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EXPOSING BALA BELLO. THE PUPPETEER BEHIND THE STAFF CHAOS AT THE CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA

 



In recent days, the CBN is again in the news for the chaotic events surrounding the mass transfer of staff to various outstations and more recently for the sacking of some of its elite staff under a so-called restructuring exercise.

Again, *the Governor, Olayemi Cardoso is at the centre of the storm, but little has been said about the man behind the chaos – Bala Bello, Deputy Governor – Corporate Services.*


Bala’s meteoric rise from a mediocre career background to becoming a deputy to the CBN Governor is a modern Machiavellian narrative on how the corridors of powers in Nigeria’s highest institutions can be easily accessed by corporate bandits using their political connections.


*In January 2003, the then CBN Governor, Chief Joseph Sanusi conducted a recruitment exercise to bring into the Bank, the very best graduate officers to power the strategic transformation of the Central Bank of Nigeria.*


*The project EAGLES initiative was the starting point from which the CBN would emerge as Nigeria’s premier public institution.*


*That January, a total of 40,000 candidates were shortlisted to write the aptitude tests for various vacancies at the CBN. Joseph Sanusi ensured that the recruitment exercise was conducted with the highest possible level of integrity. He refused to allow the political elite impose candidates on him resulting in the hiring of the top 400 (1%) of the shortlisted candidates.*


The sons and daughters of nobodies became employees of Nigeria’s elite public institution.


This cohort would become the driving force for implementing change at the CBN. Bala Bello also participated in the 2003 recruitment exercise; however, he fell out of the race having failed to make the cutoff mark after the first aptitude test was conducted. Surprisingly, twenty years later, Bala Bello was appointed Deputy Governor at the same Bank.


*How Bala’s career progression surpassed that of his intellectual superiors is in every sense the story of how political hustlers take control of public institutions and end up in positions of power far beyond their capacities. The highest ranking members of the 2003 cohort had only attained the cadre of deputy directors.*


In less than a year of being Deputy Governor, Bala has taken the desecration of the CBN to new lows. Following Joseph Sanusi’s tenure, the CBN has had four Governors: Charles Soludo, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Godwin Emefiele and Olayemi Cardoso.


Professor Soludo continued the new culture of meritorious recruitment and brought in another generation of high achieving graduate officers. Vacancies for available positions were publicised in national newspapers, shortlists were made considering academic qualifications and federal character, aptitude tests and interviews were conducted objectively. This resulted in the employment of Nigerian citizens who had no godfathers into Nigeria’s apex bank.


*The coming of Sanusi Lamido changed the culture of meritorious recruitment. Sanusi Lamido stopped the open and transparent recruitment culture and brought in friends and family. He hired people into various cadres of the Bank and particularly brought in a large cohort of Directors and Deputy directors that would subsequently take over the leadership of the CBN. This was a turning point in the Bank’s strategic direction.*


Godwin Emefiele also continued this trend of nepotism. The floodgates of recruitment at the CBN were made wide open to all. The Bank hired staff weekly, however Emefiele’s recruitment differed from Sanusi Lamido’s as Emefiele mostly brought in staff to fill lower graduate officer positions. Hence it can be observed the decadence in the top leadership positions were largely because of Lamido Sanusi’s mismanagement.


*Olayemi Cardoso resumed office to face these staffing nightmares. As Emefiele’s leadership had become synonymous with high-handedness and political misadventures, the mess needed to be cleared, however a General is only as good as his lieutenants.*


*Instead of a mature and experienced deputy to oversee these critical staff issues, Cardoso was given Bala Bello. An inexperienced, anger prone, tribalist with suspected psychotic tendencies.*


*Bala Bello as Deputy Governor, Corporate Services gave him responsibility over Human Resources, Procurement Services, Finance, Security Services, Legal Services, Capacity Development and Corporate Communications.*


This wide portfolio would be entrusted to an unqualified individual whose actions have thrown the CBN into another shameful public maelstrom.


To understand the present chaos at the CBN and how it can be attributed to Bala Bello, we need to investigate his antecedents at the Nigeria Export Import Bank (NEXIM) where he served similarly as the Executive Director, Corporate Services.


*Prior to joining NEXIM, Bala was unemployed for four years. His previous employer Sigma Pensions had let him go, for reasons that have been rumoured to be related to his alleged involvement in fraudulent activities.*


*How Bala Bello ended up being nominated by the past administration to becoming an Executive Director at NEXIM is a testimony to how profitable political hustling can be in Nigeria.*


Bala’s reign at NEXIM is like his current reign at the CBN. In one word, it was chaos!


He oversaw the dismissal of several staff members without due process (this ensured that he instilled a culture of fear at NEXIM), He hijacked the medical services and handed it to a ‘friendly’ HMO, he only worked with acting directors (this ensured that his direct reports were lackeys whom could not challenge his decisions),


He allegedly awarded service contracts to related entities and successfully subverted his then Boss, the Director General of NEXIM.


At the CBN, Bala has replicated the same formula that he successfully implemented at the CBN. This has been done in the following ways.


1. On resumption at the CBN, he cancelled the registration of all accredited contractors even though they were yet to come to the end of their two-year tenure. He then registered a new set of contracting firms. These new entities included registered enterprises and ventures rather than solely limited liability companies as stated in the CBN’s procurement policies.


2. He has awarded contracts beyond his approval limits.


3. He transferred staff away from the procurement services at the head office to various outstations and replaced them with lackeys that do his bidding. The Department has been stripped of virtually all senior southerners and northern Christians.


4. He has terminated the appointment of Directors and other executive cadre staff without board approval as stipulated in the CBN act.


5. He has terminated the appointment of other staff cadres without due process. The so-called restructuring exercise at the CBN has been conducted without any legal remit from the CBN Board, without any terms of reference and stated objectives and set criteria.


6. The terminated CBN staff have been majorly southerners (Christian and Muslims) and northern Christians. These form over 90% of those affected.


7. Contrary to the Bank’s policy on the non-permission of employment of siblings, Bala’s biological brother is also in the employment of the CBN and remains untouched by the transfers and appointment terminations.


8. Since his appointment, no Directors have been appointed. He has kept all vacant departments under the leadership of acting directors, who are afraid to displease him out of fear of not being appointed as full directors or fear of sacking.


9. He has overpowered his principal (Cardoso) likely using blackmail tactics. This was allegedly achieved by getting his principal to approve policy changes and renumeration increases without due processes such as board approvals.


10. The appointment terminations have particularly targeted the highflyers recruited by Chief Joseph Sanusi. Bala has come to haunt his intellectual superiors and ensure that he has no opposition from any CBN staff. The last has made himself first. He has put himself in the position of determining the future leadership of Nigeria’s apex bank.


From all indications, the travails of the CBN will likely continue to the near future.


The Bank’s strategic direction has been abandoned, its culture of ethics and professionalism have been trounced and replaced with a culture of fear and indifference. Staff no longer see themselves as stakeholders in the Bank, like sheep without a shepherd. This loss of faith in the CBN by its staff is like what has happened across commercial banks in Nigeria where their staff abandoned loyalty to their employers. This is the chief reason behind the high incidence of fraud in Nigerian banks. The CBN cannot afford to have the same culture of disloyalty.


Olayemi Cardoso must take the bull by the horns and drag the CBN from the mud of mediocrity that Bala Bello has dunked it in.


Cardoso must decide what his legacy will be, whether he will continue to be dribbled by this young rascal or whether he will chart the part of humble service and return to the meritocratic roots planted by Chief Joseph Sanusi.


 


Cardoso must revisit every single staff termination decision and verify if such decisions were made in good faith or were an act of malice. He must seek reconciliation over recrimination.


 


The CBN will soon be plagued with a barrage of court cases as affected staff will seek redress in the halls of justice and possibly in mud slinging halls of social media. The investigations by both arms of the National Assembly is just the start.


 


The CBN, President Bola Tinubu and Nigeria do not need another round of international embarrassment. It would be wise for Cardoso to pursue the healing of the Central Bank of Nigeria.


*Will Cardoso be the healer, or will he be the cancer?*


Time will tell.


We are all watching.


 


31.05.2024


 


A concerned CBN staff


SOURCE

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