The former Managing Director of the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM Bank), Robert Orya, on Wednesday pushed back allegations of corruption and fraud levelled against his management by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Mr Orya described accusations of fraud in the disbursement of loans against him as “wild, inappropriate, unacceptable and untrue.
On Saturday, the CBN accused the past management of the export/import bank of plotting the removal from office of its deputy governor in charge of Economic Policy Directorate, Joseph Nnanna.
Mr Nnanna is also the chairman of the Board of NEXIM, which commissioned forensic audit into the lending business of the bank.
The CBN said the audit “exposed different levels of procedural abuses fraught with high level of fraud in the disbursement of the loans by the former management (of the bank)”.
The apex bank did not directly link Mr Orya to the allegations. But close followers of developments at NEXIM said the bank’s mention of “the former management (of the bank)” was a veiled reference to his tenure.
Mr Orya was the MD of NEXIM from inception in August 2009 till February 2016.
He was succeeded by the Executive Director, Business Development of the Bank, Bashir Wali, who held the office in an acting capacity until April 2017, when the incumbent Managing Director, Abubakar Bello, took over.
A ‘faceless’ call for change
Last week, a civil society group, the Awareness for Good Governance Group (AGGG), called for the immediate removal of the CBN deputy governor over allegations of fraud at NEXIM.
But the CBN in its reaction said the group, which it described as “faceless”, was fronting for the former management of the bank which is determined to get even with Mr Nnanna for ordering a probe of its activities.
The CBN said the call by the group was a mere case of “corruption fighting back.”
“Findings from sources within the Bank and those close to the audit firm, Price Waterhouse and Coopers (PwC), which conducted the audit, indicated there were several violations of laid down procedures” the CBN said.
The CBN said such abuse of procedures increased the risk burden of NEXIM to about 91 per cent, with about 181 of the 191 loans granted, classified as non-performing.
Non-performing loans are bad loans whose recovery is both doubtful and remote.
According to the CBN, prior to Mr Nnanna’s assumption of office as chairman of the Board of NEXIM in March 2018, the NPLs of the bank stood at about N48.9 billion out of a total loan portfolio of N53 billion.
The development, the CBN noted, negated the corporate governance pursuit of NEXIM to have a ceiling of 10 per cent maximum level for NPLs.
Besides, the CBN said the level of fraud within the NEXIM system was “perhaps why the CBN is yet to activate the N500 billion Export Stimulation Fund set up to promote non-oil exports in Nigeria.”
Orya fights back
In his reaction, Mr Orya faulted the classification of the loans the bank gave out under his management and described as untrue allegations linking him to any corruption and fraud in the disbursement of the loans.
“I was disengaged from NEXIM on February 18, 2016, and handed over a transformed healthy bank with a high-quality loan book, with a non-performing loan of about 8.47 per cent, which was clearly below the threshold of 10 per cent,” Mr Orya told PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday in an exclusive interview in Abuja.
“It is now three years and three months since I left NEXIM. Therefore, I consider accusations of fraud in the disbursement of loans as wild, inappropriate, unacceptable and untrue. The Board should rather appraise the leadership of my succeeding managements,” he said.
PREMIUM TIMES saw a copy of the handover note Mr Orya sent to the Supervising Minister of Finance and the CBN governor on February 2016 when he left office.
Total NPLs below 10 per cent
In the documents, total loans since 2015 classified as performing stood at about N42.74 billion.
When loans classified as sub-standard (N1.914 billion), doubtful (N0.961 billion), and lost (N1.08 billion), are included, total loans by the bank as at February 2016 came to about N46.7 billion, or 8.47 per cent.
According to the former MD, on July 9, 2017, one and a half years after he left office, NEXIM management sent to him a comprehensive document on the status of the loans to indicate they were all performing.
“The document was sent following the setting up of an ad hoc committee by the House of Representatives to look at the books of all development finance institutions from 2009, including NEXIM, Bank of Agriculture, Bank of Industry and Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria.
“All MDs of these banks were asked to give details of their existing loans, including the legacy loans inherited, stating their current status. So, I don’t know how, all of a sudden, since the current Chairman came into office, to now say I left 91 per cent non-performing loans,” Mr Orya said.
Mr Orya also denied the allegation by CBN that the debt situation left by his management stalled the activation of the N500 billion Export Stimulation Fund (ESF) set up to promote non-oil exports in the country.
“How is that possible? In fact, it was my management that initiated and approached the CBN in August 2015 to establish an N200billion ESF and enhance the rediscounting and refinancing facility (RRF) by N50billion, to boost non-oil exports following increasing volatility in the prices oil at the time,” he said.
He said the CBN increased the ESF to N500 billion, with CBN and NEXIM jointly working out the operating guidelines which culminated in the stakeholders’ conference held on January 19, 2016 to develop the draft guidelines.
“It was barely three weeks after that conference that I was disengaged from NEXIM. Therefore, I have no clue to CBN’s claims that the delay in disbursing the Fund was as a result of abuses by my management. How? I don’t know the capacity of my successors responsible for managing the loans,” he said.
Mr Orya criticised the N50 billion of the Fund already disbursed to NEXIM in 2018 on unclear basis.
At the inception of NEXIM in August 2009, the total loan portfolio was about N14.6 billion. Of this amount, about 72 per cent was NPLs, out of which N10.03 billion, or 68.7 per cent was classified as completely lost, resulting in the sharp decline of the Bank’s income.