NEXIM’s new global vision

Based on its past records, the Federal Government is raising the stakes for NEXIM Bank and its new board, with the expectations that by 2020, the bank would have transformed into one of the 10 leading importexport banks in the world

The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was unequivocal about what she says was the expectations of the Federal Government with regards to the operations and goal attainment for the Nigeria Export-Import Bank, NEXIM Bank.

Speaking recently at the inauguration of the new board of the bank in Abuja, Okonjo- Iweala said that the Federal Government expects the NEXIM Bank team to play a pivotal role in driving and actualising the entrepreneurial spirit of Nigerians.

“We look towards the board members of the NEXIM Bank to really perform a very important function of ensuring that NEXIM plays the role it should within this country and beyond, and that our private sector, where we have so many talented men and women, so many entrepreneurs that would be enabled by the activities of this bank to show what Nigeria can indeed do…” – Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said.

As it were, many people are of the opinion that the above affi rmative projections by Dr Okonjo-Iweala, may have provided the newly inaugurated board of the bank the required operational template that would guide them in consolidating on the achievements of the bank over the past three years and truly work towards transforming it into one of the 10 leading import-export trade banks in the world by year 2020.

Most analysts who spoke with Business Courage at the weekend argued that what appears to be a new marching order for NEXIM Bank may have been informed largely on the account of the feat that the bank has achieved in the past three years, especially under the current management led by Roberts Orya.

The Federal Government had lauded the Bank for its innovative initiatives being undertaken to deepen sub-regional trade and boost non-oil export trade at the domestic and regional levels. Speaking at the inauguration of the new board recently, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, had described the achievements of the bank as remarkable despite operational constraints and charged it to further boost West African sub-regional trade in order to increase the membercountries’ shares in the rapidly growing global non-oil export trade market.

Okonjo-Iweala noted that the President Goodluck Jonathan administration remains committed to the task of transforming the Nigerian economy and expanding regional trade through the incorporation of the West African economic zone and declared that NEXIM was pivotal to achieving this vision.

Speaking on the strategic role the bank is playing in the nation’s economic transformation agenda, the minister said that “NEXIM Bank is a very important part of our fi nance complex. This a bank that was set up to support import and export trade within the country. We are happy to say that it has proven its worth by performing its functions but there are lots of expectations from this bank.

“Government of President Jonathan has embarked on a path of transforming the economy and has been trying to work with our private sector to expand trade, particularly regional trade and NEXIM has so far supported this vision. We can only encourage and support them to keep up their good work”, Okonjo-Iweala enthused.

She said that Nigeria’s economy represented 55 per cent of the regional economy, an implication that the country’s economic structures have to be well primed and poised to take charge of affairs and pull commensurate weight in the sub region that would enable government to support the private sector to trade within the region and beyond.

Okonjo-Iweala, who lauded specifi cally the initiatives of the Orya-led management, said that NEXIM Bank was critical to Nigeria’s bid to become the powerhouse within the West Africa sub-region and Africa, adding that the government “is proud of the bank because it’s going in to some very innovative areas, like shipping along the coast, entering into partnerships with many institutions, like the African Development Bank, Islamic Bank, and so on.”

The Minister charged members of the new board to rise to the new challenge as the Federal Government expects them to bring their diverse experiences to bear in transforming the bank into a great fi nancial institution of trade facilitation.

Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Yerima Lawan Ngama, who upon the dissolution of the board in 2011, assumed direct supervision of its affairs, said that NEXIM Bank had done very well to meet the expectations of its major shareholders, the Federal Government and the general public and attributed this to the professionalism of the bank’s staff.

“They have done well and this is something I would say is a credit to the present management and the staff because just in the last two to three years, they have turned the bank from a loss-making to a profi tmaking institution. Last year was the third year in a row that the bank was posting profi t,” Ngama said.

According to him, “Not only did we post profi t, we also declared dividends…the fi rst time in the history of the bank. This is a good report card for the present management, and also good news for the incoming board to know that they have people who can really deliver”, Ngama added.

He assured the new board that they were coming in to work with a clean balance sheet and that it was time that the bank become rated even as he encouraged the new management to invite Agusto & Co to come and give it a local rating as that will go a long way in assisting it to raise funds.

He expressed satisfaction with the strides the bank had been taking to reach out to Nigerian traders and other business stakeholders. “Hitherto, it had remained a city bank. We have it in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Calabar. But, by and large, only those who stay in the city know the existence and do business with the bank. I wish to congratulate the Roberts Orya-led management and I am proud to say that we have about seven agencies in Yenogoa, Akure, Ishiagu, Damaturu, Yola, Gusau and Makurdi. These are the agencies that would ensure that every nook and cranny of Nigeria have customers that do business with the bank,” Dr. Ngama said.

He affi rmed that NEXIM now has relationships with international credit institutions which have assisted greatly to broaden the scope of the credit offering; to guarantee credit for both export and import as well as credit insurance.

He specifi cally said that the bank’s shareholders are happy that it has symbiotic agreements with EXIM Bank of India, African Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, and other technical collaborations and budding relations with TurkExim, USEXIM, Export Development Canada (EDC) etc.

The agreement with the Islamic Development Bank, he said, has been signed and the product is being offered now to broaden the income base of the bank.

According to Ngama, based on the president’s recommendation, NEXIM is the foremost DFI in Nigeria to support the creative and entertainment industry, adding that the bank is currently arranging a credit facility with the EXIM Bank of India.

The Minister noted that even before that Memorandum was signed, NEXIM had already injected more than N850 million into that sector and that one of such facilities was a N300 million investment in an amphitheatre located in Kaduna to help promote Nigerian fi lms, to fully empower the practitioners and the value-chain and save the industry, which is adjudged to be the third biggest in the world from piracy.

Expatiating further on the development projects embarked upon by the NEXIM Bank, including the ECOWAS Trade Support Facility, Ngama said the bank was discussing with two companies to provide facility to establish a shipping line that would go from city to city along the West African coast. This, he noted, was an addition to the facilities being given to transporters to enhance movement of goods across the borders, namely Chad, Cameroun and Benin Republic.

According to him, there are some initiatives in progress namely, the micro-business development to ensure that those people who have small businesses can get facilities to develop them and the issue of capitalisation.

However, the minister said that the bank has to reappraise its funding structure, and seek out more avenues to raise money or fl oat a bond. Citing AFREXIM as a best practice, Ngama encouraged NEXIM to further explore the option of raising money from the international market and not solely rely on shareholders equity contribution.

He promised to work towards ensuring that in order to consolidate on the major achievements recorded so far by the bank, NEXIM Board is exempted from sudden dissolution before the members serve out their tenure, just as other parastatals under his supervision such as the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), among others.

This, he said, would help to address the challenges of instability in the operations of the bank since sudden dissolution of the past boards has been widely condemned as not being too good for the bank’s local and international status.

Chairman of the newly inaugurated board and the Deputy Governor, Economic Policy, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Sarah Alade, who incidentally is the fi rst woman to serve in that capacity since the inception of the bank in 1991, pledged that the new board members would do their best to improve the existing fortunes of the bank, knowing full well that much is expected of them.

Represented by Suleiman Barau, a director of the apex bank, Alade promised that the new board will work to support the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan and the vision to emerge as the top 20 economies of the world by the 2020.

“NEXIM will defi nitely play a key role in developing a vibrant economy, vibrant fi nancial system that would help the Transformation Agenda of Mr. President and the vision 2020. The new board will work to transform NEXIM as pointed out by the CME and Dr. Ngama, to become like AFREXIM, US EXIM bank, and seek sustainable sources for funding the operations of the bank from the market”, Alade said.

Members of the newly inaugurated NEXIM Board are, Musa Batari, Director, Trade and Exchange, CBN; Kalli Zaji, Director, Home Finance, Federal Ministry of Finance; and Mallam Ajiya Mahia, Director, Trade Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.

Others are, Mohammed Babangida, representing private sector interest; Peter Nwaoboshi, also representing private sector interest; Orya, Managing Director/CEO, NEXIM; Bashir Wali, and Folake Oke, both Executive Director, Corporate Services, and Executive Director, Business Development of NEXIM Bank respectively.

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