I knew Nigerian Acceptances Limited through a very good friend in 1978. I remember my very first visit to the bank’s premises then at Bookshop House in central Lagos. In spite of my thick military uniform, I was almost shivering in the posh, air-conditioned office. The whole place cast the image of an outer space and the personnel, with their scrubbed faces and power dressing, looked like some special breed of Nigerians. There was no doubt in my mind that these were elite bankers.
Over the next few years, I was privileged to know quite a lot about this bank and some of its staff. I remember my friend’s wedding where I was assigned to serve drinks to Mrs. Olalekan, the so-called “iron lady” of the Human Resources. But she was so nice, humble and pleasant that I had to wonder why she was often called “Margaret Thatcher” by many of the staff.
And talking of name-calling, I also knew the very shrewd, no-nonsense Mr. Dada (Ijesa oso-malo). There was late Mr. Fatinikun (Ghadaffi), Mr. Uka (Orishi-rishi), Mr. Odejimi (omo ode) and the other top shots including the boss of the bosses, Chief Oluwole Adeosun a.k.a “eru obodo…” (a river is never scared. But let’s see the father of who dares to jump into it).
The bank was as old as Nigeria.Founded in 1960, it was the very first wholesale bank in our nation. From Mr. Gamaliel Onosode to the last CEO (Akabueze), the bank went through some peculiar metamorphosis over a spate of over forty years.
Under the leadership of Adeosun, the bank changed its name to NAL Merchant bank. It was also during this man’s tenure that NAL nurtured many of today’s top players in the banking and stock broking industries. Guys like Atedo Peterside (IBTC), Erastus Akingbola (Inter-continental), Dipo Aina (President, of the stock-broking institute) and several others cut their industry teeth in NAL.
I got to know all these guys in their “formative” years. For instance, I was at Akingbola’s wedding in 1979. I was at Sobamowo’s house in Idi-mangoro and then Allen Avenue in the early eighties. And I was at the residences of Awosedo in Oko-Oba, Oluwajana in Ikeja and Ogundeji in Ketu. Ironically, these guys don’t even know me because I was always merely an appendage to my friend’s presence at the bank’s annual Christmas parties and the social functions of these individuals.
Another notable era was that of Mr. Kumolu. Young, brilliant and liberal, this man consolidated the bank’s pleasant working environment where everyone carried on like one big family.Unfortunately, the man died shortly after he resumed office.
If Onosode’s era marked the emergence of the bank and Adeosun and Kumolu recorded the massive growth and consolidation of the bank respectively, the period after Kumolu witnessed the decline and fall of the bank.
Like Messrs Oyetan, Lawal and Kumolu before him, Dr. Shamusideen Usman was appointed by the Federal government. Although NAL was a profitable conservative, first generation bank, this new CEO wanted the bank to achieve a N500million profit like a new generation bank such as IBTC.
Among the decisions taken toward the achievement of this feat was the “rationalization” of several staff of the bank in 1995. Many of these personnel had invested the better part of their lives in building that bank. Worse, instead of a gratuity, each of the affected staff was handed a paltry sum of money which Usman called a “golden handshake”.
Many of these hapless people did not recover from the shock of this untimely loss of their jobs. Some of them suddenly became homeless while others were soon divorced by their spouses. A few others even died out of frustrations.
In the meantime, the bank never attained its target of N500million profit under Usman’s watch. To compound the situation, many of the so-called whiz kids that were left behind in the aftermath of the retrenchment soon turned out to be “wise guys” who did not have the dedicated loyalty of the retrenched old staff. Suddenly, cases of massive frauds were erupting all over the bank. That was the beginning of the end for the once enviable bank.
In the military, a commander who fails to achieve his operational objective and under whose watch a calamity occurs will face a disciplinary action that includes but not limited to a court martial. But in the corporate world, it’s a different ball game. While NAL was declining, Dr. Usman got another Federal government appointment, this time, as a deputy governor of the nation’s apex bank!
And his successor, Akabueze, had nothing fantastic to offer except to join the bandwagon of “restructuring” banks. With terribly wobbling structures, he abandoned the bank’s traditional wholesale base to plunge into the retail banking business. And in the process, the bank’s name, once again, was changed to NAL Bank Plc.
It did not come as a surprise that during the banking industry’s reforms as directed by Soludo’s Central Bank, the tottering NAL was too weak to stand on its feet.Consequently, it became so vulnerable to the prowling predators that it was not only swallowed up but it lost its entire identity—a whole NAL!
There were other banks that rationalized their operations for strategic repositioning.UBA, First Bank, Union Bank and others did not only handsomely compensate the affected loyal employees; the overall results of their respective exercises justified the actions. They are all doing very well till today.But where is NAL today?
In November, 2006 and for old time sake, my friend and I were at the 20 Marina premises of what used to be NAL and we were moved to tears by the ghastly sight of the carcass of the structures that remained.
12 years after the shabby treatment of those who toiled to build it, the Nigerian Acceptances Limited a.k.a NAL Merchant Bank PLC a.k.a NAL Bank Plc is gone! All of a sudden, the once great bank has vanished from the nation’s banking landscape.