Power Play: CBN Names Former Banking Supervision Chief FBN Chairman
Following the seemingly renewed power game and the struggle for the soul of Nigeria’s oldest surviving financial institution, FBN Holdings Plc, the board at the weekend announced the resignation Remi Babolala, as a non-executive director, and the appointment of Alhaji Ahmad Abdullahi as a replacement.
Abdullahi, an economist, with experience in academia, banking supervision, and financial regulation, retired as Director of Banking Supervision at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in February 2020, according to a notice to the Nigerian Exchange Limited, by Seye Kosoko, company secretary, FBN Holdings. Abdullahi is also on the board of the African Finance Corporation, FMDQ, and the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
An earlier statement by Osita Nwanisobi, Director, Corporate Communications at the CBN, while announcing the appointment late Friday, December 17, 2021, said the apex bank had been duly notified of the resignation of Babalola, as Chairman of the group against the backdrop of the contest by some significant shareholders for control.
Recall that there has been claims and counterclaims as to who is the largest single shareholder of the FBN Holdings, involving Femi Otedola, chairman of Geregu Power Group, as well as Oye Hassan-Odukale and his Leadway Assurance/Pension Group, a situation that was recently resolved by the Securities & Exchange Commission in favour of Otedola. Otedola, who was confirmed as having a 7.5% stake in FBN Holding, last week increased his shareholding with the acquisition of 200 million units.
A newspaper reported him, on Thursday, December 16, 2021, as saying he neither has an interest in holding any board position in FBN Holdings, nor any of its subsidiaries nor becoming chairman of the group, describing himself simply as “an investor who saw an opportunity in the financial institution and decided to take advantage of it through the investment I have made. My interest, contrary to speculations is not to become chairman of the bank or its Holdco. Moreover, I am in semi-retirement.”
For him, moreover, “being the single largest shareholder doesn’t mean I must necessarily hold a position in the bank. I believe in allowing competent people run institutions in a professional manner and to the benefit of all the stakeholders.”
While congratulating Alhaji Abdullahi on his appointment, the CBN described Babalola’s resignation as regrettable, especially given the fact that CBN’s regulatory interventions had made a positive impact and increased the attractiveness of the company to both local and foreign investors.
Notwithstanding the recent development, he said the CBN acknowledged the measured achievements recorded by the company under Babalola’s watch, and thanked him for his service, even as the CBN wished him well in his future endeavours.
According to Nwanisobi, the regulatory measures taken by the CBN in FBN Holdings Plc were yielding the expected results in terms of an overhaul of corporate governance practices, restoration of confidence in the bank’s brand, increased transparency and due process in transactions as well as improved financial performance.
In line with its statutory mandate, the CBN spokesman said the CBN remained committed to ensuring transparent governance practices at the bank and the continued independence of the chairman and other persons holding key governance positions.
It will be recalled that given the systemic importance of First Bank owing to its historical significance, balance sheet size, large customer base and high level of interconnectedness with other financial service providers, the CBN in April 2021 took decisive regulatory action to address corporate governance infractions at the bank leading to the removal of the board of First Bank Ltd and FBN Holdco Plc and appointment of a new board.