Afe Babalola, Okonkwo laud The Sun for awards

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Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank PLC, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo and  foremost legal luminary and founder, Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), Aare Afe Babalola, have commended The Sun for finding them worthy for awards.

Okonkwo is The Sun Banker of the Year for 2018, while Babalola won The Sun Education Entrepreneur of the Year also for 2018. They will receive their awards along 20 others this Friday, January 25, 2019 at the Convention Centre, Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Speaking in Lagos, when a delegation led by Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, The Sun Publishing Limited, Mr. Eric Osagie, visited them to notify them of their awards, Okonkwo and Babalola lauded The Sun for following the  activities of individuals, with the view to knowing those doing well.

Okonkwo, who dedicated his award to all stakeholders of Fidelity Bank, “for the trust and confidence they reposed in the management of the bank,” said without the support of the bank’s 4, 400 staff, its 4.2 million depositors in 240 branches across Nigeria, the board and shareholders who pooled over N200billon, he could not have won The Sun award.

He said: “Thank you for visiting us and for this recognition. I am actually very humbled to be so recognised  by the Board of Editors of The Sun. Awards like this make more meaning when you have no inclining about the proceedings used in arriving at the winners. I have attended a couple of awards in time past and I have no idea of how people are selected. So I did not know that one day I will be called upon like this for recognition.”

He expressed delight at the award, saying: “It is encouraging to know that as I am working in this place somebody is watching what we are doing. There is also this saying that media people are watchdogs; now I know what that saying means. It means that many people are watching what we are doing.

“I thank you  for this recognition. This bank is steered by a board of high caliber directors, including a past deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and a former Chief Executive of Guinness Nigeria PLC as well as others with reputable legal background. So without all these human resources I cannot imagine anyone recognising Nnamdi Okonkwo as Banker of the Year, 2018. The award is not for me as a person but for all these stakeholders.”

Earlier The Sun MD listed the criteria that qualified Okonkwo for the Banker of the Year award.

He said the Banker of the Year was bestowed annually on a bank chief executive whose efforts have ensured tremendous turn around in the sector and impacted on the economy positively.

He said: “It is on record that while some banks charge high interest rates on loans granted to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), Fidelity Bank under your watch, set aside N60billion in credit line for the sector and continues to grant loans at attractive rates with flexible repayment plan. 

“We recognise that for the past four years, Fidelity Bank has been growing in leaps and bounds as reflected in the bank’s Balance Sheet and income indicators, including deposits, loans, total assets, gross earnings and non-interest income.”

 He noted that prior to Okonkwo’s assumption of office, profit before tax in 2013 was N9.03 billion; gross earnings stood at N126.92 billion; total assets, N1. 081 trillion, while total customer deposits was put at N806.32 billion.  

“These have since changed as current year’s results show that the bank has recorded double-digit growth in key revenue lines, with gross profits rising to N13billion, while profit after tax grew by 31 per cent to N11.8 billion, from N9.03 billion in 2017.”

On his part, Babalola said the award of The Sun Education Entrepreneur of 2018 was an indication of the newspaper’s recognition of the role of education in development.

 “The Sun is very objective and your decision is very realistic in selecting us as the best education entrepreneur of the year. I will do everything to ensure that we are part of this ceremony on the day you have chosen,” he said.

The legal icon said by recognising education entrepreneurs, The Sun has proved that “education is important for development. To me, it is power.  It is the only way you overcome diseases, ignorance and above all, get to a desired position.  It was my love for quality education that made me to accept to be pro-chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) without enjoying any remunerations for the job.”

On what he has done in the education sector, before founding Afe Babalola University, he said:  “I did my best to develop UNILAG and was awarded the best pro-chancellor because of the giant strides l recorded there. When I left the place, I felt I could do better if I had my own university, one that would be devoid of all the problems in the nation’s university system. That was why I founded the Afe Babalola University in Ado Ekiti and within a few years we have been adjudged the most successful private university according to the Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVNU). This is why I can say that your judgment is right in awarding us the best education entrepreneur of the year.  Also, if the National Universities Commission (NUC) can say our university is the benchmark of standard education for other universities, I think your decision is right.”

He  explained that he had always been an admirer of The Sun, declaring: “We have always appreciated your quality and we know that millions of people read your paper daily in Nigeria and abroad. We at ABUAD are your worthy admirers.”

Earlier, the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, The Sun Publishing Limited, Mr. Eric Osagie, explained that the Board of Editors had voted Babalola in recognition of his uncommon achievements in the judiciary, education and philanthropy.

Osagie, who was represented by Mr. Femi Babafemi, Editor, Saturday Sun, said the history of Nigeria’s judiciary would not be complete without the elegant mention of Babalola’s name, “having traversed the country’s judiciary like a colossus, exhibiting brilliance and versatility.”

He said the legal luminary has always contributed to the development of education, citing his years as pro-chancellor of the University of Lagos, which brought about transformation and excellence in the university.

The MD said Babalola’s establishment of Afe Babalola University showed his  “love for quality and standard education,” declaring that the university “is adjudged ‘Africa’s Fastest Growing Private University’ and ‘the pride of university system in Nigeria.’”

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