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Ovia, Elumelu, Agbaje, Wigwe affected as new CBN rule unseats bank chiefs

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has issued a new rule shaking up the banking industry, with many of the chairmen affected. 

Ovia, Elumelu, Agbaje, Wigwe

The rule says bank executive directors (EDs), deputy managing directors (DMDs), managing directors (MDs), and non-executive directors (NEDs) can only serve a cumulative tenure of 20 years across the banking industry.

The directive is contained in a circular addressed to all deposit money banks (DMBs), signed by Chibuzor Efobi, director of financial policy and regulation department, CBN.

The circular was a revision of the regulatory requirements for the tenure of executive management and non-executive directors of DMBs and financial holding companies in the Code of Corporate Governance for Banks and Discount Houses.

CBN said the tenure review was part of measures aimed at strengthening governance practices in the banking industry.

“The tenure of executive directors (ED), deputy managing directors (DMD) and managing directors (MDs) shall be in accordance with the terms of their engagement approved by the board of directors of banks, subject to a maximum tenure of ten (10) years,” the apex bank said.

“Where an executive who is a DMD becomes the MD/CEO of a bank or any other DMB before the end of his/her maximum tenure, the cumulative tenure of such executive shall not exceed twelve (12) years.


“However, for an executive (ED) who becomes a DMD of a bank or any other DMB, his/her cumulative tenure as ED and DMD shall not exceed 10 years.

“Non-executive directors (NEDs), with the exception of independent non-executive director (INED), shall serve for a maximum period of twelve (12) years in a bank, broken into three terms of four years each.

“EDs, DMDs and MDs who exit from the board of a bank either upon or prior to the expiration of his/her maximum tenure, shall serve out a cooling-off period of 1 year before being eligible for appointment as a NED to the board of directors.

“NEDs who exit from the board of a bank either upon or prior to the expiration of his/her maximum tenure of 12 years (three terms of four years each), shall serve out a cooling-off period of 1 year before being eligible for appointment to the board of directors of any other DMB.”


CBN added that the above tenure requirements shall apply “effective the date of this circular”.


It is understood that the implementation of the new rule will see the exit of many top bank executives in Nigeria. Those who will be affected include:

Jim Ovia: First on the list is Jim James Ovia, a Nigerian businessman. A native of Delta state, Ovia founded Zenith Bank in 1990. He retired from the bank in 2010 following a similar CBN policy which limited the tenure of banks chief executive officers (CEOs) to a maximum of 10 years. However, the billionaire was later appointed as board chairman and non- executive director of the bank in 2014.


Tony Elumelu: At 34-year-old, Elumelu was the CEO of the defunct Standard Trust Bank, a company he later merged with United Bank for Africa (UBA) in 1997. With the merger, he remained as the bank’s CEO and served for 13 years until his retirement in 2010 when the said policy of 10-year tenure limits for bank CEOs was implemented by the CBN. It was reported that Elumelu was appointed chairman of UBA in 2014, replacing Ambassador Joe Keshi.

Segun Agbaje: The astute banker moved from working for Ernst & Young in the US in 1988 to Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) — now Guaranty Trust Holding Company (GTCO) — as a pioneer staff in 1991 and rose through the ranks to become executive director in the year 2000 and deputy managing director in 2002. Agbaje was later appointed as the substantial MD and CEO of GTBank in June 2011, when Tayo Aderinokun passed.

Herbert Wigwe: After over 10 of service, Wigwe left GTBank as an ED to co-lead the transformation of Access Bank Plc in March 2002 as DMD. He was appointed group managing director/CEO effective January 1, 2014 and served in that capacity till May 2022. Wigwe was subsequently appointed a non-executive director of the bank effective May 2022.

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