Aishah Ahmad had hardly been nominated deputy-governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) when controversy broke out over her qualification for the job.
In an anonymous post that went viral on social media, it was alleged that her promotion to the position of executive director at Diamond Bank Plc was rushed a few hours to the announcement of her name as the nominee to replace Sarah Alade, who retired from the bank as deputy-governor (economic policy) in March 2017.
The message read: “We have a new Deputy CBN Governor by name Aishah Ahmad. An erstwhile DGM (Deputy General Manager) she was appointed an ED (Executive Director) in Diamond Bank Wednesday evening and before the staff got home same Wednesday, they learnt of her appointment as CBN Deputy Governor. CBN typically accepts only Executive Directors for that position.”
CLAIM NO. 1: CBN accepts only Executive Directors for that position
According to those who oppose her appointment, the position of deputy-governor is typically filled by only “executive directors”. They further argued that she was promoted ED overnight at Diamond Bank Plc in order for her to meet this requirement. And because she is just 40, it is also argued by some commentators that she is too young for the job.
TheCable did not find any precedence or legal provision that supports the claim that only EDs are considered for the position Ahmad has been nominated for.
Section 8 (1) of the CBN Act 2007 states only one qualification. It says the governor and deputy-governors “shall be persons of recognised financial experience”. No other qualification is stated. No minimum age is stipulated.
TheCable discovered that Suleiman Barau, currently deputy-governor (corporate services), was not an ED before his appointment in 2007. His highest banking position was general manager (treasury, financial institutions and private bank) at the now defunct FSB International Bank Plc. He was appointed deputy-governor on December 13, 2007.
Another serving deputy-governor, Okwu Joseph Nnanna, joined the CBN in 1994 as an adviser to the governor before holding other positions, including director of research and statistics. He was appointed deputy-governor (financial system stability) on February 3, 2015.
Kingsley Moghalu, who was deputy-governor (financial system stability) from 2009 to 2014, did not work in any bank, much less attain the position of ED. He obtained the LLB (Honours) degree in law at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1986. He did his PhD in international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
Moghalu worked at the United Nations and later World Health Organisation in different capacities before setting up Sogato Strategies S.A. (Societe Anonyme), a strategy and risk consultancy, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Chukwuma Soludo, a professor of economics, was appointed governor — the highest position at the bank — in 2004 without having worked in any bank. He was a university lecturer.
CLAIM NO. 2: She was promoted same day as her CBN nomination
Another controversy is that Ahmad was hurriedly promoted executive director, retail banking, at Diamond Bank Plc in order to make her qualify for the CBN job. However, since being an ED is not a prerequisite, the timing of her promotion could be considered immaterial.
Nevertheless, when was she promoted ED? When was she nominated for the CBN job?
TheCable understands that the memo nominating her for deputy-governorship was sent to President Muhammadu Buhari on February 20, 2017 with Alade set to retire after spending 25 years at CBN. The memo remained untreated as the president battled with health problems for months.
Meanwhile, in Ahmad’s CV, she said she was promoted ED at Diamond Bank in May 2017 — three months after her name was sent to the president for the CBN vacancy. The Diamond board reportedly only confirmed her elevation on the eve of the announcement of her nomination by the president.
The curious case of her promotion might not have been helped by the fact that she was a deputy general manager previously, meaning she skipped being general manager. Although in the private sector double promotions are not unusual, the circumstances surrounding her case would raise suspicion that it was meant to beef up her resume.
To her credit, though, she has over 20 years experience in the banking experience, even more than her MD at Diamond, Uzoma Dozie. According to her resume, she has worked at local and global institutions, including NAL Bank Plc, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc (a member of Standard Bank Group) and Zenith Bank Plc.
She was responsible for the consumer banking division at Diamond Bank Plc comprising consumer banking group, privilege banking group, retail assets group and bancassurance. She was accountable for a customer base of over seven million.
There is no legal basis or precedence to vitiate her nomination as CBN deputy-governor on the ground of having not been an executive director in a bank, neither is there any proof that her elevation to the position of ED fell on the same day as her nomination. If anything, the promotion could only boost her CV rather than make her qualify for the CBN job. For someone with a 20-year banking experience, she evidently has more experience in the financial sector than many previous CBN deputy-governors.