The Chairman of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Tony Elumelu, says the decision by the former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido, to remove him as Managing Director of the bank in 2010 at the age of 47 came as a big surprise.
Elumelu, who is also the President of Heirs Holding Ltd, said the removal which was necessitated by his 10 years stint as Managing Director of UBA was almost challenged in court.
He made this known in an interview with Thisday, saying the removal later became a blessing in disguise.
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His words: ” On that day, we had a Bankers’ Committee meeting and at the end of the meeting, the then CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, said the CEOs who had done 10 years will step aside.
“I immediately called the Chairman of UBA to explain what happened, and the next day, we conveyed an emergency board meeting. At the board meeting, it was a divided household for the first time: some directors said no, we have to go to court to contest it, and about one or two other directors did not think so.
“But I spoke and I told the board members that there are five critical stakeholders: the customers of UBA, will they like to know that we took our regulator to court? No! Then the staff of UBA, will they be comfortable working in a bank that took their regulator to court? No; then the shareholders, and then the regulator wouldn’t like it.
“So, four constituents will not like us going to court, there is only one constituent that may like it and that’s Tony Elumelu, which makes it one over five, that’s 20 percent which is certainly not enough to go to court. And by the way, 10 years is not bad.
” Also, I had been planning to move on and leave at the age of 50; so what happened kind of fast-tracked this. It was also why within 24 hours, we appointed a successor. The pipeline for succession at UBA is always there, about 1-5 people are always there to step in. Looking back today, we’ve come a long way, and it’s always been about impacting humanity, improving lives and transforming everything we do.
“In business, we are known as turnaround experts, we take businesses and transform them. In philanthropy, we are also catalysing the creation of a new crop of African leaders. It’s all about transforming our society and making sure we leave the society better than we met it. For me, that opportunity to start all these three years ahead of the planned time, is a blessing.”
Speaking on the challenges in electricity supply in the country, the Delta State-born business mogul, who has invested heavily in the power sector, said more need to be done especially in the area of transmission to reposition the sector.
“In the power sector, there are three parts to it: the generation, the transmission and the distribution. Transcorp, through Transcorp Power and Trans-Afam Power as at today in Nigeria, we own the highest generating capacity in the country. We have a generating capacity of about 2,000 Megawatts (MW) of electricity a day, but unfortunately we do less than 500 MW at this point in time. A major constraint in this area is gas, then there is the issue of transmission and evacuation of the generated electricity, and there is also the issue of payment.
“For us to be able to generate more, we need to have gas, and this is why our Group invested in oil and gas. Investing in oil and gas as a Group isn’t necessarily because of oil, it is more because of gas. We want to be able to ensure that we have gas from our oil and gas production to convert it to electricity.
“With the acquisition we did recently, I’m happy to say it is already supplying gas to our Trans-Afam power plant, but we also need to make sure we stabilise our transmission lines. This country needs at least 100,000 MW of electricity a day to power the economy, but today we operate less than 5,000.We need to do more.
” Some other critical parts are payments, distribution, and metering. I must commend the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, he has done very well because he came in to help increase revenue in that space. Up until end of last year, we used to get less than 20 per cent payment for power supplied, but today, it’s improved to 50 per cent.
“Transcorp Power alone is owed over N100 billion, but it’s gradually improving. For the power sector in Nigeria to work well – if we want to drive this economy – we need to increase generation, make sure we address gas, supply to generating companies, we need to make sure the transmission lines are capacitised to evacuate the power, we need to also make sure that power generated is taken by DisCos and the metering should be right for the end users to pay. If I generate electricity, I should be able to get money so that I can service my obligations as well as make sure that the spares in particular are serviced to ensure the generating plants keep running.”