In a world that is increasingly being defined by economic strength whether at individual or national level, it is now imperative to recognise the institutions that make national economic growth possible and by extension the individuals that drive such institutions. In Nigeria, such Institutions include the Nigeria Export and Import (NEXIM) Bank, which has the responsibility of being an Export Credit Agency (ECA), a role that has seen it offer support to Nigerian exports who need to raise capital for their businesses. While the bank has been playing its role dedicatedly since it came into being via an enabling Act in 1991 that made it replace the Nigeria Export Credit Guarantee & Insurance Corporation, it is now making more impact under its incumbent Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Robert Orya.
Upon assuming office in August of 2009, Orya inherited a loan portfolio of N14.6 billion of which 71% was non-performing. He wasted no time in calling for a review of the status of all the loans and moved thereafter to put the bank on a sound footing. After sorting out the bad loans, which resulted in losses and aggressively recovering other debts , as early as December 2010 the management has turned around the institution’s loss and reported an audited profit of N189m.
Orya’s stint at NEXIM has seen him introduce innovations in how the bank does business. One of such is the drive to boost investment in the non – oil sectors that are crucial to driving export. As recently as November of last year, Orya had signed a partnership with the Export Credit Bank of Turkey to explore additional offshore financing for the bank and the people it services. The thinking expressed by the NEXIM MD was that such move would help drive employment and boost foreign exchange earnings. His tenure has also seen the bank present a balance sheet that secured lines of credit from institutions like the African Export Import Bank, the Export Import Bank of India in addition to being able to collaborate with other export-import banks like the United States Export Import Bank.
Under his leadership, NEXIM has intervened and opened up sectors whose exports previously had no value added. An example of this is the agricultural sector where the bank undertook its Greenfield projects that have grown to the extent of being on the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN’s list of top 100 exporters in the country. The bank facilitated as much as N23.3 billion to support exporters, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs) between 2009 and 2012. The bank has offered insight into its planned expansion of the entertainment industry, Nollywood, a project under the Nigerian Creative and Entertainment Industry Stimulation Loan Scheme (NCEILS), which is part of the Federal Government’s effort to bolster the industry that has key growth potential for employment and foreign exchange.
Orya’s touch at NEXIM has seen the financial institution excelling in other areas as evident in the $61.5million Sealink project that aims to boost maritime trade among members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Highpoint of this project is a new shipping company that will better connect all the West Africa’s seaports and increase trade among member states. Such operational interventions resulted in the creation and sustenance of more than 14,358 jobs as at close of August 2012.
The confidence that Orya brought to the bank’s image is already yielding fruits as the shareholders – the Federal Government and CBN injected fresh capital into the bank in addition to offering other forms of support to strengthen the institution. This transformation drive by the management further paid off as NEXIM’s performance ensured an appreciable return of the equity investments of the shareholders as a dividend for the 2010 financial year. As confirmed by Orya himself, improved performance at the bank has led to the declaration of dividends to shareholders for the first time since 2003 when dividend was last paid.
Today, NEXIM has moved up from just another institution to be one of the bastions in the quest to grow Nigeria’s economy by diversifying the country’s revenue base. The bank’s activities in promoting non-oil earnings are yielding fruits, which have in turn made the bank to be corporately visible to citizens and businesses. It must be mentioned that Orya was able to take NEXIM to its new heights despite the distraction constituted by persons sponsored to sabotage the work of the bank internally and the barrage of attacks from outside. His winning personality, however, saw him bring maturity to bear in making even the most ardent of his detractors to fall behind him and support the quest to grow the bank and by extension the Nigerian economy.
•Comrade Agbese is the Director, Centre for Good Governance Peace and Media Advocacy.