NEXIM: Why group wants CBN deputy governor removed

Robert Orya, NEXIM Bank MD
Robert Orya, NEXIM Bank MD

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Saturday gave reasons why a civil society group has called for the immediate removal from office of its deputy governor in charge of Economic Policy Directorate, Joseph Nnanna.

The CBN said the call was part of a thicker plot by the immediate past management of the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM Bank) to get even with Mr Nnanna over his order for a probe of allegations of fraud.

The immediate past management of the bank led by Robert Orya was in office till February 2016.

Since Mr Orya’s exit, there have been reports of fraud linked to his management.

PREMIUM TIMES could not independently confirm the allegations, as it has not been able to reach the former NEXIM Boss since he left office.

On Thursday, media reports credited to the Awareness for Good Governance Group (AGGG) called for the removal of the CBN deputy governor over allegations of fraud at NEXIM.

The group did not give details of the allegation.

‘Corruption fighting back’

But the CBN, which described the group as faceless, said its call for the removal of Mr Nnanna was nothing, but “corruption fighting back.’

Mr Nnanna is the Chairman of the Board of NEXIM.

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The CBN said in a statement that the call for Mr Nnanna’s removal might not be unconnected with the forensic audit commissioned by the new Board under his Chairman.

According to the CBN, the audit exposed different levels of procedural abuses by the former management of NEXIM “fraught with high level of fraud in the disbursement of the loans.”

“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 the extent that its non-performing loans (NPLs) rose to about 91 per cent of loans it granted.

Prior to Mr Nnanna’s assumption of office as chairman of NEXIM Board in March 2018, the CBN said NPLs of the bank stood at about N48.9 billion out of a total loan portfolio of N53 billion.

This, the CBN noted, negated the corporate governance pursuit of the bank to have NPLs at a maximum level of 10 per cent.

The CBN said following alleged wrong doings by the former company secretary of NEXIM, the audit revealed that about 181 of the 191 loans granted before the assumption of the Nnanna-led Board were non-performing.

The CBN said as many as a third of the documents tendered in respect of the loans did not have supporting or verifiable evidence to justify the loan applications and subsequent disbursements.

“That level of fraud within the NEXIM system is perhaps why the CBN is yet to activate the N500 billion Export Stimulation Fund set up to promote non-oil exports in Nigeria,” the CBN said.

On its part, the management of NEXIM, in a statement, said allegations of corruption and fraudulent against the Chairman of its Board by protesters last Monday were not only false and misleading, but a mischievous attempt at tarnishing his good reputation.

“The allegations are designed to divert attention from an on-going efforts by the Board to address a case of gross mismanagement and poor state of affairs of the Bank under the old management which had since been sacked by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari,” NEXIM said.

According to NEXIM, prior to the appointment of a new management for NEXIM in April, 2017, it had become almost insolvent with huge non-performing loans.

It said the situation was “exacerbated by gross abuse of process, insider related loans and lack of professionalism in loan administration, amongst other issues.”

“This led the Bank to commission a forensic audit to establish the true state of affairs before the new management came on board.”

With two years of the new management, NEXIM said its fortunes under Mr Nnanna-led Board has changed remarkably for the better, with significant improvement in key prudential ratios.

“The Bank is honouring its obligations and is collaborating with the Central Bank of Nigeria to manage two intervention funds, amounting to N550 billion, towards increased support to the non-oil export sector,” it said.

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