The tremendous impacts, which the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, has made in addressing poverty
and food insecurity, ensuring nutritional health and wellbeing of farm families, and making the environment more resilient through its cutting-edge research on agriculture, in collaboration with its many international, regional and national partners, cannot be over-emphasised.
The institute, with its strong international profile
and pro-poor reputation, is spearheading efforts at transforming African agriculture, with the help of its network of partners and donors.
Of particular interest, however, is the panache, which the
Director-General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, has brought into the
54-year-old institute in its quest to deliver on its mandate and
achieve food sufficiency through research within the African continent.
Indeed, the success story of IITA cannot be completed
without the indelible contributions of Sanginga, an indigene of
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and first African Director-General of the institute.
Sanginga, who assumed office as Director-General in 2011, has displayed exceptional commitment to initiatives which have placed
African continent on the global stage, especially in the agricultural arena.
He has been leading a team of world-class scientists spread all over sub-Saharan Africa in helping small African farmers and farming communities to attain a better life, using novel scientific approaches
and innovative developmental interventions that are benefitting small-holder farmers, with monumental impacts across the continent.
No wonder, the institute has been growing in leap and bound, particularly
in its sustained efforts groundbreaking research and development, which
have continued to positively affect the lives of millions of people in the African continent in terms of food security improvement, ensuring
food and feed safety through entrepreneurship, enhancing seed Systems,
mentoring of youths and young scientists and improving on capacity development programmes.
For instance, the institute, under Sanginga’s leadership, has championed the creation of business incubation platform (BIP) for a
food-sufficient Africa. Through the platform, it has partnered with the private sector in providing agribusiness opportunities in seed
systems and products that increase yields and food quality. It is a platform, linking research, development, commercialisation and capacity development, leading to establishment of full-scale production facilities for adoption by the private sector.
IITA has also blazed the trail in setting the youth agripreneurs
programme, which the director-general described as one of his most
“We started the programme to address the high rate of unemployment
among African youths, with agriculture sitting as a goldmine, waiting
for an explorer,” he said.
According to him, more than 60 per cent of Africa’s estimated 1.2 billion people are under the age of 25 and yet, with little job
Whereas, agriculture remains an essential driver of economic development and an area of great opportunities for young people in the continent, adding that the IYA initiative had now been adopted by many
organisations, especially the African Development Bank (AfDB) which had
scaled it to 24 countries.
To him, IYA rekindles the hope of a new generation of African
agricultural entrepreneurs that will feed the continent and create wealth and employment.
Sanginga, who holds a Doctoral Degree in Agronomy/Soil Microbiology, has also fashioned out what he called Start Them Early Programme
(STEP) with a view to providing in-depth and holistic agribusiness education to secondary school students.
The starting point of STEP was
the rehabilitation and modernisation of a hitherto dilapidated Oyo
State Government-owned Secondary School at Fasola Town, Oyo, which has
the capacity to hold more than 300 students.
Indeed, Gov. Seyi
Makinde of Oyo State, who inaugurated the school on July 23, 2020, was said to have
been fascinated by the IITA magic and has since replicated the STEP initiative in some secondary schools across the state.
Aside upgrading the infrastructure in IITA stations in Abuja, Kano,
Onne, Rivers; Umudike, Abia; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Kampala, Uganda;
Nampula, Mozambique; Kalambo, DR Congo and Lusaka, Zambia, the
appointment of former President Olusegun Obasanjo as IITA Ambassador
by Sanginga, has assisted the institute immensely in networking with
some international partners, such as African Development Bank (AfDB) and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through which no fewer than 25 projects have been funded.
Perhaps, the greatest motivating factor for all these achievements and
many others is Sanginga’s policy of putting people first.
To him, people are the wings on which an organisation flies, stating that
setting goals and issuing instructions are not enough; if people are not motivated, the progress of such an organisation will be delayed.
Thus, he decided to adopt the people-approach where staff members are built up and motivated into attaining their full potentials in a convivial atmosphere.
This is indeed attested to by some of the staff members, ranging from
those in the senior management cadre, scientists, drivers, gatemen,
laboratory attendants to others, with a unanimous verdict that IITA has been lucky to have Sanginga as its helmsman.
The Deputy Director-General in charge of Partnership for Delivery, Dr Kenton Dashiell, for instance, described his boss as a visionary leader and motivator.
Dashiell, an American national, who said that he had known Sanginga for the past 38 years, said that he is passionate
about the welfare and wellbeing of those working under him, stressing, “he loves them, respects them and has been helping them to attain
their potentials since he came on board”.
Also, the Communication Person for Care Projects (sponsored by IFAD),
Timilehin Osunde, said that IITA was in a bad state before the director-general came on board, expressing happiness that he had been able to make a lot of changes through his administrative ingenuity and
prioritisation of staff welfare.
While the President, Management Staff Association, Femi Akeredolu,
described Sanginga as “a change agent prepared by God for a time like
this and for the transformation of the entire system”, the President of
Senior Staff Association, Bukky Adeyemo, opines that his style of administration is “transparent and open, thus building trust and
hope,” adding that the director-general has “the mind for improving the lives of humanity”.
Likewise, one of the agripreneurs, Gbemisola Adewuyi, in her
testimony, says: “Before now, there was no provision in IITA for youth to be gainfully employed, but Dr Sanginga introduced the youth
agripreneurs scheme through which he constantly encourages us and at
no time has he let us down or looked down on us.”
It was the same comments from Oluwapelumi Odubanjo and Ibrahim Omokanye, both Laboratory Attendants, and Adebayo Olusegun, a Media
Production Assistant, who all said that the IITA helmsman has impacted positively on their lives.
Perhaps, it should be stated that it is in recognition of this
monumental feat that Sanginga has had his two-term, which should have
ended on Oct. 30, but extended by another one year, which is unprecedented in the annals of the institute.
Besides, the remarkable outing has motivated a prominent traditional ruler in Yorubaland, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, into singling him out for conferment of the
chieftaincy title of Aare Afurugbin Ola of the Source (Lead Sower of
Wealth and Prosperity of the House Oduduwa), which will take place at Ile Oodua, Ooni’s palace, Ile-Ife, on Dec. 11.
While expressing appreciation to the royal father for the honour, Sanginga said that this would further fire his passion for the development of agriculture and agribusiness in the African continent.
However, his parting words, he says, are passion, vision and hardwork.
*Sadeeq, PhD, is Deputy Editor-in-Chief with the News Agency of Nigeria
By ‘Wale Sadeeq
Access Bank Vs Late Sunny Odogwu: Moving against Recalcitrant Debtors
The recalcitrant attitude of debtors who take depositors funds by way of loan facilities with no intention to repay has once again come into public focus with the recent dispute between the Estate of the late Chief Sunny Odogwu, and his related companies.
While it is not in dispute that a facility was taken from the bank to finance a hotel project at 31-35, Ikoyi Crescent, Ikoyi, Lagos, the said facility is yet to be repaid.
The impression being created by the Estate of the late Chief Odogwu and his related companies that they can take depositors funds to finance projects and rather than repay such funds, they would make false claims to the ownership of the assets of the debtors as inheritance to be shared is a vivid reminder of the era of failed banks in the country.
The dubious attempts by the Estate of the late Sunny Odogwu to rewrite the terms of the facilities is not only a show of shame but a clever attempt by the family to inherit dubious assets gotten from depositors’ funds which does not form part of the estate and as such should not be allowed.
It would be recalled that the defunct Diamond Bank Plc, an iconic bank comparable to Eastern Nigeria’s African Continental Bank (ACB) almost went under due to recalcitrant borrowers and the bank was rescued by Access Bank Plc.
Unfortunately for the Estate of the late Sunny Odogwu and his related companies, the facts of the matter, terms of the loans and the dispute has been litigated and pronounced upon by the Federal High Court and the Odogwu Family had the opportunity to present their own side of the story which they did before Hon. Justice Saliu Saidu of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court in suit number: FHC/L/CS/1633/14, in November 3, 2015.
Delivering judgment in the suit, Hon. Justice Saidu held that the first to third defendants were in fundamental breach of the contract for the financing of the construction of the Luxury Collection Hotels and Apartments, having admitted, “Indebtedness to the plaintiff in the sum of N10, 252,315,567.28 on the project finance facility as at December 20, 2011.”
Additionally, the learned trial judge held that the first to third defendants have not produced before the court any evidence that any of the conditions for the grant of the facility was waived or demonstrated to the court how they liquidated their indebtedness.
His words: “With all the facts before me, I am satisfied that the first to third defendants who have admitted indebtedness has not shown how the indebtedness was liquidated.
Flowing from these grounds, Justice Saidu made the following consequential order: “Judgment is entered in the sum of N26, 229,943,035.22 jointly and severally against the 1st to 3rd defendants being the outstanding sum as at September 30, 2014 advanced by the plaintiff for the 1st to 3rd defendants’ project which sum has remained unpaid despite several demands.
“That leave is granted to the plaintiff to foreclose and sell the said property situated at 31-35 Ikoyi Crescent, Ikoyi, Lagos and to deposit the proceed of the sales into the 1st defendant’s account kept with the plaintiff towards the partial satisfaction of the judgment sum against the 1st to 3rd defendants.
“That leave is granted the plaintiff with the supervision of the Court’s Registrar to sell property situated at No 31-35 Ikoyi Crescent, Ikoyi, Lagos being the security for the sum of N26, 229,943,035.22 advanced by the plaintiff to the 1st to 3rd defendants for the development of the project called Luxury Collections Hotels and Apartments, the repayment of which facility, the 1st to 3rd defendants have failed, refuse otherwise neglected to make despite several demands.”
It was against this background that the Estate of the Late Odogwu entered into a settlement agreement in May 2019 on the matter.
The key parts of the settlement include the following: “The defendants (the Estate of the late Sunny Odogwu and his related companies) agreed to sell a property described therein as the (Berendo Property”) in Los Angeles and to pay the sum of $11,111,111.11 within (60) days from the date of the settlement agreement to the Bank, failing which, the ownership of the Berendo property was to be assigned to the Bank, and the defendants also agreed with the bank in satisfaction of the outstanding settlement amount after receipt of the net proceeds of the sale from the Berendo property to assign such additional properties directly to the bank by way of an agreed asset swap arrangement subject to the terms of this settlement agreement.
Also, the defendants agreed to provide the bank with all the original documents pertaining to certain properties after the execution of the settlement agreement and undertook to execute and provide all documents required to perfect the legal interest of the Bank in such properties and also perfect the asset swap for the purpose of liquidating the outstanding settlement amount with the bank and shall provide such warranties and representations including without limitation, clean, undisputable and unencumbered title with quiet and peaceful possession. All these shall be achieved within seven days from the date on the settlement agreement.
Furthermore, the defendants failed to facilitate/conclude the sale of the Berendo property, hence the sum of $11,111,111.11 has not been received by the bank in line with the settlement agreement. Consequently, the defendants have failed and refused to assign the Berendo property in Los Angeles to the Bank. Rather, the defendants compromised the property at Los Angeles without paying the agreed sum to the bank.
Furthermore, the defendants refused to hand over the Dubai property to the bank in line with the settlement agreement. The defendants have refused to grant vacant possession to the properties at Kirikiri as well as the Dubai property till date in line with the settlement agreement.
Recalcitrant debtors negatively impact the critical banking sector and defeat the essence of granting such facilities to aid business growth.
Regrettably, the Estate of the late Sunny Odogwu instead of repaying the facility in line with the terms of the settlement have apparently opted for assets stripping and have failed to comply with the settlement agreement.
The idea or impression that the beneficiaries of the estate of the late Sonny Odogwu can lay any claim of ownership to an asset acquired from depositor’s funds of a financial institution as forming part of the estate when they are aware that the underling facility has not been repaid is not only sad but actionable. And this is exactly what the Failed Bank Act seeks to prevent.
At the end of the day, depositor’s funds are savings by hard working Nigerians who believe in the financial system.
Banks are merely custodian of this funds and as custodians, when banks grant credit facilities to customers to finance and fund assets and projects, such assets do not form part of the estate of the customers for the beneficiaries to share and leave luxurious lifestyles at the expense of the depositors, until such facilities are fully repaid.
Access Bank Plc has remained resolute in its determination and in its typical manner of dealing with chronic and recalcitrant debtors, has indicated that it will continue to deploy every legal available resource to ensure that this debt is fully recovered.
This is why dodgy and chronic debtors like these must steer clear of accessing facilities from Access Bank Plc.
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