Obinna Chima

Following the arrest of its Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (MD/CEO), Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Fidelity Bank Plc monday announced the appointment of its Executive Director North, Alhaji Mohammed Lawal Balarabe, as its acting MD/CEO.

The appointment was announced after a board meeting which ended last night.

A two-paragraph statement at the end of the meeting said Balarabe’s appointment, which took effect last night, was subject to regulatory approval even as the bank assured its stakeholders of continued seamless services.

“In the absence of the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, the Board of Directors has appointed Alhaji Mohammed Lawal Balarabe, Executive Director North as Acting Managing Director/Chief Executive of Fidelity Bank Plc with immediate effect subject to regulatory approval,” it said, adding: “The bank reassures all its stakeholders including over 400,000 shareholders and 3.4 million customers of its continued seamless services.”

The EFCC had arrested Fidelity Bank’s MD/CEO for allegedly receiving $115 million in lodgements from the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and disbursed the funds to politicians in the build-up to the 2015 presidential election that was lost by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The bank in a statement last Thursday had explained that the transaction was reported to the regulator and that it was cooperating with the EFCC in its investigations.

Balarabe holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accountancy and Finance from Nottingham Trent University, UK, as well as an MSc in Finance from the University of Lagos.

A dealing member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) since 1992, he was an Executive Director with the former Oceanic Bank Plc. He was also a General Manager in United Bank for Africa (UBA) and had been the General Manager and Chief Executive of Newdevco Finance Services Company Limited.

He has over 24 years banking experience across business portfolios in banking.

He was appointed to the Board of Fidelity Bank Plc in April, 2012.

According to the audited 2015 full year results of the bank, its gross earnings grew from N136.9 billion in 2014 to N146.9 billion in 2015. Profit before tax (PBT) declined by 9.6 per cent to N14.0 billion from N15.5 billion in 2014, while profit after tax (PAT) settled at N13.9 billion compared with N13.8 billion the previous year.

The directors, therefore, recommended a dividend of N4.6 billion, thus maintaining a tradition of consistent dividend pay-out for the past six years.

Total equity increased by 6.0 per cent to N183.5 billion from N173.1 billion in 2014 full year, net operating income stood at N83.9 billion, a moderate 12.5 per cent rise from N74.6 billion in 2014 full year, growing the major income lines across the quarters.

Assessing the performance of the bank, analysts at Renaissance Capital said Fidelity’s numbers had shown significant resilience versus its tier two peers, most of which had announced profit warnings for 2015.