My appeal to the federal government is that the issues raised by Ahmed Joda’s committee and the government’s white paper on the People’s Bank should be properly implemented.

The recommendations of the Ahmed Joda committee was that the People’s Bank should be restructured and rationalised in accordance to a revised mandate, to strengthen its professional managerial capability for the efficient delivery of services and better investment decisions. In particular, its credit disbursement and recovery department should be strengthened, with a more professional cadre of staff for the administration of effective programmes of loan recovery, to be made independent of government’s political and administrative interference, and to desist from and form of spending.

It was also recommended that the bank views poor artisans and small-scale entrepreneurs as its target group; that it becomes professional in its operations, such that it employs trained and qualified professional staff in its core activity; and that it operates according to well-established banking principles, subject to approved policy directives issued by the federal government from time to time. Also that it pays more attention to the provision of credits to small scale firms, micro-enterprises and cottage industries, leaving agriculture related micro-credit delivery to the Nigerian Agricultural and Cooperative Bank (NACB).

The committee was of the opinion that the People’s Bank should be responsible for loans disbursement to individuals, cooperative societies and enterprises of up to a maximum of N1 million, at an interest rate of not more than 75 per cent of the Minimum Rediscount Rate (MRR), provided that it does not exceed 15 per cent per annum. And that the bank receives substantial soft-loan funding from the federal government for a period of three to five years, graduated in descending order, after which it should be self-sustaining. This is to enable it gain financial independence, and cease to rely on government funding for its operations.

In addition, it was recommended that the People’s Bank should clean up its balance sheet, by carving out bad and irrecoverable loans, fictitious asset and liabilities, and unrecognised items. This was to ensure that it had a fresh start, with a relatively clean slate. It was also recommended that the bank should have a strong internal control systems, especially for auditing, which should report directly to its board, rather than to the chief executive. Equally, that the bank should be regarded as a core poverty alleviation agency and be funded accordingly and have equally strong systems of credit management, given the fact that the poor credit administration invariably leads to bad and irrecoverable loans. And finally that People’s Bank should have its statues reviewed to reflect its new mandate and focus.

The government white paper approved that the People’s Bank should have a board consisting of a chairman, a representative of the Economic Affairs Department of the Presidency, a representative of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, a representative of the Ministry of Finance, four other persons and the managing director of the Bank. It also approved that the People’s Bank should have eight Zonal Offices and 280 branch offices distributed all over the federation. More so, that the Bank’s organisational structure should comprise two executive directors and seven (7) departments: Finance, Administration and Personnel, Inspection, Banking Operations, Planning and Development, Credit Operations and Computer Services.

The government also approved that the People’s Bank should open a branch office in every local government area of the country, in which only qualified and professional staff should be retained/employed for its effective operations, and that the People’s Bank must ensure that only the services of qualified personnel are employed to work for the bank in project evaluation, monitoring, extension service and loans recovery, while ensuring that an effective loan monitoring and recovery machinery is put in place.

The Ahmed Joda panel also made the following recommendations with respect to the board composition and structure of the People’s Bank of Nigeria: An eleven-member board to be chaired an appointee of the president, with the following members: (a.) a representative of the Central Bank of Nigeria; (b.) the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance or his representative, who shall not be below the rank of a director; and (c.) four other persons to represent the public interest, one of who shall be a woman. Also, (d.) two executive directors; (e.) the managing director of the Bank. In addition, the Board would have a secretary/legal adviser, (ii.) an organisational structure consisting of a managing director, two executive directors and four General Managing; and (f.) six zonal officers according to the six geo-political zones.

At present, the People’s Bank has a total strength of 1,546 workers, comprising junior, senior and management staff, respectively. The ratio between operational and non-operational staff is in tune with the professional nature of the organisation.

My appeal to the federal government is that the issues raised by Ahmed Joda’s committee and the government’s white paper on the People’s Bank should be properly implemented.

Eric Teniola, a former director in the Presidency, writes from Lagos.