The attention of a civil society group, Citizens Watch Advocacy Initiative (CWAI), has been drawn to the smear campaign, mudslinging, frivolous writings, ill-motivated petitions, self-serving and orchestrated mischief by agent-provocateurs and faceless group of disgruntled hatchet jobbers and has accordingly called on Nigerians and anti-graft agencies and security organizations to discountenance same.
This is informed by the fact that CWAI has discovered through its painstaking and thorough investigation that the group is only hell-bent on tarnishing the hard-earned reputation of Honourable Stella Erhuvwuoghene Oketete of the Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM). She is not just a woman activist, but one who has become a role model for the youths and women of this country. The organization has also discovered her to be a beacon of hope for the less-privileged in her community and across the nation.
It is in view of this that we have decided to respond to the Sahara Reporters publication on November 28, 2022, and the various petitions manufactured by self-serving law firm based on the orders of an ostensibly drowning political figure whom we discovered in the course of our investigation, is vexed with and envious of the rising profile of Hon. Stella Okotete as a humanist and administrator par excellence which warranted her appointment into the Board of the Nigeria Export-Import (NEXIM) Bank .
CWAI maintained that, ordinarily, the civil society group would not have joined issues with these perceived hatchet jobbers, but as champions of accountability, transparency and good governance regime in public service, CWAI has decided to investigate the merits of the issue at stake and therefore is in a position to state categorically that allegations concocted by the faceless group are hogwash, mischievous, malicious and deliberate lies orchestrated to malign the reputation of a bank executive due to her towering credentials in office and community she represents.
As a result of the mounting negative framing by the hatchet jobbers, NEXIM issued a statement recently on the Executive Director of its Bank in which it stated as follows: “Re: How Buhari Appointed ‘Unqualified’ Stella Okotete as NEXIM Bank Director Against Central Bank of Nigeria Act – the position of NEXIM Bank.” These are the contents of the Bank’s statement: “We hereby state categorically that the appointment of Hon. Stella Okotete was by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari in accordance with the Act creating the Nigerian Export-Import (NEXIM) Bank. The NEXIM Act Section 8(3), which was sighted by its Executives, provides that… “The Managing Director, two (2) Executive Directors and two (2) Non-Executive Directors representing private sector interest, shall all be appointed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The statement continued: “Furthermore, Section 14(1) sub-sections (a) (b) and (c) of the NEXIM Act states unequivocally that the Bank shall be exempted from the provisions of Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) amongst others, particularly Section 47 of BOFIA and therefore, finds the publication of Sahara Reporters and others on the appointment of Hon. Okotete to NEXIM Bank to be baseless, malicious and a deliberate attempt to ridicule her person in the eye of the public,” as asserted in the Bank’s statement.
The Bank went further to allude that “Hon. Okotete has performed creditably in her capacity as an Executive Director of NEXIM Bank, which led to the growth of the Bank in profitability and drastic reduction of the non-performing loan portfolio since herself, and the other Executive Directors and Managing Director took over the reins of the Bank five (5) years ago. This is what led to the renewal by the President of the Federal Republic,” the Bank’s statement concluded.
A press release issued in Abuja by the Executive Secretary of Citizens Watch Advocacy Initiative (CWAI), Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele, emphasized that CWAI stands on the authority of the Bank’s statement and affirms its resolution with the Bank, including standing upon the existing authority of BOFIA Act and NEXIM Bank to affirm that Hon. Stella Oketoto’s appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari followed due process based on all relevant authorities. CWAI therefore advised that “henceforth, all the mischief makers and smear campaigners should hide their heads in shame as their self-serving rantings are already dead on arrival.”
CWAI went ahead to state that, accordingly, “there is no provision in NEXIM Act that lays out the qualification for appointment of Executive Directors or any Director of the Bank. It is therefore at the prerogative of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and it was based on these provisions which are within his powers that President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Hon. Stella Okotete to the Board of NEXIM Bank.”
The CSO observed that Hon. Stella Okotete’s appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 20, 2017, is meritorious and in conformity with extant rules and guidelines on appointment of Board members of NEXIM Bank and that she should go ahead and continue doing her job effectively, not minding the distractions from drowning politicians whose bidding is being executed by the jobbers.
Based on this, CWAI affirms that all the allegations levelled against the person of Hon. Stella Okotete are clandestine, pedestrian, malicious and mischievous, including being hate speeches, all orchestrated by disgruntled people who are self-serving and envious of the superlative work Hon. Stella Okotete is doing at NEXIM Bank. That the campaign of calumny carried out to disparage her person is based on falsehood and should be discountenanced by all well-meaning Nigerians. That this orchestrated blackmail and innuendoes by fifth columnists are laced with lies in order to bring her hard-earned reputation into public ridicule and odium.
CWAI also wonders why these people have to wait for five years before carrying out this campaign of calumny. “Why did they not act immediately when Hon. Stella Okotete was appointed in April, 2017? Why did they have to wait for this long before swinging into action?”
The CSO therefore warned in strong terms that “…liability of libelous publications or name-calling is not limited to the original author or publisher thereof, but that it also extends to and includes all those who, out of sheer ignorance, mischief or malice or all of the above, cause any libelous publication to be repeated, reposted or re-published, either personally or through any platform for which they have control” that we advise the so-called group to desist and be mindful of their utterances and cheap blackmail.
The statement added that: “As champions and propagators of transparency, good governance regime and accountability in public service in Nigeria, CWAI views these malicious ethnic coloration, casting of aspersions, campaign of calumny, witch-hunt and threats on the person of Hon. Stella Okotete as not only detrimental to good governance practice, but threats to her life and security.
“These publications should therefore be regarded as null and void and, as such, should be forthwith disregarded by all well-meaning Nigerians. This is because, as earlier stated, the said publications are politically motivated. The petitions/petitioners are vindictive, callous, wicked and repugnant to natural justice. They are also aimed at settling old scores by those who have an axe to grind and should be regarded as fake news/hate speech which intent is to distract and pull down the hardworking Executive Director of NEXIM Bank.”
At this juncture, after our thorough investigations, we call on Nigerians to disregard, disparage and discountenance these campaigns of calumny and blackmail against Hon. Okotete. We also repeat our call on the jobbers to be mindful of their language, as there is more to it that meet the eyes, due to their consistent use of different third parties to call the Executive Director names in the public domain due to her patriotism, excellence and transparency at the Board of NEXIM.
On this premise, CWAI avers that they have goofed, have become parochial, partisan, clannish and alien to the genuine efforts by Hon. Okotete to help stimulate the Bank and grow the nation economically and therefore be called to order to stop forthwith.
Without mincing words, CWAI is in tandem with the BOFIA Act, fully and purposefully stands by Hon. Stella Okotete, as according to our investigations, she is innocent of all the allegations. It is based on this that we call on all well-meaning Nigerians to disregard all the innuendoes in public domain as they are concocted to smear her image.
For all we know, Hon. Stella Okotete represents the Nigerian women, the girl child and South-South people on the Board of NEXIM. And, the different groups, over time, are proud of her role model and mentorship since she was appointed as an Executive Director of NEXIM in April 2017