The bank would be accessible to grassroots businesses.
The Federal Government on Friday asked the Board of the Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) to support Nigeria in maintaining its leading position as the powerhouse in regional trade in West Africa.
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said at the inauguration of the reconstituted board of the bank in Abuja that with Nigeria’s economy accounting for about 55 per cent of the regional trade, NEXIM must help build the capacity of private sector entrepreneurs to expand trade in the region and beyond.
The Minister who acknowledged NEXIM as a very important part of government’s finance structure, said the bank, which was set up to support the country’s import and export trade, has so far proven its worth through the performance of its functions and delivering on its mandate.
“There are a lot of expectations from the government, which is embarking on a path of transformation of the economy by working with private sector to expand trade in the country and the West African region and beyond. NEXIM is critical to this process, if Nigeria is going to play its role as the power house within the West African sub-region and Africa,” the minister said.
She said though government was proud of the achievement of the management, a lot was expected from the new board members such as ensuring that NEXIM plays the role it should within the region. She pointed out that there are a lot of entrepreneurs in the private sector that need the services of NEXIM to boost their businesses.
The Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, who also spoke at the event, hailed the management for turning around the fortune of the bank in the last three years. He said that, prior to their tenure; NEXIM was running at a loss with lots of bad debts as a result of “a very bad credit culture.”
Mr. Ngama said last year was the third time in a row that the bank was posting profit on its balance sheet and declaring dividends to its shareholders; a development that has put the bank on a path of sustained profitability.
He said the management has also taken steps to clean up the balance sheet through the establishment of Debt Recovery Task Force which recovers bad debts and write-off irrecoverable legacy loan. He added that efforts have been made to improve the credit culture through training and enforcement of strict credit evaluation processes. He however asked the board to work towards securing a credit rating that would enable the bank go out and source for funds and increase its capital base.
Mr. Ngama disclosed that in order to bring the mostly city-based bank closer to the grassroots, offices had been set up in Yenagoa, Akure, Ishiagu, Damaturu, Yola, Gusau and Makurdi. in addition to the ones in Abuja, Lagos and Kano.
“A lot of Nigerians involved in various trades as producers of export commodities such as cocoa and palm kernel have no access to credit facilities offered by NEXIM. With the opening of six agencies, NEXIM would be brought closer to the people in all parts of the country,” he said.
According to Mr. Ngama, other achievements of the bank include building international collaboration with institutions like the Islamic Development Bank, which signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) recently for the promotion of export credit insurance scheme.
The Board is chaired by a Deputy Governor (Economic Policy) of the Central bank of Nigeria, CBN, Sarah Alade, with the Director of Trade and Exchange, CBN, Musa Batari, and Director, Home Finance, Federal Ministry of Finance, Kalli Zaji, as members.
Other members include Director of Trade, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, David Adejuwon; representative of the private export interest, Mohammed Babangida; and NEXIM Managing Director, Robert Orya.