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Sterling Bank leverages Nigeria’s chaotic advantage

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Riding out the rapid and unpredictable change associated with the Nigerian market was the focus of senior business leaders led by Abubakar Suleiman, Chief Executive Officer, Sterling Bank Plc, during the second edition of the Sterling Leadership Series (SLS) held in Lagos, last weekend.

A coming together of captains of industry, the thought leadership session had Yaw Nsarkoh, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever Nigeria as guest speaker. Aptly themed “Nigeria: The Chaotic Advantage”, the session was moderated by Yemi Odubiyi, Executive Director, Corporate and Investment Banking, Sterling Plc.

In his welcome address, Suleiman said there is an urgent need for Nigeria to develop institutional role models for younger professionals to emulate in view of the dynamic environment in which they operate.

“When we embarked on this journey as a bank, there were hardly any institutional role models who managers could call upon when they needed to make business decisions. Consequently, we had to set uncommon goals for ourselves to successfully navigate the uncharted waters of the Nigerian economy.”

According to him, the management of Sterling Bank resolved early in the life of the bank to articulate the direction they wanted the bank to follow and took steps to ensure that people could understand and take the vision to the next level.

Speaking on the theme, Nsarkoh listed strategies that business leaders should adopt to deal with the challenges and opportunities of operating in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) environment.

Nsarkoh said the first thing business leaders should do in a VUCA environment is to face the reality of the environment and map out ways to deal with it. According to him, by facing the reality, they will be able to build resilient models that can cope with shocks and thrive in highly volatile circumstances.

He said companies should build organisations that are equipped to interpret the risks surrounding them. They should also design backup plans and possible changes in the short term such as having multiple vendors for a particular service. So, when shocks surface, they can easily move from one supplier to the other or spread their needs among several suppliers.

Nsarkoh said the economic cycle and evaluation criteria of what is right in a volatile business environment must be viewed through a long-term lens and planning cycles should be shorter because things could change every month or every quarter.

He said companies should review, change and review but evaluation of economic benefits must be done with a longer-term horizon in mind.

He explained that in any environment, volatile or not, there is always a cultural conversation within which brands must express themselves. He added that “in times of adversity, people develop a certain sense of humour about things such as poor infrastructure and their implication on services. So, brands seeking to serve people purposefully must immerse themselves in that environment and speak their language.”

Nsarkoh said business leaders must embrace and understand the context of the unpredictable times in which they live, the news culture of the people and the roles that their brands could play in day-to-day conversations within communities.

The CEO said business leaders must be curious and go out of their ways to seek best practices wherever they could find it, remarking that through this quest they will be able to demolish the pervading tendency of people to think they cannot aspire to world-class services and products in their environment.

He also enjoined business leaders to look out for people doing things better than them and benchmark or adopt a talent base that is vital to the survival and growth of the business, empower the frontline sales team and create a multi-stakeholder approach, among others.

Wrapping up the session, Yemi Odubiyi explained that the rate of change is outpacing the ability of economies, businesses, industries and people to adapt. He urged leaders both in the private and public space to adopt newer mental models based on agility, critical thinking, adaptable learning, responsiveness to change and people orientation as against dependence on intuition, belief and values for decision making.

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INVESTIGATION

Air Peace CEO, Allen Onyema risks jail over money laundering, bank fraud

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Air Peace CEO, Allen Onyema risks jail over money laundering, bank fraud

Allen Ifechukwu Athan Onyema, the Chairman, CEO, and founder of Air Peace, a Nigerian airline, has been charged with bank fraud and money laundering for moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes.

The Nigerian businessman was accused of moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through US bank accounts in a scheme involving “false documents” based on the purchase of airplanes.

Onyema was indicted alongside Ejiroghene Eghagha, the airline’s chief of administration and finance, who is said to have committed aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme.

In a statement issued by the district attorney’s office on Friday, Onyema and Eghagha were indicted on November 19, 2019, on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, three counts of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit credit application fraud, and three counts of credit application fraud.

“Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive while using falsified documents to commit fraud,” Byung J, US attorney for the northern district of Georgia, was quoted in the statement.

“We will diligently protect the integrity our banking system from being corrupted by criminals, even when they disguise themselves in a cloak of international business.”

Robert J. Murphy, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Atlanta field division, also said: “Allen Onyema’s status as a wealthy businessman turned out to be a fraud. He corrupted the U.S. banking system, but his trail of deceit and trickery came to a skidding halt.”

Robert Hammer, another special agent, accused Onyema of setting up “various innocent sounding multi-million dollar asset purchases which were nothing more than alleged fronts for his scam”.

Onyema was said to have started travelling frequently to Atlanta, where he opened several personal and business bank accounts. Between 2010 and 2018, over $44.9 million was allegedly transferred into his Atlanta-based accounts from foreign sources.

After he founded Air Peace in 2013, Onyema was said to have gone to the US to purchase aircraft and “over $3 million of the funds used to purchase the aircraft allegedly came from bank accounts for Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, International Center for Non-Violence and Peace Development, All-Time Peace Media Communications Limited, and Every Child Limited.

“Beginning in approximately May 2016, Onyema, together with Eghagha, allegedly used a series of export letters of credit to cause banks to transfer more than $20 million into Atlanta-based bank accounts controlled by Onyema.  The letters of credit were purportedly to fund the purchase of five separate Boeing 737 passenger planes by Air Peace. The letters were supported by documents such as purchase agreements, bills of sale, and appraisals proving that Air Peace was purchasing the aircraft from Springfield Aviation Company LLC, a business registered in Georgia.

“However, the supporting documents were fake — Springfield Aviation Company LLC, which is owned by Onyema and managed by a person with no connection to the aviation business, never owned the aircraft, and the company that allegedly drafted the appraisals did not exist.  Eghagha allegedly participated in this scheme as well, directing the Springfield Aviation manager to sign and send false documents to banks and even using the manager’s identity to further the fraud. After Onyema received the money in the United States, he allegedly laundered over $16 million of the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts.”

The statement, however, added that Onyema and Eghagha are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

In September, Onyema was hailed by many for evacuating Nigerians stranded in South Africa at no cost. The house of representatives had subsequently also recommend him for national award.

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Controversy trails emergence of Prof. Lilian Salami as UNIBEN new VC

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Professor Salami

The appointment of a substantive Vice Chancellor for University of Benin, UNIBEN is presently causing ripples at the institution as some concerned stakeholders have accused the management of allegedly working to impose an unpopular candidate on the school.

THE WITNESS reliably gathered that a Professor of Home Economics/Nutritional Education, Mrs. Lilian Imuetinyan Salami has emerged as the second female Vice Chancellor of the institution.

Her appointment came 28 years after Prof. (Mrs.) Alele William left as the first female Vice Chancellor of UNIBEN.

The Public Relations Officer of the University, Mr. Michael Osasuyi, confirmed the appointment in a statement on Friday in Benin.

She will take over from the outgoing Vice Chancellor, Prof. Faraday Osasere Orumwense, whose tenure ends in November.

Inside sources however revealed that the emergence of Professor Salami is a big shock, as she becomes the third person of Benin extraction in succession, to be named Vice Chancellor of the University.

Sources further disclosed that the new UNIBEN VC came second in the exam conducted for aspirants for the exalted position, after Prof. MacDonald Idu who scored the highest marks, while Prof. George Eriyamremu came third.

Professors​ Idu and Eremayanru are both from Delta State.

Born in Jos, Plateau State on August 8, 1956, Prof. Salami, (nee Emovon), hails from Benin.

Her early schooling started in Jos but was truncated by the Nigerian Civil War. She later completed her primary and secondary education in Edo State.

She obtained her West African School Certificate (O’ levels) from Baptist High School, Benin City.

She proceeded to the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point Campus, United States of America, in 1975. She had her summer schooling in the University of Minnesota, St. Paul. She later transferred to North Dakota State University, Fargo after she got married in 1977, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in 1979 in Home Economics and Master’s degree in Nutrition in 1982.

She returned to Nigeria in 1983 and enrolled to serve in the National Youth Service Corps in Benin City.

Upon completion of the national service, she made a brief start of her teaching career with the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University).

Between 1985 and 1994, she lectured Nutrition at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria.

This was interjected when she gained admission into University of Nigeria, Nsukka for a doctoral degree in Human Nutrition in 1989 which she obtained in 1991.

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OPS responsible for rising pension fund – PenCom

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The acting Director-General of the National Pension Commission, Aisha Dahir-Umar, says the total pension assets in Nigeria rose from N7.44tn in January to over N9tn as of March.

Dahir-Umar attributed the boost in the pension assets to the support of the organised private sector and labour.

The Pencom DG, who was represented by Salihu Bwala, made the disclosure on Thursday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, during the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association and Pencom interactive session on current developments and challenges in the implementation of the Pension Reform Act, 2014.

She said, “The pension industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the country with the support of the organised private sector and labour.

“The Contributory PensionScheme plan currently has over N9tr pension assets. This feat could not have been achieved without the support of the organised private sector.”

She explained that the commission had developed a software application that tackled the problem of multiple registrations and urged employers to encourage their employees to avail themselves to their respective pension administrators for data recapture and regularisation.

– Source: PUNCH

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