It was Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, who once said: “As empty vessels make the loudest sound, so they that have the least wit are the greatest blabbers.” It is not surprising, therefore, that in Nigeria where the dictum resonates, Dr. Hamza Sule Wuro Bokki is not a household name because he is simply not given to blowing his own trumpet. He does not blab!
But to borrow a cliché, his name should ring a bell considering that Nigeria is in dire need of technocrats who can pull its economic chestnuts out of the fire. And he belongs to that technocratic pantheon.
Dr. Bokki is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of NPF Pensions Limited, a position he has held in the last ten years, but which he will vacate on February 28, 2024, having successfully completed his tour of duty.
To fully appreciate his essence is to take a look at the meteoric rise of NPF Pensions, a mono-clientele Pensions Fund Administrator.
When the PFA was incorporated on October 21, 2013 with the exclusive responsibility for the pension assets of all police personnel, not many people in the industry gave it a chance.
But the doubting Thomases never reckoned with the financial wizardry and managerial excellence of Dr. Bokki, a man with decades of experience in investment banking, corporate governance and human resource management, who was recruited by PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited (PwC) as the pioneer Managing Director.
As he steps out in February, many in the industry are still wondering how he was able to take the NPF Pensions, a company which not only started on a negative financial position and zero assets under management (AUM), invested the first tranche of its Retirement Savings Account (RSA) funds in January 2015, thus assuming the 22nd and last position in the industry but also encountered serious opposition from other operators who resisted their efforts to get police personnel transferred to them, to the top of the pile.
The reasons for the bewilderment are legion. From ground zero, Dr. Bokki is leaving behind the fastest growing PFA in the country with over N1 trillion AUM, the fourth to achieve the landmark feat, despite its limitations as a mono-clientele PFA. Despite the skepticism that greeted its debut, the PFA is today the most thriving police investment entity.
Dr. Bokki is leaving behind a company that is now the industry leader in investment returns across all four funds for two consecutive years (2022 and 2023) – the first and only PFA to achieve such implausible feat; the first operator in the country to build its own head office; the first PFA to establish an annual N500 million Retiree Resettlement Support Fund as corporate social responsibility (CSR); the only PFA operating from 66 branches, thus bringing its services to the door step of every policeman; paid dividends to shareholders consistently since the second year of operations; and remains one of the most compliant PFAs in terms of adherence to all industry rules and regulations.
Though not a policeman himself, as NPF Pensions boss, Dr. Bokki became one of the most impactful police advocates, championing causes that will make the retirement life of police officers worth living. By ensuring that all its processes are automated with state-of-the-art ICT complements, NPF Pensions has in the last decade offered its customers seamless services form every location in the country, thus making it the most customer-centric PFA.
But the unassuming, self-effacing and gracious person that he is, Dr. Bokki will always insist that the achievements of NPF Pensions under his watch belong to a “dedicated and experienced team of professionals.”
“Having assembled a very strong team, we hit the ground running. We have one of the best management teams in the industry and a diverse and very experienced board of directors,” he always insisted. His humility is exceptional.
But what he will not readily admit is the fact that he personally recruited most of these high-flying staff. In a country where chief executives are mostly comfortable with underperformers, who they reason will not threaten their high perch, Dr. Bokki is remarkably different. Blind to the primordial cleavages of ethnicity and religion, he has the uncanny ability not only to attract top-notch staff but also retain them. Most of those he started off with at the NPF Pensions are still there even as he takes a bow having completed the statutory two terms.
It is a testament to his longevity and impact that Dr. Bokki is the longest serving CEO in the pension industry and the only one to establish two PFAs successfully. Just as he has done with the NPF Pensions, he set up the Apt Pension Funds Managers Ltd, a company he nursed to profitability in four years as against the five years projected by the National Pension Commission (PenCom). Under his watch, Apt Pensions attained status of the best PFA in profitability to RSA holders.
But long before he came to the pensions industry, Dr. Bokki had garnered a solid reputation as a man with the Midas touch in the public sector when he served as Gombe State Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Managing Director of Gombe State Investment and Property Development Company Limited, Gombe Local Government Supervisory Councillor for Works and later Education, and Vice Chairman and Councillor Primary Healthcare Caretaker Committee, Yalmatu Deba Local Government.
At the Gombe State Investment and Property Development Company Limited, Dr. Bokki not only successfully constructed 280 units of three and two bedroom flats at Abubakar Hashidu Housing Estate funded by Shelter-Afrique, a project which was adjudged the most successful public sector project in Nigeria at the time, but also steered the financial position of Gombe State Investment and Property Development Company Limited from a loss of N4 million in 2000 to a profit of N200 million in 2002.
He is also credited with the successful implementation of the GMSG/BoI N1 billion matching fund for Enterprise Development Fund which created over 13,000 jobs in two years and Gombe was adjudged number one in the country on the management of the fund at the time.
But none of these achievements will surprise anyone who knows Dr. Bokki well, a first class scholar and one of the most educated public officers that Nigeria can boast of today.
An alumnus of London Business School, Harvard Business School (Boston, USA), INSEAD School of Business (Fontainebleau, France), Northwestern Kellogg school of Management (Chicago, USA), and Asian Institute of Technology (Thailand), Hamza Bokki bagged a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration (First Class, best graduating student in class and department) from the University of Maiduguri in 1990; Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from the same university and Ph.D. Public Administration and Policy Analysis from the University of Abuja in 2010.
So, what next for Hamza Bokki after the roaring success at the NPF Pensions? Well, he has been drafted to the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc. (NGX Group) as a Non-Executive Director.
In a sense, therefore, the loss of the NPF pensioners is now the huge gain of the larger Nigerian stockholding family.
While Nigerian police officers – serving and retired – remain grateful to the man who made their post-retirement life less burdensome, not a few contend that Nigeria, a country plumbing the depths of economic woes, may well do with the services of Dr. Hamza Bokki, an ethical, prudent and integrity-conscious technocrat, a strong business development professional skilled in negotiation, business start-up, planning, analytical skills, capital markets, board administration, and business transformation, in higher public offices.
But whatever the government decides to do with Dr. Hamza Bokki going forward, one thing is assured – as one of the most experienced pension administrators in Nigeria and the longest serving CEO in the industry who started and nurtured two PFAs successfully, and considering the bulwark role the pension industry plays in Nigeria’s faltering economic space, his name is already etched in stone.