recent cataclysmic collapse of security, and the sanguinary and indeed colossal threat to life and property in many parts of Nigeria but more seriously in the North.
We at NEF cannot in good conscience, remain silent as criminal activities and bloodletting escalate in Nigeria and our region. We have sadly lived with unfortunate violence in the last few years but this should not continue or escalate.
It would be irresponsible for us to refrain from calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to decisively respond to the existential threats faced by northern Nigerians in particular during these times and beyond.
NEF as a matter of social responsibility and tradition, would never shy away from speaking truth to power, irrespective of the partisan, sectional or whatever constellation of political power in the nation.
It would be recalled that we strongly engaged President Goodluck Jonathan on the need to address the Boko Haram insurgency and even proffered solutions as far back as 2012. All our efforts seemed to have been vitiated by a weak political will and monumental political corruption.
Today, the North still lives under horrendous Boko Haram threats, a situation which has been aggravated by threats of banditry, kidnappings, armed robbery, marauding youth gangs, herders and farmers mini-wars, and seemingly overwhelmed or indifferent governments.
Large swathes of territory in our region are now effectively bandit land. Agriculture, our pride and national economic comparative advantage, the greatest employer of labour and leading contributor to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product is in ruins as animal husbandry, and crops and roots farming is in the throes of war and damage.
Our rural folk live in perpetual fear of attacks from sundry terrorist assailants without any reprieve. Our major highways and transportation systems are being abandoned as they have become death traps. We see in all these the cumulative effect of a region whose economy and people, especially the youth have been abandoned.
A dangerous youth bulge is indeed a recipe for crime, violence and wars. We understand that poverty and underdevelopment can create a brutish and violent society.
Should the Nigerian people continue to run and hide from criminals under an administration that has enjoyed and received support from especially northern Nigerians that it can address their existential and developmental challenges?

We expect the administration to address all the short, medium and long-term challenges of security and development in a manner that minimal security and good livelihoods can be assured and sustained. Are these things rocket science? We believe not. What we believe is that given the political will and commitment,
Nigeria has the human resources and ideas to address these challenges. Are the challenges those of under-funding the policing and security apparatuses, or is it a challenge of problem analysis or policy failure? Governments world-wide are expected to handle these matters as a primary responsibility.
Nigeria has just emerged from a very challenging and harrowing set of elections.
This experience should provide a strategic turning point in the manner that political leaders respond to our basic national challenges.
We hereby demand that President Buhari demonstrates higher levels of concern and sensitivity to the plight of traumatized citizens in the country, especially in the states of Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Benue, Niger, Plateau, Taraba and virtually the entire North. We demand for decisive, comprehensive and fundamental governmental action against poverty,
underdevelopment and insecurity. Above all, we demand that President Buhari shows leadership and compassion which are the reciprocal expectations of the Nigerian people from their President.
Should the citizens of the most populous black and African country and blessed with bounteous human and material resources be running away from bandits and criminals and become entangled in a causative web of crime, poverty, misery and underdevelopment?
Without justifying the emigration of our people to other lands, we now see how and why our young men and women seek escape to Europe across the Sahara Desert to pursue menial jobs and Perilous.
We now painfully see how desperate Nigerians running away from home, become victims of xenophobic attacks in some countries.
We have the resources to build a better Nigeria and we the people of conscience have the will to insist that this happens.”

Obviously, banks are not insulated. Indeed, according to the front page of “Nigerian Tribune” of April 8, 2019, the Bank has no insulation from or insurance cover regarding the madness and depravity that has engulfed the nation.
A 44-year-old man, Kabiru Oke, and his son, Farouq, 19, have been arrested by the police in Lagos for alleged serial rape and impregnating a teenager.
The incident occurred at their 1, Oladipupo Street, Egbeda, Lagos home for about four months when the 13-year-old victim lived with her aunt, the man’s wife.
It was gathered that the girl had reported Oke’s sexual abuse on several occasions to his wife, but she always told her to shut up. Their son joined in the act when he caught his father raping the victim.
Unable to withstand the defilement, the girl, it was learnt, fled to her mother’s home in Ogun State in January where she was enrolled in a school and her teacher discovered that she was pregnant.
The Nation gathered that it was when the girl revealed her ordeal in her aunt’s home in Lagos that her mother lodged a complaint at a police station.
The victim said the sexual assault started last October when her aunt’s husband asked her to fetch water for him.
“He asked me to fetch water for him to bathe and I did. When I brought the water, he pushed me inside the bathroom and raped me. From then, he was doing it regularly. I told my aunt, but she did not do anything.
“The man continued doing it since his wife did not take action. Then, in January, Farouq started his own. He caught his father having sex with me and then, he started doing it. The man was sleeping with me and Farouq was doing it too,” the girl told the Child Protection Network’s (CPN’s) Precious Ndukwu.

Confirming the arrest of the suspects, police spokesman Bala Elkana, a Deputy Superintendent (DSP), said the case was reported at the Gender Unit by the child’s mother on March 27, adding that the defilement by Oke began on October 20 last year.
He said: “The second suspect, being the son of the first suspect, started having unlawful carnal knowledge of the minor on January 10. The suspects threatened to kill the victim if she ever told anybody about the defilement.
“The victim exposed them when her mother suspected changes in her and discovered that she is pregnant. She was taken to the Mirabel Centre by the Gender Unit for medical examination.
“The suspects were arrested and arraigned at Magistrates’ Court 2, Ogba for defilement. The case has been adjourned till May 13. The suspects were remanded at the Kirikiri prison.”
Elkana also confirmed the arrest of 45-year-old Marainerume Alfred, a resident of Oke Itunu Church Close, Ejigbo, Lagos, for alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl.
 “The matter was reported to our Gender Unit by the victim’s mother. The complainant said they lived in the same street with the suspect. That the suspect usually called the victim into his shop while returning from school, along Iyana Ejigbo Roadwhere he was selling Nigerian films and would have unlawful sexual intercourse with her in the shop.”
The crime “started from May 2018 until he was caught on March 27.
He said the suspect admitted committing the crime, adding that it started after he divorced his wife.
“The matter was discovered on March 27, at about 2pm, by the victim’s grandmother, who perceived odour from her when she returned home and subjected her to questioning. The girl opened up to her grandmother and narrated the whole story.
“She said the suspect threatened her that she would die if she disclosed the affair to anybody. She said the suspect usually gave her some drugs to take, adding that he always mixed salt and water for her to drink after sex, to prevent her from getting pregnant.”

In a spirited effort to pull rank (or age) on the Bank, Nigeria’s oldest corporate organisation, the United Africa Company Of Nigeria [UACN] has taken to the airwaves and social media with an intimidating message:
“We are an old company with a rich history.
Today, UAC is a conglomerate with business interests spread across several subsidiaries playing in different sectors. But the company’s roots go a long way back in time, much farther than Nigeria’s existence as a nation. UAC’s precursor was the Royal Niger Company founded by the British in 1750 to administer the territory that would later become Nigeria. The name of the company changed to The Niger Company Limited in 1990 when the charter established by the government for it was revoked.
In 1919, The Niger Company Limited was bought by Lever Brothers Limited. That same year, The Miller Brothers Limited and the African Association United to form the African & Eastern Trade Corporation.
On March 3, 1929, The United Africa Company (UAC) was formed by the joint agreements of The African & Eastern Trade Corporation and the Niger Company (Owned by Lever Brothers Limited)
The name was changed to UAC of Nigeria Limited on 1st March, 1973.
This was followed by a public listing in 1974, in which 40 per cent of the company’s shares were bought by Nigerians. An additional 20 percent shares were offered in 1977 and the company became UAC plc.
The Nigerian government bought Unilever’s 40 percent stake in UAC in 1994, making it completely Nigerian-owned. In Nigeria, many UAC brands now compete in the market with Lever brothers (Now Unilever)
Today, UAC has built a business empire that spans several industries. Many of its brands are household names in Nigeria. In the food and beverage industry, the company’s popular brands include Gala (sausage roll), Gossy(table water), Funtime(coconut chips), and Supreme(ice cream).
In the agriculture and pets’ sector, it has Vital feed (chicken feed), Binngo (Dog food) In the building sector, UAC has Dulux and Caplux Paints, and Sandtex paint finish. In the property sector, the company has UAC Property Development Company (UPDC).”

While the Bank is striving to deal with matters of immediate concern to it – profits, sustainability and growth, it cannot be entirely insulated from the toxicity of the socio-economic arena to which Okey Ikechukwu has brilliantly captured:
“The nation is not doing well on all fronts; and this is not about the Buhari government, or the one before it. It is about a leadership elite that has been so unintelligent and incompetent, even from the angle of enlightened self-interest, that it is now the primary target of all crimes. After 20 years of democracy, we have only harvested bad roads we cannot ply because of kidnappers and robbers. We have also enthroned consumption, the cheerful squandering of humongous wealth, unpaid salaries and poverty among other markers of our democracy.
That is why the Abuja-Kaduna rail route is over now subscribed, especially by the high and mighty who have become too scared to travel by road. The criminals are young Nigerians who will not have had to resort to crime today if the nation had invested in their development as national assets. Just as the Abuja-Kaduna federal highway and many other roads in the country have been taken over by kidnappers and a motley collection of small and big time criminals, the people of Uzo-Uwani community in Enugu State now live in the full glare of their powerlessness, before an occupation army of marauding herdsmen. It was the same way that Isiadu Ibeku in Abia State was saddled with a near-curfew for months last year, for the same reason. The story is the similar in every state of the South-east, as a helpless and not sufficiently equipped police force is confronted with a problem it is not designed to handle. Marauders, who wield banned assault rifles in broad light in our villages and cities, outnumber and outgun our policemen.”

Having been lured into the arena and snared, the Bank has no option but to grant audience and pay attention to the strident voice of Olusegun Adeniyi who on the back page of “ThisDay” newspaper of April 11, 2019 delivered a pungent message:
“In December 2016, The Executive Chairman, Zamfara State Universal Basic Education Board (ZSUBEB), Hon Murtala Adamu Jangebe, lamented that no fewer than 300 public primary schools in the state were manned by a single teacher each. Many more schools in remote rural communities, he added, have no teacher at all. It therefore came as no surprise when the federal ministry of education disclosed that only 28 candidates from Zamfara State sat for the 2018 National Common Entrance Examination into the 104 Federal Government Colleges in the country!
The Cable, an online publication, last year did an in-depth report on the collapse of education in Zamfara state, using the 2012 report of a committee chaired by Professor Tukur Adamu, as a peg. Yari established the committee upon assuming office in 2011, but did nothing with the report as the education sector collapsed under his watch. “The committee found out that some of the public schools exist only in name because they have no single structure. Some operate in makeshift structures, mosques, Qur’anic schools and under trees,” TheCable wrote in the report where a head teacher in Moriki groaned: “I am the head teacher, I am the assistant head teacher, I am the mathematics, English and social studies teacher. Help me beg the government to give me teachers.”
But if the state of education in Zamfara is poor, what then do we say about that of the health sector? According to the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, there are only 23 medical doctors for the 24 hospitals owned by the Zamfara state government. And we are talking of a state with a population of over three million people, where hundreds of children die yearly by ingesting lead poison as a result of illegal mining.

In November 2012, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders warned that time was running out to solve the Zamfara crisis. “More than two and a half years after the lead poisoning disaster was first discovered, hundreds of children are still awaiting critical medical treatment. MSF is ready and willing to treat these children, but cannot do so until their homes have been environmentally remediated,” said Michael White, the then Acting Head of MSF Mission, Nigeria at a period no fewer than 2,000 children died after being poisoned by dust released by gold miners in the course of breaking open rocks near their homes.
I have also warned that with villages being deserted in the face of what looks like organized crime, there are serious threats to our national economy and security. A respected retired federal permanent secretary, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, once put the situation in perspective: “For almost 400 square kilometers, from Abuja to Kaduna, Zaria and Birnin Gwari, there is hardly any farm with cattle [left]. It is the same in most parts of Katsina and Zamfara states. The backbone of the northern economy is farming and husbandry. Cattle breeding and processing was a major business in these areas. Not anymore. Slowly but surely, the heart of the northern economy is being snuffed out. We cannot keep cattle on our farms. Large scale farming is becoming less and less attractive. A huge swathe of the north is now bandit territory. Most of us know where our cattle are, but we cannot retrieve them. Abducted women and young girls hardly ever return…”

We can take it for granted that the Bank diligently and meticulously monitors foreign and local commentaries on our nation’s economy. Hence, it could not have missed the front-page headline of “The Punch” newspaper of April 11, 2019:
“The International Monetary Fund, on Tuesday, expressed worry over Nigeria’s ability to repay its foreign debt which had continued to rise.
Though it said conditions were favourable for the country to continue to borrow, the IMF equally expressed worry over the capacity to repay.

The Financial Counsellor and Director, Monetary and Capital Markets Department, IMF, Tobias Adrian, while presenting the Global Financial Stability Report at the ongoing joint annual spring meetings with the World Bank in Washington DC, said, “Nigeria has been borrowing in international markets but we worry. So, on the one hand, that is very good because it allows Nigeria to invest more; but on the other hand, we do worry about rollover risks going forward.
“At the moment, funding conditions in economies such as Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries are very favourable but that might change at some point. And there is a risk of rollovers and there is the risk of whether these needs for refinancing can be met in the future.”
Recall that Nigeria’s total debt profile as of December 31, 2018, stood at N24.387tn. The figure swelled by 12.25 per cent from N21.725tn in 2017 to N24.39tn in 2018.
The Debt Management Office said the debt rose by N2.66tn from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2018.
Statistics provided by the DMO showed that the country’s public debt rose from N21.73tn in 2017 to N24.39tn within the one-year period.
According to the DMO, the year-on-year growth of public debt show 12.25 per cent within the one-year period.
However, in a swift reaction to the IMF statement, the Federal Government described the nation’s debt burden as sustainable. Speaking on Wednesday in Abuja, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo-Udoma, argued that it posed no harm to the economy of Nigeria.
Udo-Udoma had argued that borrowing to spend on infrastructure and productive purposes was done by all countries, so long as there was a back-up revenue base.
The minister spoke at the Presidential Villa at the end of Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council meeting.
It was presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said, “With regard to our debts, our debts are sustainable.
“We do have a revenue challenge and we are focusing on that. Once the revenues come up, it will be obvious that we don’t have a debt problem at all.
“We are working on a number of initiatives to increase our revenues. We are looking at initiatives to widen the tax base. We are looking at initiatives to increase efficiency in collection.
“We are looking at a single window, which will help to increase efficiency, custom collections. We are looking at many different ways to improve revenues.
“The debts are sustainable; every nation borrows. We are working on increasing our revenues.”
Udo-Udoma also spoke on the 2019 budget still awaiting passage by the National Assembly.
“With regard to the budget, we are happy to see the focus of the National Assembly on the budget and we look forward to whenever it is passed and the executive receiving it,” he added.
Last week, the Peoples Democratic Party had raised the alarm over the country’s debt profile.
The party, which alleged that Buhari’s administration borrowed so much money in the last four years, noted that by 2016, the debt stock was already N17.5tn.
When asked to comment on the risk of Chinese growing investment in Africa, Adrian said, “Lending — capital flows in general and these include flows from China — are, of course, important for development, on the one hand. On the other hand, what is very important in those lending arrangements are the terms of the loans.”
He urged recipients of Chinese loans in sub-Saharan Africa to ensure that terms were favourable to them.
“We urge countries to make sure that when they borrow from abroad, that the terms are favourable for the borrower. In Particular, we tend to recommend that loans to countries should be conforming to Paris Club arrangements. And that is not always the case with loans from China.”
Meanwhile, the IMF has said corruption is a challenge for many resource-rich countries and this has affected the way they manage their Sovereign Wealth Funds.
In view of this, the Bretton Wood institution ranked Nigeria the second worst performer on the Sovereign Wealth Funds user index only ahead of Qatar in the Fiscal Monitor report also released on Wednesday.
Relying on the data from the Natural Resource Governance Institute and Worldwide Governance Indicators, the IMF said the index was compiled using the corporate governance and transparency scores of the Sovereign Wealth Funds and the size of assets as a percentage of 2016 GDP of the countries considered.
Other African countries on the index that performed better than Nigeria include Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Gabon, Angola, Libya, and Botswana. Ghana came second after Columbia.
The Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund was put at $2.15bn in May 2018.
The IMF in the report advised that “Sovereign Wealth Funds should abide by clearly established rules and governance arrangements, and report regularly on operations and investment performance, with eternally audited annual financial statements.”
Adding that the Sovereign Wealth Funds should not be allowed to undertake extra-budgetary spending, the IMF said, “It is critical to develop a strong institutional framework to manage these resources—including good management of the financial assets kept in sovereign wealth funds—and to ensure that proceeds are appropriately spent. This remains a significant challenge in many resource-rich countries that, on average, have weaker institutions and higher corruption
“The governance challenges of commodity-rich countries— that is, the management of public assets— call for ensuring a high degree of transparency and accountability in the exploration of such resources. Countries should develop frameworks that limit discretion, given the high risk of abuse, and allow for heavy scrutiny.”
The Deputy Director, Fiscal Affairs Department, IMF, Paolo Mauro, emphasised the need for transparency of Sovereign Wealth Funds, adding that it was important for resource-rich countries to channel appropriately their resources to the people that needed it.”

It was left to the “Nigerian Tribune” newspaper to introduce the Chinese angle into the narrative with its front-page report on April 11, 2019
“The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has cautioned Nigeria and other developing countries from taking loans from China due to unfavourable loan conditions even as the Federal Government has allayed fears on the country’s escalating debt stock which rose from N21.12 trillion in 2015 to N24.38 trillion in 2018, saying the debt was sustainable.
Mr Tobias Adrian, on Wednesday during the launch of the Global Financial Stability Report for April, 2019 at the IMF/World Bank meetings in Washington D.C, U.S, said “Capital flows, which include capital flows from China are of course important for development.”
He added, “On the other hand, what is very important in lending arrangements are the terms of the loans and we urge countries to make sure that when they borrow from abroad the terms are favourable.
In particular, we recommend that loans to countries should conform with Paris Club arrangements and that is not always the case of loans from China,” he said.
On Nigeria’s rising debt levels, Adrian said that the IMF was not overly concerned, as it would allow the country to invest more in developing critical infrastructure.
“At the moment, funding conditions in economies such as Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries are very favourable but that may change at some point,” he said.
The April 2019 Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR) finds that in spite of significant variability over the past two quarters, financial conditions remained accommodative.
As a result, financial vulnerabilities have continued to build in the sovereign, corporate, and non bank financial sectors in several systemically important countries, leading to elevated medium-term risks.
Also, the IMF in the April 2019 Fiscal Monitor Report urged Nigeria to increase Value Added Tax, increase and expand the coverage of excise duties.
The IMF commended the country’s latest Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative, which looks at a comprehensive approach to tax reform.
Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma, who gave this position at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the presidential villa, Abuja, said government was doing everything to widen it sources of income.
The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had, last Monday, accused the government of unwholesome borrowings, leading to the escalation in debt.
The party had argued that since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015, there had been a culture of unexplained borrowings, leading to a steep rise in the debt stock from N17.5 trillion in 2016 to N21.72 trillion in 2017 and a huge N24.387 trillion in 2018.
When asked to respond to the situation, Udoma conceded that the nation had revenue challenges, but was hopeful that if government’s attempts to widen the tax net succeeded, the debt situation would change.
The minister said: “With regards to our debts, our debts are sustainable. We do have a revenue challenge and we are focusing on that. Once the revenues come up, it will be obvious that we don’t have a debt problem at all.
“We are working on a number of initiatives to increase our revenues. We are looking at initiatives to widening the tax base. We are looking at initiatives to increase efficiency in collections. We are looking at a single window, which will help to increase efficiency, custom collections. We are looking at many different ways to improve revenues.
“The debts are sustainable, every nation borrows. We are working on increasing our revenues.”
Udoma revealed that the FEC approved two contracts under the National Social Investment Programme, both of which are under N-Power programme.
He explained that the N-Power programme is a non-graduate programme that seeks to deliver accelerated training and certification skills to 75,000 Nigerians between ages of 18 and 35 years old.
“It is aimed at building a high crop of highly-competent and skilled workforce of technicians, artisans and service professionals, who will be trained and tooled and transitioned annually to take up jobs as electrical installation technicians, plumbing and pipe fitting installers, mason, carpentry and gentry experts, welders, fabricators, professional painters, built technicians and so on,” he explained.
Udoma said the focus had so far been zone by zone, adding; “Today, the contract for the South East zone of Nigeria was awarded to Hitech Investment Ltd at the sum of N122,800,000 million, and it covers all the states in the South East.
“The one for the North West zone was awarded to Noble Ventures Limited in the sum of N145,106,107 million and it covers all the states in the North West.”
Also speaking, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, disclosed that the FEC had approved a web-based automated inter-connectivity system, which is a digitalised way of decongesting the prisons.
Speaking on prisons decongestion, he said: “At a point, it was said 70 per cent of prison inmates across the prison formations in the country were awaiting trials. Arising from these concerns, the Federal Government has been working to come up with policies, legislation and associated programmes that are targeted at decongesting the prisons.
“One of the policies put in place was the legislation of the criminal justice act, which has partially succeeded in addressing decongestion to an extent.
“Recall that Mr President had put in place an ad-hoc committee under the chairmanship of the FCT chief judge, Justice Ishaq Bello, to move around prisons in the country, look at the conditions and come up with suggestions.
“So, you are also aware that by the constitution, Mr President is vested with the prerogative of mercy targeted at setting free inmates who satisfy certain conditions.
“Arising from this, the office of the Attorney General presented a memo today (Wednesday), which is web-based automated inter-connectivity system, which is a digitalised way of decongesting the prisons.
“The idea is to digitally connect all the prison formations to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, the police, prison service and, indeed, selected courts.
“The essence is to have an idea on a daily basis of what obtains at our prisons across the nation.
“So, at a glance at a click of the button, one can access what obtains at the prisons across the country.
“For instance, who is going to court today, who is being released today, those who have been in prison longer than their years of sentence, who is in prison that is not meant to be there.
“This will aid stakeholders in decision-making on a daily basis through digital process of inter-networking. This is against an ad-hoc committee moving across the country to have physical presence in prisons.”
He said contract for the initiative has been awarded at the cost of N2.8 billion.
On his part, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello, said the FEC approved the award of contract for the supply of water and field for the Abuja Water Board at the sum of N368 million, including five per cent VAT, as well as the contract for the supply of 500 firemen suits under the FCT Fire Services for the management agency of the FCT, at the cost of N226 million, including five per cent VAT.
The Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, also said that FEC approved N291,731,485 million for the procurement of Memory Access Retrieval System to enhance safety as, according to him, “safety and security is the main trust of President Muhammadu Buhari government in aviation.”
He said it would enhance the nation’s laboratory in accident investigation, adding: “It is a requirement of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in its standard practices and applicable by local laws.”

As if to emphasise that the decay and depravity is all consuming, “Nigerian Tribune” insisted on devoting its editorial page to: “THE FUTO SEX ROMP TRAGEDY”
“The debauchery in the country’s higher institutions is fast becoming limitless given the spate of stories of gory and patently immoral conducts being constantly associated with students and lecturers.  Four students of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) in Imo State recently brought this major concern about impiety to the fore once again when they allegedly engaged in unusual and wild sexual escapades under the influence of illicit drugs in their hostel. By the time the police arrived at the scene of the incident at Sunshine Lodge in Ihiagwa having been earlier informed of the conduct of the students by the caretaker of the hostel, tragedy had struck. Two of the students, both male and completely naked, had died while the remaining two, a male and a female, also nude, were found unconscious and taken to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri.
The male student reportedly died later at the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) while the condition of the surviving victim is still being closely monitored. The Imo State Police Public Relations Officer, Orlando Ikeokwu, confirmed the incident and pointedly indicated that the students used sex-enhancing drugs during the orgy in their hostel. The unfortunate incident mirrors the extent of decadence in the society and it is rather scary that the youths being educated to bring about salutary changes to the society are charting a new but dangerous path that is bound to lead to further rot. This testament is unsettling not only because of the appalling extent to which the society’s value system has collapsed, but also because the future, based on the current trajectory, promises to be worse.
One curious thing about this incident is the disproportionate male-to-female ratio in the shameful and fatal conduct and this has brought another angle to the narrative.  Not a few are wondering if the tragic sex romp between the three male students and a female student was consensual or not. Many are asking the question as to whether the female student could have willingly submitted to that kind of arrangement or situation. Or was she a victim of gang rape?  Only the medical doctors at the FMC, Owerri, and the female student can provide an answer to the question. It is hoped that the lady survives and regains good health quickly so that Nigerians can have her perspective to the narrative. Also, there are different accounts of the number and types of the remnants of hard drugs found at the scene of the incident but one constant item on the list is Tramadol. But Tramadol has been banned, so how come students and other citizens still have access to it?

Virtually all the avoidable ills in this society are down to pervasive indiscipline which has become an existential challenge. And the earlier the problem is construed in that context, the better for everyone. The vice chancellor of a prominent faith-based private university in the South-West geopolitical zone recently expressed his frustration about the uncooperative attitude of some parents to the efforts by the school management to instil discipline among students of the institution. It is really a terrible and dire situation. Strangely today, many students go to school with an objective quite different from scholarship in mind. They do not focus on their studies but engage in non-academic activities and other excesses that have the capacity to ruin their lives forever.  Some of them succumb very easily to the influence of peer groups whose members engage in nefarious activities that put their lives and those of innocent students at risk.
Excessive exposure to social media that has become a veritable platform for all sorts of crimes and awkward behaviours has been blamed for the dangerous tendencies of many students of tertiary institutions. However, the truth is that exposure to social media may have worsened the situation but violent and uncivilised conducts were part and parcel of tertiary institutions in the country before the advent of social media. In any case, social media and the internet typically contain a mixed bag of information which a disciplined mind can filter to obtain what is of value. Perhaps it is time managers of the education sector began to take a second look at the seemingly unbridled liberty that students have to make critical choices.  The freedom enjoyed by students would appear to have become excessive even as they continue to fall progressively behind in the pecking order of discipline. We urge stakeholders in the education sector to seriously consider a stricter approach to the training of students in tertiary institutions.  Under the present arrangement, the emphasis is on learning while the behaviour of students is hardly scrutinised. Yet upon the completion of their studies, they are issued with certificates proclaiming them as fit both in learning and character. Therefore, situations and conditions in the institutions that will help to increase the level of supervision, especially of the behaviour of students, should be created because the tragic sex romp at FUTO is definitely not an isolated case.

Like the rest of us, the Bank could not be other than alarmed by the front-page headline of “The Nation” newspaper of April 8, 2019
No Report Treated Since 1999 Says Auditor–General”
“No auditor-general’s report has been fully considered by the National Assembly since 1999, it was learnt at the weekend.
The Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF), Anthony Ayine, urged members of the National Assembly to clear backlogs of audit reports submitted to them.
In a paper titled: “The role of National Assembly in promoting public accountability”, which he presented at the ongoing orientation programme for senators-elect/members-elect of the Ninth National Assembly in Abuja.
Ayine said that to the best of his knowledge, none of reports submitted to the National Assembly for consideration since 1999 has been fully attended to.
He explained that for audit report to be seen to have been treated after submission, a resolution of the National Assembly must be transmitted to the Executive for necessary action.
Ayine explained that for audit report to be submitted to the National Assembly, “we work with the financial report of the Accountant-General of the Federation’s financial report.”
According to him, his office has started work on the 2017 financial report for submission to the National Assembly for consideration, adding that the last report submitted was for 2016.
“Good governance”, he said, “will remain a mirage in the country, without transparency (openness) and accountability.”
Ayine said: “Corruption has stifled economic growth and development in our country. I am therefore optimistic that collaborative effects of efforts of the three arms of government in ensuring openness and accountability can put Nigeria on a good pedestal and enable her attain her place in the comity of nations where corruption is despised.
“The two Public Accounts Committees (PACs) (of the National Assembly) should draw up time table for clearing backlogs of audit reports.
“Accountability has to do with stewardship while openness is important because nothing is hidden, a situation that makes corruption impossible.”
Ayine, who stressed the need for a paradigm shift in the country, noted that the National Assembly could lead the way in being transparent through a demonstration of public accountability in handling its affairs, including finances.
He noted that “transparency allows access to information, reinforces accountability and makes corruption difficult to be successfully perpetrated because corruption is usually a hidden affair.”
The AGF insisted that the Public Accounts committees should ensure timely consideration of audit reports as well as take a dim view of late responses to audit queries by ministries, departments and agencies.
For the AGF, public accountability will be greatly enhanced, if those in public positions begin to see governance as a social contract for the people they represent and realise that they are responsible to the public.”

- Bashorun J.K. Randle is a former President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and former Chairman of KPMG Nigeria and Africa Region. He is currently the Chairman, J.K. Randle Professional Services.

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