MR ROBERT UNGWAGA ORYA
ANAYO OKOLI WRITES ON THE CHALLENGES AND SUCCESSES OF MR ROBERT UNGWAGA ORYA IN HIS MISSION TO TURN AROUND THE ONCE MORIBUND NIGERIAN EXPORT-IMPORT BANK (NEXIM) IN THE PAST THREE YEARS
The Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), was largely seen by many operators in the financial sector as a mere waste pipe or another bureaucratic contraption set up to minister to the needs of well-connected borrowers who may never repay their loans.
The particular borrowers were not even the ones for whom the bank was statutorily established such as the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and start-up businesses. In fact, at a point NEXIM became almost a dead institution and no one would want to touch it with a 12-foot pole. It became deeply mired in debts, posting losses year after year. But all that was before the arrival of Robert Ungwaga Orya, at the institution in August 2009 as managing director and chief executive.
Since Orya’s appointment to the leadership of NEXIM, the bank’s financial profile has been completely turned around. Whereas in 2009, NEXIM posted N5.6 billion loss, the institution had a turn around upsurge with N189 million profit in 2010.
In 2011 NEXIM’s profit was an impressive N1.1 billion while it is projected to rise to N1.6 billion for the year 2012. The story of Orya’s meteoric transformation of NEXIM was better captured by an anecdote of a former Accountant General of the Federation, Alhaji Ibrahim Dakwambo, now Governor of Gombe State, when he visited the bank sometime ago, when he said: “NEXIM was already a dead institution as at August 2009 when Orya took over the mantle of leadership but he has virtually resuscitated it.”
The former AGF went further to sum up his impression of the NEXIM boss: “When Orya informed me in August 2009 that he was going to NEXIM as chief executive, I asked him, ‘what are you going to such dead institution to do? He responded that he was on a mission to turn the bank around for the best...
“As a former Accountant-General of the Federation that had MOFI (Ministry of Finance Incorporated), which is one of the shareholders of NEXIM under my supervision, I’m very proud of the phenomenal success Orya and his team have achieved. “His indefatigable efforts at transforming NEXIM and making it a truly export development institution represents the Nigerian dream and is worthy of emulation by all.”
During a recent budget defence before the House Committee on Banking and Currency, the Chairman, Chudi Jones Onyereri, noted that NEXIM has done creditably well over the period under review and pledged that the House will ensure that the bank received all necessary support to enable it deliver on its mandate.
Speaking recently on his mission at NEXIM, Orya said his strategy when he first arrived at NEXIM was to “take a holistic approach to its corporate transformation which entails strategies around adequate capitalisation, adoption of a robust enterprise-wide risk management framework, good corporate governance principles, smarter business processes, clearer focus and compliance with regulations and relevant government policies.”
The NEXIM boss has never failed to acknowledge the harmonious synergy his institution enjoys with its shareholders- the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Ministry of Finance. Thus as NEXIM moves toward actualisation of its mandate, it is imperative to recall NEXIM’S mandate.
Primarily, the bank was established to leverage government’s targets on development programmes, funding and non-funding activities like risk bearing facilities of non-oil export credit guarantee and insurance as well as market and trade information and value-added export business advisory services. There is no doubt that NEXIM under Orya is determined to achieve the vision of becoming the leading export development bank in Africa by 2015, and with the high level of support from its shareholders and the Government, the vision looks very achievable.
Orya, who has about 28 years of experience working in investment, commercial, and mortgage banking, holds an M.Sc. degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Ibadan. He began his banking career in February 1984 when he joined the services of the defunct International Merchant Bank Plc, where he worked until September 1990 when he joined Credite Bank of Nigeria Limited as a pioneer staff. He was later seconded to Prime Merchant Bank Limited in July 1991 as Head of Operations.
Orya subsequently moved to Pace Mortgage Finance Ltd in October 1992 as the general manager/chief executive officer. Later he joined Lobi Bank of Nigeria Ltd in January 1994 and was to become its managing director and executive chairman until January 1998 when he was reassigned to Premier Commercial Bank Plc as an executive director.
Prior to his current appointment, Orya was as an executive director in charge of capital markets, financial advisory services and research and strategy at the defunct Afribank Capital Ltd.
He is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and London, Certified Pension Institute of Nigeria and Nigeria Institute of Management. He is also a Member of the Institute of Management Consultants as well as a happily married man with children.