BY Enyo Ati
Mr Tunde Lemo is doubtlessly one of the Nigeria’s top management and boardroom gurus. He started his career in Arthur Andersen & Co Chartered Accountants in 1985 and over the years, he held various other positions in finance and control, provided significant leadership and top management training both in the public and private sectors. He was the managing director of Wema Bank plc prior to his appointment as the deputy governor in charge of operations, Central Bank of Nigeria from 2003 to 2014; he was also deputy governor, Financial Systems Surveillance. He is a Fellow of the institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria as well as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers. He was awarded with the prestigious national honour of the Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR), in November, 2011.
Lemo was appointed to the board as an independent non-executive director on 1st December 2014. “As deputy governor, I handled two major directorates. My first six years, I was a regulator and there were two major events during that time,” he recounts. These events happened to be the banking sector consolidation of 2004 and the major investigation into banking corporate governance flaws.
He narrates the second event that happened under his watch as Deputy Governor in the Financial Sector Surveillance directorate. “During Lamido Sanusi’s tenure as CBN governor, we had to carry out an examination on the banks and about nine to 10 of them failed the test. We then had to remove many of their CEOs because there were investigations as to why they failed and we realised that there were significant corporate governance flaws. Some of them actually stole money from the banks. They were into many unethical practices and that made many of the banks to be non-functional.
“However, I am glad that today, the banks are very strong, well capitalised and are more visible in the lending space, particularly in the upstream energy sector. You can also see them in telecoms and other areas. From the financial sector surveillance directorate, I was moved to Operations and that presented many opportunities that gladden my heart.”
He also recounts how financial exclusion of the Nigerian population reduced to less than 30 percent. “At that time, only a few of the banks were computerised. The digital space was not as active as it is now, so we thought of a way that we could get the banks to offer services in a manner that would be cost effective. One of the reasons they lent money in a reckless way was because their cost of operations was very high and they needed high interest rates to be able to maintain their level of operation. We realised that to make the banks more efficient, they had to reduce their costs of operation. We had to get them to embrace technology and go cashless. That was what led to the cashless exercise we did. It led to the restructuring of the bank system and the revolution you see around now in terms of electronic banking.”