It was meant to be a night for banks and bankers but the politicians almost stole the show at the party. It was a Friday evening and the mood was very right for a corporate gig. BusinessDay was the host. It was not just a party. It was a night of recognition and honours for banks and bankers that have shaped the way business is done in the country in the last one year.
The red carpet was opened by Godwin Emefiele, group managing director of Zenith Bank plc who was the first person to walk on it. He walked in quietly without much fanfare. Then soon the governors started arriving. First was Rabi’u Kwankwanso, the governor of Kano State. His entourage caught the attention of everyone present with their distinct white flowing Babariga and red cap. You would have almost thought they were red cap chiefs from the South Eastern part of Nigeria rather than coming from the North East.
Not long after the Kano State governor arrived, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the governor of the state of Osun drove in. His entourage walked straight into the venue of the awards and the atmosphere was instantly animated by with his presence. He was the first governor to go into the awards venue. Then came in Peter Obi, the governor of Anambra, in his usual self, almost sneaking into the hall without much fanfare or any entourage.
The presence of the governors at an awards night for bankers gave an almost political connotation to the night. This became clear when the governors were called to give their opening remarks. First governor to climb up the stage was Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who insisted he should not be addressed as his excellency. Frank Aigbogun, the publisher of BusinessDay had earlier given his opening remarks in which he said the governors were seated separately in a bid to avoid creating a national governors’ forum at the awards night.
But when the governors took the podium it was obvious that they would not let go the opportunity to tell the bankers the reasons why their states are the best places for business in the country. Aregbesola set the ball rolling when he listed several initiatives his administration had undertaken to turn the state into a great place to live in and do business. He mentioned the strides the state had made in the education and infrastructure development. He also said he had been able to clear the debt he met on assumption of office. “The state has always created a sovereign wealth fund of its own while raising IGR from a paltry N200 million to more than N1 billion per month reducing significantly our dependence on Federal allocations,” he told the gathering.
In addition, he said provision of school uniforms to primary and secondary school students in the state has created the biggest garment factory in Osun state. The school feeding programme has also propelled the growth of agriculture and poultry in the state which now supplies the food to schools.
Kwankwanso took the stage after Rauf and he did not fail to list his achievements too. According to him, his administration had also developed infrastructure and the education sector in Kano state. The governor highlighted the fact that Kano state has over 2.2 million pupils in primary schools alone across the state and that his administration has built more than 1,000 classrooms, four mega secondary schools and even sent some of the pupils to Niger Republic so that they can learn how to speak French and English. They are also offering scholarships to students in tertiary institutions to travel outside the country. This gesture had inspired secondary students to do well in their studies.
He also noted that the Kano state government has banned street begging while street lights have been installed in many places to enhance the look and feel of the state and at the same time enhance security.
The governor of Anambra state also educated the bankers present on why his state is ready for investment. The most interesting aspect of Obi’s presentation was the story about his visit to a poor rural community in Anambra state. He narrated how the women of the village came out with dance and music. While the dancing was ongoing, he decided to talk to one of the primary school pupils around whom he asked what his biggest challenge was. The primary school pupil quickly told him that their school in the community had no roof and that he would want the governor to provide them with a roof for the school.
While the pupil was telling him this, women of the village were busy dancing and singing his praises. It was a perfect illustration of how the society has lost direction and how politicians are only told what they will like to hear rather than the reality of the situation on ground.
After all these speeches, the award night was set rolling with Zenith Bank of Nigeria plc winning the Bank of the Year Award. Zenith Bank emerged winner in this category for its record high N100.68 billion profit after tax (PAT) at the end of 2012 financial year.
Bisi Onasanya, group managing director, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of FBN Holdings plc, emerged winner as the Bank CEO of the Year after seeing increasing shareholder confidence push the bank’s share price by a significant 73 percent in the 2012 financial year. First Bank under Onasanya has largely been able to combine growing the bank’s market share without sacrificing profitability, according to the citation for the awards.
The United Bank for Africa (UBA) won the award for the Best Bank in Support of Agriculture. The bank tops the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) league table in lending to agriculture. By 2012 financial year end, UBA plc had seven percent of its N687 billion loan book to the agricultural sector. This is the highest exposure of any bank in Nigeria and it places the bank as one of the strongest supporters of the biggest sector in Nigeria which is agriculture.FCMB and Access Bank jointly won the Deal of the Year Award. For FCMB, the panellists were impressed by the flawless manner the FCMB-FinBank merger deal was consummated. The merger, which is regarded as the most successful merger deal in the Nigerian market till date, created a natural synergy between FCMB’s corporate banking heritage and FinBank’s retail and electronic banking capabilities.
In the case of Access Bank plc, it was the lead co-coordinating Mandated Lead Arranger for Neconde Energy $470 million facility. The loan raised the stakes in the capacity of indigenous banks to support Nigerian firms challenging the majors in the upstream segment of the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
Skye Bank plc clinched the award for the Best Bank in Support of Manufacturing. Its strong commitment to the sector earned the bank the award. The award was in recognition of the fact that in spite of the delicate nature of most of the firms in the manufacturing sector which are often regarded as high risk, Skye Bank remained committed to their financial needs throughout 2012.
Fidelity Bank won the award for the Best Bank in Support of SMEs in the country. The bank has consistently come tops in the disbursement of SMIEIS funds. And just recently, Fidelity Bank established an SME academy to help support promising entrepreneurs in the country. It is among the top ten banks that have presence in important towns and cities across the country.
Stanbic IBTC plc was the winner of the Most Innovative Banking Product Award in recognition of its personal loans which have helped many Nigerians who ordinarily would not have had access to finance.
Diamond Bank plc won the Most Customer Friendly Bank in Nigeria. The bank was unanimously chosen by retail customers in the BusinessDay Banking Customer Satisfaction Survey, the full result of which will be made available in the forthcoming BusinessDay Banking Performance Report. The bank was picked by retail customers as having the friendliest banking staff who are very eager to attend to the needs of customers.
Unity Bank plc was recognised for exceptional support to the northern economy while Jaiz Bank was recognised for the pioneering role it is playing in non-interest banking.
There were also special recognition awards for the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Unified Payment Services, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) and the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) who were rewarded for the developmental roles they play within the Nigerian economy.
The Leadership Awards went to Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, CON, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); Umaru Ibrahim, the managing director and chief executive officer, Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC); Olasubomi Balogun, CON, chairman, First City Group, and Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, the GMD/CEO, Access Bank plc.
The CBN governor was honoured because of the role he played in stabilising the banking sector, especially amidst the global financial crisis. Umaru Ibrahim is being recognised for the innovative distress resolution options like the bridge bank initiative that not only saved three banks but also billions of depositors’ funds and thousands of jobs in the Nigerian banking sector.
The award for Olasubomi Balogun, CON, for his pioneering role in the Nigerian banking industry and in the establishment of the First City Group which has stood the test of time in a challenging financial environment. He is an acknowledged Baron of the Nigerian Capital and Money Markets just as he is the doyen, pioneer and role model of entrepreneurial banking in Nigeria. He was represented by Ladi Balogun, his son and the group managing director/CEO, First City Monument Bank plc.
The BusinessDay banking awards night is definitely a night to remember. It was a night of the clash of bankers and politicians. But it was also a night where the two poles of money had a common ground to pursue mutual interest, the development of the Nigerian economy. Already, next year’s award is ringing in the air.