In 1986 following the sharp fall in oil revenues which accumulated trade arrears and increased debt service, the Babangida Administration, under pressure from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, launched a vital programme aimed at achieving a balance of payment viability by restructuring the payment and consumption pattern of Nigeria’s economy.
An integral part of the program known as the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) by the military administration of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida was the deregulation of the banking system which liberalized bank licensing policy thereby giving rise to a proliferation of banks and other financial institutions among which was Zenith International Bank.
SecretReporters is in possession of the original CAC documents that detailed the actual owner and original founder of Zenith Bank. Incorporated on 31st May 1990 few years after the deregulation of the banking sector, Zenith International Bank started its operation with an initial capital of twenty million shares and Dr Godfrey Otubu, Chief Alfred Nzemeke and Mr Jim Ovia as its inaugural shareholders each holding a million shares. Godfrey Otubu, Macaulay Pepple, Alfred Nzemeke and Mr Jim Ovia were also listed as the directors of the bank at incorporation.
SecretReporters learned that the bank which formally opened for business in July 1990 had Baba Aladura Godfrey Otubu as its Pioneer Chairman and actual founder of the bank while Jim Ovia served as the Managing Director contrary to the official account given by Zenith Bank propagating Jim as its founder. We had earlier revealed in a previous report that Jim Ovia original name is James Nzemeke. We are unable to ascertain why he suddenly changed his name and wipes out the family name of Nzemeke.
Our source disclosed that Baba Aladura Godfrey Itse Mene Otubu, a former accountant in the Loans Board of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Enugu, former chairman of Bitumen Marketing Company of Nigeria, a former credit manager of Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation, and a one-time controller of finance and accounts in the Federal Ministry of Defense, Nigeria , had recruited Jim Ovia from Merchant Bank of Africa to run his new Zenith International bank but unfortunately after he died in 2004, Jim Ovia took over the bank and wiped the history slates clean.
Godfrey Otubu “Oritshegbeyiwa” (a name he was given at birth meaning “prayer of God brought this”) was born on Sunday, February 24, 1924, into the Otubu royal family of the Ohenhen Kingdom in Oghara, Ethiope Local Government Area of Delta State allegedly under an unusual circumstance according to our source. This was because unlike a normal pregnancy, his mother carried him for over two years until his worried family met a pastor who revealed that he would grow to become a prophet of God.
The prophesy was later fulfilled as he joined the Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church in 1943 where he climbed the spiritual ladder of the church to attain the headship position, going from being a prophet in 1947 to becoming the Baba Aladura (prelate) on September 12, 1986 as a result of his hard work and loyalty to the church. With his higher diploma from the London School of Accountancy in 1949, Godfrey Otubu worked in various establishments at various capacities until his retirement where he proceeded to establish a flourishing consultancy and financial management firm, the Senforce Group of companies and later Zenith International bank.
Nine years after its establishment, a month after the first term inauguration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, the bank he founded, grew to more than twenty-three branches which saw it’s profit after tax in 1999 rising to N1.352billion, an increase of 27 percent compared to the previous financial year. A feat that propelled Zenith bank to the top of the banking ladder as it was then ranked the third most profitable bank in Nigeria and the fifth largest bank in terms of assets and profitability.
Following its initial public offer of 2004, a group known as Institutional Investors surprisingly amassed the highest number of shares edging the founder Baba Aladura with almost one billion shares.
The emergence of this company as the highest shareholder we learnt was how Dr Godfrey Itse Mene Otubu, prelate of the Eternal Sacred Order of Cherubim and Seraphim Church, founding chairman of Zenith international bank who later passed away in November of the same year was pushed out. Sources disclosed that Ovia brought in the company to buy the highest shares unknown to the founder that Ovia and his immediate family owns Institutional Investors Limited.
To be continued…