…How He Earned His Place in Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Train

Alhaji Abba Bello was first appointed Managing Director of Nigerian Export-Import (NEXIM) Bank by former President Muhammadu Buhari in 2017 for an initial five-year term. He was reappointed in April, 2022. His retention by President Bola Tinubu is an obvious reward for his hard work, diligence, commitment, transparency, accountability and the major reforms he implemented which have returned the organization to profitability.

During Bello’s first five years, the management he led recorded very significant increases in the operating profit of the bank and significantly reduced its non-performing loans.

The operating loss of N8.030 billion inherited by the current management was reversed to N3.825 billion profit in 2021.

There was a reduction in non-performing loans from 94 per cent in 2017 to 29 per cent as at December, 2021,as well as an increase in the total assets of the bank by approximately N136.132 billion or about 222 per cent from inception of the Bello management in 2017 to 31st December, 2021.

The liquidity position of the bank was enhanced through additional funding totalling N103.755 billion from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), N3.936 billion from Federal Ministry of Finance, US$50 million from the Nigerian Content Development Management Board (NCDMB) and US$25 million from the African Export-Import Bank.

Under Bello’s management, NEXIM also recorded high growth in loan recoveries from N40.780 million in 2016, preceding the current management, to an annual average recovery of N1.243billion between 2017 and 2020 and a total collection of N11.903 billion for the five years.

The bank disbursed a total sum of N144 billion in loans to export-oriented entities in the non-oil sector while accounting for approximately US$375 million as export proceeds within the period under review.

Following these improvements in performance indices, NEXIM bank was ranked among the best three Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and best five public institutions surveyed based on the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) Anti-corruption Assessment Criteria.”

Apart from the improvements in performance, NEXIM under Bello’s management has been innovating for its future and that of the market it serves. One of such innovations is the recent launching of a digital hub, Cocoa Connect Africa, in its bid to boost cocoa production in the country. The bank said it was being driven by a renewed thinking that would achieve the Renewed Hope target of $1 trillion economy in line with the vision and mantra of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The Cocoa Connect Africa was built by NEXIM in collaboration with its long-term partner, Sapphital Limited, a leading digital company in Nigeria. Bello explained that the move was to bring the activities of stakeholders in the cocoa industry and the cocoa ecosystem under one platform. According to him: “It is about somebody who has products and meeting someone who is interested in the product. It is about connection and market information. We are putting all the stakeholders on the value chain for different commodities, but the one we launched today is for cocoa and we are also doing the same for cashew.”

“We are also doing so for Shea. The idea is to have a cluster because today everything is done digitally, why should our trade be lagging behind. We must create a platform for every stakeholder to log in to purchase what they want digitally from their comfort zones.”

He said the platform could be used to educate farmers and regulators as well as pass information on latest developments.

Other milestones recorded by NEXIM Bank under Bello was the giving of N100 billion credit support to Cocoa exporters with over N100 billion with all facilities performing, and the creation of over 7000 direct and 70,000 indirect jobs for Nigerians.

Abba Bello has over 30 years’ experience in banking, where he has held senior management positions in corporate banking, regional and commercial banking, and public sector banking in more than a decade. Abba also had a brief stint in auditing.

Until his appointment as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Export-Import Bank in April 2017, he was Executive Director, Unity Bank Plc, in charge of Corporate Banking, Agriculture and North Directorate.

Abba has cognate experience in international banking. He was the pioneer Managing Director/CEO of United Bank for Africa Plc’s subsidiaries in the Republic of Chad and Zambia for several years.

Abba has attended several courses in Nigeria and abroad in leadership, advanced management, and executive management. He is a member of Chartered Institute of Bankers Nigeria, a Fellow, Institute of Credit Administration, and a member of the Institute of Directors. He is an Alumnus of the Advanced Management Programme of the Havard Business School, USA.