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HOW JIMOH IBRAHIM BLED NICON TO NEAR DEATH

December 20, 2007
By CONCERNED FORMER NICON INSURANCE CORPORATION STAFF

We the above named group, have watched with studied silence the recent acquisition of 70% equity share of the old behemoth by what was expected to be a conglomerate of seasoned Underwriters and Investors.

This conglomerate, won the bid was Assurance Acquisition Limited, (AAL) made up of Niger Insurance Plc, Kapital Insurance Plc, Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Afribank, APT Securities and Funds Ltd, New Era Corporation (USA), and Lnydon Freebody (USA). No where in the document was Jimoh Ibrahim’s Global Fleet mentioned, which now occupies the space of all the bidders. Little did we know that our expectations would be short lived, as the loquacious and boastful Jimoh Ibrahim hijacked the bidding and took the center stage under yet to be understood circumstances?

Ordinarily, we would not be bothered to join issues with Jimoh Ibrahim but for the innuendoes, fallacious tales and total misrepresentation of the facts for fiction. In his romance with the various media organizations in his image laundering razzmatazz, he had made very spurious and tendentious accusations and allegations as to the actual state of NICON before privatization. Further to his empty assertions, he claimed to have turned a worthless organization to a multi billion Naira profit making machine. As will be shown hereunder, Jimoh has been nothing but an opportunist, a one man wrecking crew that have set NICON back another generation. We can no longer continue to take the total denigration of the hard earned efforts of men and women of yester years that built NICON to such an enviable status as gospel truth without a just rejoinder. We believe we have a right to set the records straight, which is what this write up attempts.

ORIGIN OF NICON

NICON came into being vide Decree No.22 of 1969 following Government adoption of Hon. J. C. Obande’s parliamentary committee report set up earlier in 1964. Operations started in August 1970 under the first Chief Executive Mr. Derek Garston-Jones with only 15 employees, when Jimoh Ibrahim was only 3 years old. With a takeoff loan of just N2, 000,000.00 which was promptly repaid within a year; the performance of NICON was meteoric under him because it witnessed branch networking and expansion of investments portfolios where amongst others a 40% stake in Nigeria Acceptance Ltd (NAL Merchant Bank). This deft move saw a leap in profit from $130,000.00 to $700,000.00 by 1973 when he finally retired.

Mr Federick Olabode Ogunlana took on the mantle and under his watch NICON witnessed further jump in profit and branch expansions. Following him was Mr. Olayinka Lijadu stepped in as the new Managing Director under whose rule ,which lasted till July 1989 NICON’s premium income jumped to N614,415,369.00 or some 47.10% of the total market share. Mr. Ogala Osoka took on the mantle of leadership who, amongst others, he commissioned the 20 storey edifice christened NICON House now an eyesore under Jimoh’s watch. Under his midwife, its assets more than doubled from N1.1billion to N2.2billion and a gross income of N2.9billion or some 47% of the Nigerian market share. Mohammed Uba Kari assumed office in March 1993, with NICON already in the Billion Naira income mark made a quantum leap from N2.9billion to over N15billion. This does not include recapitalization of N1billion fully paid in 1996. At that point, NICON was not only light years ahead of its co-travelers, but by far richer than most banks with the exception of the Big Four. Also tucked under our belt was a commanding share of Nigeria- Arab Bank later Assurance Bank, Abuja Stock Exchange, now Abuja Commodity Exchange, and Building of NICON’s Plaza in Abuja and at every state capital nationwide. With stocks and shares in blue chip companies. Even when Kari left in 1999 and Ms P. M.G. Soares took over until her exit 2005 NICON’s market share of the premium income was approaching 50%.

At privatization, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim inherited a behemoth of 48 solid branches scattered across 36 states of the Federation, the best workforce in the industry of about 1200 strong with over half being professionals in the insurance and accounting fields. Over 500 buildings, landed properties, at choice locations across the country with a first sale value peg at N20 billion naira. If not for a caveat instituted by attorneys to Assurance Acquisition Ltd (AAL) some times in 2006 this properties would have been history. Rumors’ making the rounds is that some of these properties have been used as security for loans and other guaranties without the consent of Government who still has 30% stake in NICON. A good example is the property located at Gimbiya Street Area 11 Garki Abuja belonging to NICON Hotels but was sold to SKYE BANK for N420 million. These loans and monies, we learnt, were never used for insurance transactions. Also amongst our properties are those in the heart London located at:

(a) No.21 Worship Street, London valued at $24 million,

(b) No. 25 Mulberry Street valued at $9 million and

(c)No.10b Park Road, Barnes London valued at $7 million;

All these with a cumulative value of over $40 million would also have been history but for the caveat imposed on them. From these properties NICON realizes an annual rent income of over 450,000 Pounds sterling.

For the sake of brevity, the following were some of the investments handed over to Jimoh Ibrahim:

1) NICON Hotels Ltd (Managers of Hilton Abuja) 75%

2) NIRMSCO Properties Ltd (owners of NICON HILTON) 100%

3) NICON Trustees Limited 100%

4) Cappa & D’Alberto Plc 10%

5) Nigeria College of Insurance Jos 100%

6) Broking House Ltd Ibadan 20%

7) Abuja Commodities Exchange Ltd 40%

8) NICON Risk Management & Survey Co. Ltd 100%

9) 50 million shares in UNION Bank worth over N2.5billion

10) 250,000 units in Nigeria Breweries Plc

11) 20 million units in National Electric Supply Co Jos (NESCO)

12) 1.5 million Units in First Bank Plc

13) Over 20 million shares in Cornerstone Insurance Plc worth hundreds of millions of Naira

14) 1.5 millions Shares in Ashaka Cement Plc

15) 7 million shares in Unilever plc

16) Globe Reinsurance Plc 40%

17) Continental Reinsurance Plc 25%

18) 1.5 million Shares in PZ Nig Plc

19) 7 million shares in GTB

20) 10 million shares Nigeria Flour Mills Plc

21) 80 million shares in Express Discount

22) 900,000 Units in Cadbury Nig. Plc

23) 1.5 million Shares in First Bank

24) NICON Sao Tome where we deposited $600,000.00 with the Central Bank Sao Tome & Principe

25) Investment Properties totaling N5.6 billion

26) Administrative Properties over N12billion

27) 6 million shares in Access Bank

28) 2 million shares in Zenith Bank

Information reaching us is that most these blue chip companies have been liquidated and the monies channeled to private use. This is in spite of mountain of outstanding liabilities, unsettled claims and unpaid sundry expenses. NAICOM, the insurance regulator, have estimated that over N12 billion liabilities are presently piled up and unpaid by NICON. This runs foul of INSURANCE DECREE (NO.2)1997 section 83(subsections1&2) which reads in part…. an insurer who encumbers or disposes of investments or does any other thing whatsoever which results in diminishing the security offered by any investments made pursuant to this decree is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of N500, 000.00 or to imprisonment for a term of 5 years or both…

These above stated assets and investment do not include liquid cash of Twenty million pounds sterling in our London accounts which Jimoh Ibrahim quickly cashed and converted to personal use; cash at hand in various local banks across the country totaling some N2 billion and some outstanding premiums owed to us by NEPA, NPA, NNPC, NITEL and so many organizations running to over 15billion naira. Most of these amounts of monies have been collected by Jimoh Ibrahim and channeled to non- descript escrow private accounts. We make bold to state that this outstanding premiums formed over a substantial chunk of his last year’s most taunted revenue generated.

There is the accumulated pension fund of the pioneer staff of NICON who broke their backs and served the Corporation honestly, diligently and sincerely to pile up these assets. These amounts total some N2.3billion cash which we know have been diverted to non insurance private accounts, thus leaving the retirees in abject poverty and penury after building this organization. When they approached Jimoh Ibrahim for their retirement benefits he sarcastically drove them off and lamented their stupidity to have spent all their life building an Empire for him to inherit.

Finally and probably the most important of these assets bequeathed to Jimoh Ibrahim is the brand name NICON. The name connotes insurance services renowned the world over. But since this so-called Harvard trained self confessed Jack of all trade and master of all took the helm of affairs of NICON, its hard earned credibility plummeted to rock bottom. As we speak currently we do not retain up 0.08% of our old clients and less than 5% of our pre-privatization share of the market. His attempt to launder his image by brandishing NICON’s name had failed as his bad business attitudes and sharp practices have further alienated him from genuine business partners. This explains why all his NICON this or that was all but have collapsed almost irretrievably. You doubt us, well where is NICON Airways for starters?

OTHER ASSETS SOLD BEFORE PRIVATIZATION

To further buttress our claim NICON was a solid organization over the years, the reader is invited to note that assets listed below were sold off before the privatization and proceeds paid directly into the Federation’s Accounts:-

A) NICON Hilton Hotel 51% sold for $105 million

B) ICON Merchant Bank 20%

C) INLAND Containers 80%

D) DAILY Times News papers 90% sold for almost N1 billion

NICON UNDER JIMOH IBRAHIM

From the above one then wonders where this self professed HARVARD trained (whatever that means) got the idea that NICON was a CARCASS at point of sale. This is a collective insult to all staff of NICON INSURANCE CORPORATION dead or living, retired or still serving compelled us to look at his pedigree prior to NICON.

But what about Jimoh Ibrahim? What about his pedigree prior his entry into NICON? Jimoh Ibrahim was the owner of a small out fit called Global Fleet that attempts merchandising petroleum products and own a couple of non active filling stations. In an effort to boost image and explain away how an ant like Global Fleet could swallow an Elephant like NICON he launched a campaign to showcase himself as owning 60% of all AP filling stations across the country. Is it not curious that nobody can point to any Global Fleet filling station? We therefore, dare him , if he still stand by his words to as matter urgency publish the lists of:(a) the locations and addresses of all his stations (b)their various tank capacities (c)No. of pumps per station (d) staff strength per station (e) and total quantum of fuel sold to date. Because we believe if this gauntlet were thrown at CONOIL, OANDO or AP a computer printout will awash our national dailies authenticating their claim in a matter of minutes. Jimoh Ibrahim we are waiting.

The moment NICON was handed to Jimoh Ibrahim, the first action he took was to sack about 85% of the staff claiming he was saddled by staff salary bills. Criteria used to load shed were all staff with 8 years and above must go. Those that chose to work with him were invariably frustrated out of service because they could not stand by to watch Jimoh Ibrahim redefine the laws of indemnity by flatly refusing to pay genuine claims. We were therefore shocked when in his various media chats he claimed to have employed over 8000 staff and pays a preposterous salary bill of over N600 million monthly. This figure is actually slightly shy of the total workforce of the insurance industry as a whole. The reality on ground is that the less than 200 staff that still remained in NICON has been battling with late salaries, non payments of allowances, low motivation, low morale as a result of job insecurity, arbitrariness, knee jack response to otherwise very simple problems, no working tools, etc.

The second and of course the most damaging was to personalize cash and assets of the corporation to personal use. Conscientious staff that opposes such move were dismissed or transferred. Jimoh Ibrahim had being issuing conflicting figures on claims and other liabilities bequeathed to him the latest was that of 10th December 2007 in ThisDay News papers where he claimed to have inherited a liability of over N27 billion and have so far paid off N21billion leaving a balance of N6billion. From available records, total liabilities inherited were far less than N6 billi0n this means Jimoh never paid one Kobo to anybody but he only reproduced inherited liability. Our position is further collaborated by various organizations claiming non settlements of liabilities and other sundry expenses numbering over 500 eg NDIC, INEC, NEWS AGENCY OF NIGERIA, SOSOLISO Air Victims etc. But if Jimoh Ibrahim will be magnanimous enough he should please take a paid advert to tell us whom were paid (Insured), incidence of loss, Claim Numbers and amounts settled. And should stop advertising claims paid under the Unified Pension Schemes (to universities and parastatals) that is being funded fully by the Federal Ministry of Finance to which NICON simply acts as investor/cashier.

Information reaching us is that in total violation of NAICOM guidelines where serving Chief Executives should be holders CIIN or its equivalent, Jimoh Ibrahim was only clever by half by creating 12 dummy subsidiaries with him as the GMD overseeing powerless chief executives that have no approving authority. This singular act means that every action must await his final approval. Swift decisions were compromised payments of claims and liabilities were indefinitely held back while Jimoh fretted away monies made from premium and other incomes. Furthermore cash calls received from reinsurers and coinsurers meant for claims settlements as provided by law and practice were converted by Jimoh for personal use.

CONCLUSION

From the conduct of Mr. Ibrahim in his oversight of NICON, against the regulator’s guideline by virtue of lack of qualification experience, compounded by poor administrative etiquette and ability, we make bold to say that Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim is not a fit a proper person to run a regulated entity like NICON(regardless of ownership which is being contested anyway). His misplaced misadventure by circumventing regulation by creating 12 dummy companies and imposing himself as a Group Managing Director should be revisited by NAICOM failing which the industry would be a huge joke, the weakest link in the financial industry. NAICOM should take a cue from its older and more established precursor, CBN and, to some extent, NDIC by keeping a tight rein on the insurance industry because anything short of that would subvert the Federal Government intention of making Nigeria one of the 20 largest economies by 2020.

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