Chairman's Statement at the 2009 AGM

Chairman's Statement at the 2009 AGM

Your Excellency, Bishop of Enugu, Most Rev Dr. C.V.C. Onaga,
Monsignori, Reverend Fathers and Sisters,
Distinguished Shareholders,
Customers and stakeholders of our Listening Bank,
Invited guests, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is with great pleasure and a high sense of responsibility, that I welcome you all to this Annual General Meeting, the 10th of October, 2010. As I declare this AGM of the Umuchinemere Pro-credit Micro Finance bank open, with all humility and modesty, I wish to recall the two promises I made when this Annual General Meeting in October 2008, following the recommendation of the Board of Directors of this bank, under its founding Chairman and my predecessor, Chief Sir Gabriel Akachukwu (KSJI), unanimously confirmed me as chairman of the bank:

First, that I shall ensure our Bank remains "a credible vehicle for economic evangelization which corresponds to the Social Doctrine of the Church to make faith real through good works that serve the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, human dignity and the common good";

Secondly, that I shall ensure "our bank retains its high profile as a leading Microfinance Bank in Nigeria, fulfilling regulatory guidelines, and stakeholder's expectations both in its transparent financial records and in its ethical standards which offers our people the desired financial services that makes money a good servant not master, that guarantees access of financial services to the poor and unbanked in rural areas thus improving and increasing our network and branch expansion within Enugu Diocese and State".

Today I can confidently confirm to you that by the help of Almighty God and His human elements, we have delivered on those two promises and shall retain the pace of grounds gained in a sustainable manner by improving on our efforts. During the year 2009, Pope Benedict XVI convoked the 2nd Plenary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Africa in the Vatican. Some of us were present at those sessions of grace.

The Message of that Synod took note of the development of Microfinance banking as a critical and credible service to the poor and urged all the Dioceses of Africa to adopt economic evangelization which is the application of faith in real life and to see the economy as a service to justice and gospel values. Enugu Diocese and Umuchinemere bank were cited at that Synod, especially at the circulus minores, as a case study worthy of emulation. In other words, our full involvement into Microfinance banking shall now be looked upon, no longer as an option but as a credible evaluation of our concrete action in favour of reconciling all things in Christ, including the tools of the economy which the Social Doctrine of the Church identifies as needy of urgent evangelization.

The huge responsibility I assumed two years ago demands of me to render at this Annual General Meeting of our bank, as is expected of the Chairman, account of stewardship and record of our services over the period of 1st January 2009 until 31st December 2009. As I say a happy welcome to you all, I remind you that this occasion serves as a historical memory of 15 years anniversary since the founding of our bank in 1995 under the highly respected and Saintly Man of God, Most Rev. Michael Ugwu Eneja (3rd Bishop of Enugu Diocese) of blessed memory.

That action of the Church and the people of our community in 1995 were made possible by the vision and selfless effort of many people worthy of mention, I single out the Catholic laity and its chairman at the time, Chief Sir Gabriel Akachukwu (KSJI). I recognize the initiative and support of some of the diocesan clergy, many of whom are here with us today, such as Mgr Anthony Aso (Chaplain of the Laity at the time), Rev. Fr. Father John Amadi, Mgr Tobias Anichebe, Mgr Ferdinand Okpalaibekwe and Mgr Anthony Anijielo.

The success and achievements of the Umuchinemere Community Bank Limited, as it then was, (July 1995 to February 2007 when it was transformed to a Micro Finance Bank) gives me hope, faith and courage to believe that humble beginnings, carried out dutifully with focus despite all odds and challenges make sustainable future of good initiatives. Today our bank is a household name in Nigeria and is well known abroad, having risen to fame and pride through hard work.

The bank has achieved enormous success, with a capital base of only NGN250.000 in 1995 to grow beyond an asset base of over one billion Naira, all this, because of the enterprise, hard work and diligence of the Board, Management staff, shareholders and the continued good will of the Church and community of our diocese of Enugu. Today, one can proudly state that Umuchinemere Pro-credit Microfinance bank stands out distinctively atop, having carved a niche for itself as a reputable, ethical, community/rural oriented, dependable and friendly partner, both on the local, national and international circle.

As a financial institution with focus for quality, UPMFB Ltd strives to improve on its strategies and services to attain greater heights within the limits of its vision and mission, which is to create: 'a microfinance bank with ethical standards, offering best-in-class financial services that are innovative, socially responsible, customer-focused, grassroots and community-oriented and promoting sustainable stakeholder participation and integral human development'.

Within Nigeria, the year 2009 recorded a dramatic turn of events in the country's financial market within the third quarter of the year. At a time when banks in the country were declaring huge profits, giving impressive outlook of being solvent and having strong health with a false impression that all was well with the country's money and capital markets, suddenly the chair at the apex bank swiveled and a new leadership emerged in June 2009 under Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. Being particularly versed in Risk Management, he called the Financial services sector to order, came in with zeal and mission to cleanse what was perceived as the Augean stable in the country's money market in order to save the country's banking sector from complete breakdown.

The new Governor swung into action by giving an exposition that all was actually not well with the country's banking industry. On Friday, August 14, 2009 the apex bank interfered in eight banks, fired their Management and invested largely in bail out funds to prevent them from insolvency. Shock followed and insecurity in the financial services sector became apparent. Untouchables and leading names in the financial sector were sacked, and criminal charges placed upon them. Many shareholders, customers and investors lost huge funds. Thus the on-going journey to sanity in the industry started to check the perceived "mindless acts of irregularities, financial indiscipline, rising portfolios at risk (non-performing loans), evident cost pressures in reduced profits and other obvious factors".

Just like the big banks, the microfinance sector had a dose of the Central Bank's sanitization pill and only recently, a total of 224 Micro finance banks had their operating licenses revoked and put out of business by the Apex bank. Our UPMFB Ltd was not among these banks so affected. UPMFB Board had always taken bold steps and adequate precautionary measures to put in place strong and quality Corporate Governance and other forms of control mechanisms to comply with regulatory directives, protect shareholders' interests at each time and promote what constitutes the common good of the stakeholders.

The Umuchinemere Procredit Micro Finance Bank Nigeria Limited managed risks effectively since becoming a Micro finance bank and the Balance Sheet you have on your hands, shows that the bank is able to pay to all shareholders in the year under review, a Bonus of 5 kobo for every single share. This is happening at a time when most MFBs have not even received their approved accounts for the year 2009, some 224 others have been found to be 'Terminally Distressed' and 'Technically Insolvent' and had their operating licenses revoked, while many others are either still seeking fresh funds to pay up their capitalization or just groping for survival, as available recent information indicates.

We're delighted to inform you that the Central Bank of Nigeria approved our 2009 financial statement within a record time of just two months of submitting it to them. This is an expression of confidence in our accounting, as well as the good work of our external auditors. The approved accounts indicate that our financial picture is healthy and your bank is very solvent, with large depositors' funds and good assets. Loans and credible creditors receive money from the bank, and although some of them default in repayment, many repay as and at when due and the bank is eager to recover such overdue loans with a crack team continuously pursuing bad debts. Unfortunately, abuse of the legal system makes debtors run to the law courts to delay the recovery of their loans by the bank. This explains why the bank has to set aside huge funds to cover overdue loans from the balance sheet. Overall, the bank made significant and commendable progress in the following areas during year 2009, which I summarize for your ease of reference, as the basic facts are as follows:

Asset base as at December 2009 was ₦1,329,590,120, whereas in year 2008, it stood at ₦1,195,057,862, showing an encouraging improvement.

The Shareholders fund that was fully paid up in year 2009 stood at ₦360,558,846, as against year 2008 when it was only ₦252,860,529, an increment of 29.87 percent or ₦107,698,317.

Profit before tax in year 2009 was ₦68,458,510, as against 2008, which was ₦56,790,571;

Loans portfolio in 2009 was ₦217,018,015, as against 2008's ₦223,830,253;

Customer base in 2009 was 31,782, as against 27,823 in 2008;

Revenue reserve was ₦18,359,388 in 2009 but ₦7,248,290 in 2008; and

The staff figure in 2009 was 76 and 30 ancillaries, while in 2008 it stood at 67 and 22 ancillaries.

On branch network and outlets, the bank opened new customer relations offices (CRO's) to improve the state of living of the poor in the rural and even urban areas at Afor Oghe, Umana Ndiagu (both being managed from the Ngwo 9th Mile corner main branch, where the bank has purchased a property for its permanent site), and Emene. The Customer meeting point scheduled for Awhum is on course, and Agbani shall be opened within two weeks of the AGM. All together, the bank has currently 2 branches at Enugu Main and Ninth Mile Corner, with new applications for further branches still pending with the apex bank. There are 11 CROs (Meeting Points) all together, and they are located at Ogbete main market, new market, afia 9, artisan market, Amokwe, Umana Ndiagu, Afor Oghe, Abakpa, Gariki Awkunanaw, Godfrey Okoye University and Emene. Amokwe, Umana Ndiagu, and Afor Oghe are under the Ninth Mile Branch.

UPMFB has continued to play a key role in the life of the institutions and parishes of the diocese. Presently, the Diocese has come out fully and with great commitment to support the financial base of the bank and take its leading role in raising its equity stakes within the bank. With the presence of the Bishop at this function and in the AGM of the previous year, we have 'gone back to the roots' to merge talk and action and identify our bank with an ownership structure that corresponds to our equity stakes based on our own actual resources and means. This corresponds to the principle of solidarity. UPMFB has a unique role to play in the life of the Christian community in our Diocese and counts on the support of the faithful to give the specialized financial services based on the patronage it receives.

The Bishop has told the Christians at all levels that this is the right thing to do and there is evident determination along these lines. UPMFB is your bank. It gives support to the Diocese which is the common parentage of all activities within the ecclesiastical circumscription of Enugu and was instrumental in providing adequate finances to support the granting of a license and approval to Godfrey Okoye University, which is an establishment of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu. Many parishes, laity organizations and persons enjoy the facilities of the bank for their financial needs and to bridge hard times or improve on their products and financial investments.

6. Business Linkage with Enugu State Government
In the area of transportation and economic empowerment of the youth, the bank started collaboration in the first quarter of 2009 with the Enugu State Government to empower and better the lives of over 1000 youths in the state through the government's Coal City Cabs and Coal City Shuttle poverty reduction schemes. The State Government of Enugu partners with the UPMFB and emerged the largest single customer of the bank in the year 2009 with the launching of the Coal City Cabs and the partnership with UPMFB as a manager of the project. The cabs are worth over one billion naira on the figures of assets.

UPMFB currently manages over 500 taxi cabs and 8 Coal City Bus shuttles in the context of this project, besides over 55 Suzuki cabs sourced through the private sector. This project has created over 1000 jobs for the people of the State. While expressing gratitude to the State Government and the good people of Enugu State, we state that our bank has all that it takes in both reputation, delivery and action to engage various levels of our society. Be part of this agenda and do not be left out because UPMFB is capable and is result oriented.

As already indicated in the earlier part of this report, the Board has approved and we seek for your approval to give a bonus of 5 kobo to every holding share in the bank as at December 31, 2009.

In the period under review, we had a change in our Board of Directors. Our Board member, Mr. Peter Alex Egom, an economist of note, graciously bowed out, while the Procurator of the Diocese, Rev. Fr. Dr. Geoffrey Agigwo, was nominated by the Bishop, Most Reverend Callistus Onaga to replace him. At the AGM of year 2008, you all witnessed this move and I am pleased to announce to you that the central bank of Nigeria has accepted the nomination and confirmed Rev Fr. Geoffrey Aguigwo on the Board. At the management cadre, certain circumstances and growth or capacity arrangement led to the creation of two new positions in the bank's management set up: Deputy Managing Director and Public/Media Relations Officer.

While our former Manager in charge of our office at 9th Mile Corner, Mr. Charles Ozor, was elevated on merit to hold the Deputy Managing Director position, a seasoned and Veteran Journalist with over 25 years of active practice of journalism and a Knight of St. John International (KSJI), Sir Abuchi Anueyiagu, was also recruited on merit and competence to hold the new position of Public/Media Relations Officer. Still on the management, our Manager in charge of Shares department, Lady Mary Okafor, retired from the bank after attaining the retirement age of 60 years. However, due to her industry and efficiency in the field, we still retained her services as a Consultant. In quest of greener pasture and Golden Fleece, our former Main Branch Accountant, Mrs. Fidelia Uche Onyekwelu left the bank at the end of September 2009 aand is now a lecturer at the ESUT university, pursing a doctorate degree. She was replaced by yet another enterprising young woman, Mrs. Bibbian Ofoje.

To support me at the Board are Mgr Anthony Anijielo, Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Agu, Dr Ndidi Nnoli Edozien and the Managing Director, Nnenna Maria Ekete, with Igwe R. C. Ani as a Director in Attendance. I am pleased to state here that we have increased our oversight functions at the Board level with the appointment from amongst you of several Board Committees, such as Security Committee headed by Mgr Tobias Anichebe and Police Inspector Ohaeri; Public Relations Committee headed by Mgr Anthony Aso; Shares Mobilisation committee headed by Rev. Fr. John Amadi; Audit Committee headed by Rev. Fr. Geoffery Aguigwo; Board of Directors Remuneration and Affairs Committee co-ordinated by Rev. Fr. Edward Kanife and Prof. Julius Onah; Investment/Finance Committee headed by the Managing Director, Mrs Nnenna Maria Ekete; Information Communications Technology Committee headed by Dr Casmir Ani of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN); the Establishment Committee headed by Mgr Anthony Anijielo; and the Administrative Board Committee (A.B.C) headed by Dr Mrs. Ngozi Agu. These committees meet regularly on monthly basis to fulfill their statutory functions, much of which has helped the bank to grow. We thank them and encourage their selfless engagement of our bank. Banking business is togetherness, not alone.

Ladies and gentlemen, let it be said and known that your bank has a firm Board of capable Directors and sub-committees who are committed to ensuring a steady progress of the bank, just as the management led by Mrs. Nnenna Ekete. These units need continued encouragement and empowerment to carry out their responsibilities fully.

Due to the establishment of new offices our bank continues to record an increase in the number of employees and ancillary workers. From the point of view of value added to the national economy, UPMFB without being immodest can claim to be the largestest employer of labour amongst the MFBs east of the Niger.

Your bank has strong ethical foundations and has continued to increase the mechanisms for the relationship between Shareholders, Management and Board by improving the concept of stakeholders. The bank tried to keep a clean bill of records in its corporate governance, with policies and regulations put in place to check and balance any possible acts capable of diminishing the enviable track record of the bank. Our established tradition of maintaining best practices in corporate governance and best-in-class quality services/products is evident. We keep to our principle of separation of functions between the Board and the Management, yet complement each other in a manner that allows understanding and no friction for the attainment of greater heights.

The bank is aware of its social responsibilities as a responsible corporate citizen with innovative products that engage its assistance to families in need: housing products, schools and sponsorship programmes, loans to civil servants and group lending in the villages, assistance to women and youth groups in the parishes and the larger society, support to parishes building their parish land and churches, loans to businesses in the private sector, charity to orphanages and the needy on case by case basis and assistance to our centre of seminary formation and schools around. We shall continue to do this, and even better with your continued trust and confidence.

As we take stock of our 2009 business, count our blessings and observe perhaps possible areas of improvement in our business within the competitiveness of the national and global financial environment, we look towards the next Business Year with hope and faith for more progress and better results, believing that we must 'make hay while the sun shines'. The first critical challenge is for the Catholic Diocese of Enugu and all our parishes and local laity groups and individuals to increase their equity shareholding within our bank. We have only one bank we can truly call our own when we purchase adequate equity.

The Corporate Affairs Commission at Abuja has approved our equity increase to One Billion Naira. Only about 250 million shares are fully paid. 750 million shares is pending purchase and we cannot stay back and watch whilst the larger market and investors purchase these shares, whilst we go ahead and patronize all the commercial banks within our environment without authority over them, their practices or what they do with our investments in terms of ethical investments. With the current push by the Federal Government and the CBN for MFBs to increase their equity participation, the Church and our own people have a diamond chance to improve its hold on its own equity investment and banking institution which it founded fifteen years ago with action that speaks louder than words.

If this is done, the Church will hold a better future with this role both for the UPMFB and for the operational environment whereby the economy is evangelized and the poor accessed to credit for their sustainable livelihood. I announce to you at this AGM that there are overtures from international banks to invest in the UPMFB, a gesture that is good and exposes the amount of trust and reputation the bank enjoys beyond our shores. This has to be encouraged and improved upon with our own internal efforts. The CBN Website rates the Micro Finance banks in the country and the UPMFB is high up in the scale of the top three from the transformed Community Banks in year 2007.

After 15 years of business (1995 - 2010), the UPMFB has come of age. We intend with the blessing of almighty God, the support His Excellency the Bishop, all our stakeholders and the good will of our people to achieve improvements on all fronts towards positioning our bank and diocese at the frontage of best-in-class and exemplary models of a leading and credible Church institution within Africa, fighting poverty not by words but by action and using the tools of money and wise investments to progress evangelisation and human promotion. Permit me to use this opportunity to thank his Excellency, the Bishop for his good will and constant spiritual and human support to our bank which made the diocese ensure that all parishes now make their monthly return via the banks E-payment system. Many parishes have complied and we are grateful to the priests and laity who see in the UPMFB the foundations for a credible future Enugu diocese beyond the usual second and third collections and baskets in our churches. We acknowledge and hail the vision of the founding Bishop of this bank, the saintly Bishop Michael Ugwu Eneja, under whose quiet but guided leadership this bank was established in 1995.

We salute the courage, dexterity and tenacity of our pioneer Chairman, Chief Gabriel Akachukwu, in guiding the bank to maturity. We recognize the services of CIDJAP at the early stages of the bank and the resilience of our pioneer manager, Mr John Nnam in nurturing the baby bank then to a stable teenage age today. Members of Board, Management, Sub-Commitees and the stakeholders at large have continued to give trust and services to the bank. We thank them and encourage them to so continue.

Our special gratitude goes to His Excellency, Barrister Sullivan Chime, Executive Governor of Enugu State and the government, particularly the Ministry of Transport, for the wisdom and confidence in choosing our bank as its reliable partner and instrument in the implementation of its laudable poverty alleviation programme: the Coal City Cabs and Bus Shuttle Scheme. UPMFB is hinged on the pedestal to fighting poverty, just as government's intentions to fight poverty in the society. Finally, we express gratitude to all our Shareholders, Directors, Managers and Staff for their resolute industry for the good of the bank.

I also thank immensely our esteemed customers, without their countless support, we would have closed shops long ago. To our valued customers we say bravo and keep doing business with us, as we promise to serve you better and more. We thank our guests for coming and equally for your various ways of supporting UPMFB. As we march forward to the future with greater hope and stronger faith that the coming year and beyond will be more rewarding, may I, on behalf of the Board, Management and Staff of UPMFB, thank you very immensely Ladies and Gentlemen for your rapt attention and dignified audience at this AGM.

Msgr. Prof. Obiora Ike
Chairman, Board of Directors

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