Rumble in the NDIC

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The recent nomination of Diana Okonta as a non-Executive Director at the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation amidst suspicion that the outgoing Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Umaru Ibrahim, was plotting a comeback after 31 years in service, is breeding intense resentment in the agency, writes Shola Oyeyipo

If there is any allegation of leadership indiscretion that the current government of President Muhammadu Buhari is still unable to explain away, it is the intentional lopsidedness in the choice of appointments at various levels.

While groups such as the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN); the umbrella body for the Ibo, Ohaneze Indigbo, pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) and a host of others had ceaselessly lamented the insensitivity of the Buhari leadership to the federal character principles, many concerned individuals also aired their views on the matter.

One of such persons was an Abuja-based lawyer, Dim-Udebuani Marcel, who as far back as 2015, accused President Buhari of favouring a section of the country against others in the appointments he made back then.

But even as this trend has not abated, there is a swirling discontent in the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), an independent agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) set up to protect depositors and guarantee the settlement of insured funds, when a deposit-taking financial institution can no longer repay their deposits, thereby helping to maintain financial system stability.

Sources in and outside the agency are hinting at a scheme by the outgoing Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the NDIC, Umaru Ibrahim, to perpetrate himself in the affairs of the agency.

The point being made is that despite the fact that the Karaye, Kano State born Ibrahim is due for retirement later this year (2020), he is already advancing his ambition to return to the NDIC Board after spending over 31 years in the Corporation.

“He has been busy hobnobbing from one government office to the other to perfect his plans to mutate in the organisation and he discusses it at will, boasting about his ‘connections,” the source said.

There is no doubting the fact that Ibrahim, who holds a Bachelor’s degree (1974) and Master in Public Administration (1977) from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, worked in the Kano State public service for 10 years, rose to the position of Permanent Secretary and joined NDIC in 1989 as a Deputy Director in charge of Finance and Technical Supports, possesses the requisite qualification, but the concern is that the agency is fast becoming his fiefdom and he, an institution.

When he joined the NDIC in May 1989 as a Deputy Director and a Departmental Head in charge of Financial and Technical Support, which was one of the key operational departments of the corporation then, he rose to the position of a full Director in charge of the Administration Department of the Corporation in 1991. Between 1992 and 2007, he headed several other departments amongst which were the Human Resource and Corporate Development Departments.

Between September 1995 and September 1996, he was appointed Executive Director (Finance and Administration) in the defunct First African Trust Bank and in August 2007, and later appointed as the Executive Director of the Corporation in charge of Corporate Services, where his responsibilities included General Administration, Human Resource Management, Information Technology and Finance functions.

In December 2009, he was appointed the Acting Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation following the expiration of the term of the erstwhile MD/CEO. He was appointed Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer on December 8, 2010.

Clearly, Ibrahim parades a well-off and enviable technical and management expertise obtained at courses attended in some prestigious institutions both at the national and international levels, chief among which were the ESSEC Graduate Business School, France; Templeton College of Oxford University, UK and International Centre for Banking and Financial Services, Manchester University.

Others were Royal Institute of Public Administration, London; International Institute for Management Development (IMD), Lausanne, Switzerland; INSEAD France, ROSS School of Business, University of Michigan USA, University of Cranfield UK and the highly prestigious National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies.

After completing his first five-year tenure, President Buhari, in January 2016, asked him to stay back and continue managing the corporation in acting capacity. He later asked the Senate to confirm the reappointment as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of NDIC in a letter to former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.

Saraki quoted the president as saying the reappointment of Mr. Ibrahim was in accordance with Section 5 Subsection 4 and Section 8 Subsection 3 of the NDIC Act.

But the suspicion that Ibrahim was up to something was aroused by the two persons nominated by President Buhari as NDIC non-Executive Directors recently, in persons of Diana Okonta and Ya’ana Yaro, who represent South-south and North-east geo-political zones of the country respectively.

The most curious nomination between the two, however, is that of Diana Okonta, who retired in December 2019 as Finance Director from the same Corporation.

THISDAY source hinted that, “We were reliably informed that she was allegedly nominated by the Managing Director, Umaru Ibrahim, to replace the slot from the South-south, owing to the vacancy created by the appointment of Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN) as the Minister of State for Labour and Productivity.”

To many in the agency, the employment of Okonta, who joined NDIC from Leventis as Manager, was fraught with irregularities, even from the onset. She was a Principal Manager at the Insurance Surveillance Department of NDIC as at 2009 and was curiously promoted three times over a period of five years against the usual practice of four years on each level, to become Director of Finance in 2012, over and above her superiors such as Mr. Ayoola Abiola, Mr. Abiodun Longe and Mr. Peter Ngadda.

There were some others she jumped over without any justification and these actions never went down well with the affected persons.

But without giving a hoot about whose ox was gored, Okonta served as Director of Finance for seven years and retired as recently as December 2019. Alas, less than six months after her retirement, she was nominated as Non-Executive Director to fill the slot of the South-South Geo-political zone. This is despite the fact that she had received her full benefits upon retirement.

During her active days in NDIC, the widespread perception was that Okonta is the Managing Director – Ibrahim’s ‘stooge’ and is allegedly planted to undermine the current board, which is widely perceived as prudent and business-focused.

Irrespective of whatever good intentions the duo of Ibrahim and Okonta may claim they have for NDIC, perpetuating themselves in the agency for a lifetime is an ominous sign.

Whatever has a beginning is sculpted ab initio to have an end too. This is why President Buhari, who though might have acted out of good intentions, must revisit the issues and conditions for posterity.