One of the key objectives of Nigeria today is to substantially diversify its economy through increased non-oil export revenue. The Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) is a critical government agency intentionally established to achieve this. The challenges are huge: the country has remained a mono-product economy with its over-dependence on oil and gas which currently accounts for less than 8% of the GDP, yet contributes about 70% of the revenues of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), and over 90% of the country’s export revenues.
Given this scenario, the role of NEXIM Bank becomes even more critical today in promoting non-oil exports. At its inception in 1991, NEXIM Bank had a capital base that was about 10 times what was required of commercial banks. It was, therefore a net lender to many of these banks in funding their export transactions. While the bank’s fortunes declined for a long time, there is a current turnaround plan being intentionally and efficiently implemented by the new management headed by Mr. Abubakar Abba Bello, a banker with over 30 years of experience.
The Managing Director/CEO, first appointed for five-year tenure in April 2017, has earned the commendation of the Federal Government and its other stakeholders. Abba Bello’s appointment for a second (and final) tenure was approved in April 2022. The tenure extension represents a significant belief and confidence in his competence, ability, effectiveness, and integrity. Bello himself is quite bullish about the agency: “When I was appointed in April 2017 alongside two executive directors to transform and reposition the bank, we immediately developed a five-year strategic plan which we have been dutifully and faithfully implementing since. The results have become evident.
He explained: “First, we have grown the bank’s balance sheet from N67.73 billion in April 2017 to N202.03 billion as of February 2022. Secondly, we have transformed the bank from losses to profits. From losses of N8.03 billion in 2016 and N569 million in 2017, the bank recorded a profit of N1.09 billion in 2018, N2.03 billion in 2019, N1.28 billion in 2020, and N4.10 billion in 2021. The impact of Covid-19 on the bank’s operations and resulting interest rate rebates and moratorium caused a decline in profits in 2020. And finally, we have embarked on an aggressive debt recovery drive, growing our recoveries from only N200 million in December 2016 to N10.2 billion and $3.25 million between January 2017 and February 2022.”
Abba Bello has over 30 years of experience in the banking sector, where he held senior management positions in corporate banking, commercial banking, and public sector banking over the spate of a decade. Abba also had a brief stint in auditing. Until he was appointed Managing Director/CEO of NEXIM Bank in April 2017, he was Executive Director at Unity Bank Plc in charge of Corporate Banking, Agriculture, and North Directorate. He has a rich experience in international banking, having served at different times as the MD/CEO of the subsidiaries of United Bank for Africa Plc Chad and Zambia for several years.
Abba has attended several courses in Nigeria and overseas, in leadership, advanced management, and executive management. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers Nigeria, a Fellow of the Institute of Credit Administration, and a member of the Institute of Directors. He is an Alumnus of the Advanced Management Programme of the Havard Business School, USA.