The year 2012 was a year many a fraudulent and corrupt fuel marketer would not forget in a hurry. It was a year government moved to decisively confront the burgeoning subsidy bill. And one man who played a yeoman’s role in the attempt to bring sanity to the subsidy regime is the Managing Director of Access Bank Plc, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.
The government had early in the year seen the need to rein in on the management of the subsidy regime in a way to block the loopholes and the fraud therein as the anti-subsidy protest meant the people had voted against the wholesale removal of subsidy.
So, Imoukhuede’s seeming brilliance was tapped into by the Jonathan administration, which appointed him Chairman of a Technical Committee on Fuel Subsidy Payments. Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had constituted the committee after the bribery scandal that tainted an earlier probe of the subsidy regime by an eight-man ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives headed by Hon. Farouk Lawan.
The Aig-Imoukhuede committee indicted a number of marketers over the subsidy payments. However, amid strident complaints by some of the indicted oil companies and individuals, Ag-Imoukhuede was again called upon to head the presidential committee to verify and reconcile all fuel subsidy claims and payments made between 2009 and 2011. The work of that committee has completely changed the face of subsidy management because apart from a number of indicted oil marketers who have been dragged to court, some other marketers have also made substantial refunds to the government’s coffers, while some others were blacklisted outright. Aig-Imoukhuede’s role in that process was deemed a social service to the country and the people.
But early in 2012, he was also engaged in wrapping up what many saw as an audacious business deal. It was the seamless takeover, by his Access Bank Plc, of Intercontinental Plc, one of the 10 banks, which failed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) stress tests in 2009.
Banking industry affairs commentators said it took a highly focused leadership in Access Bank, which was considered smaller in terms of size and asset base to take over a bank like Intercontinental Bank, which boasted of large branch network and asset base. The Aig-Imoukhuede-led bank had made similar moves to acquire Union Bank during the 2005 banking sector consolidation era, a business deal that fell through. With Intercontinental Bank in its kitty, Access Bank has conveniently joined the league of big players in the Nigerian banking industry (Tier I Banks), which previously comprised First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and United Bank for Africa Plc. The big four has now become the big five, with Access Bank rising to become the fifth largest Nigerian bank by asset base. The bank’s acquisition has increased competition in the already fierce retail market in Nigerian banking and could well drive down costs for consumers.
For successfully straddling the public and private sector in his roles of bank executive and subsidy probe chairman, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede is deserving to be accorded THISDAY Person of the Year.