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Nigerian banks CEOs take home N1.7bn pay, cut jobs amid pandemic



Banks reap big from enhanced digital capacity

Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of eleven commercial banks out of the 13 listed on the Nigerian Exchange Limited as well as those of two unlisted banks earned N1.7 billion between them in executive pay for 2020.

The average total compensation for the heads of the banks came to N144 million, one one per cent less than the N1.74 billion earnings for 2019, Premium Times reported.

Nigerian banks generally did well amid COVID-19 in 2020, recording profits above the 2019 level in a year that witnessed lockdowns and an economic decline.

The increase in revenue and profit did not stop banks from cutting jobs and pay, however. While some lenders added new jobs, others retrenched despite a directive by the Central Bank of Nigeria for banks to keep their staff.

Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show that the total number of staff in commercial banks fell by 9.03 per cent to 95,026 from 103, 610 in 2019. Not all who left the sector were dismissed. Some resigned and others retired.

The bulk of those who lost their jobs were contract staff. The number of contract workers dropped from 45,350 in 2019 to 39,798 while the total number of junior staff declined from 39, 896 to 37,590.

Interestingly, the commercial banks increased their sizes of their executive staff from 184 to 257, a 39.67 per cent rise, that pushed total personnel cost by 3.37 per cent to N552 billion.

CEOs pay

Zenith’s Ebenezer Onyeagwu took a pay rise of more than four per cent bringing his remuneration to N230 million, while his FBN Holdings counterpart, U.K Eke, received N122 million, about 2 per cent higher than his earnings for 2019.

On the contrary, Innocent C. Ike of Polaris took N65 million, N19 million lower than his 2019 pay, just as Union Bank Managing Director Emeka Emuwa received almost 5 per cent less. Both CEOs opted for a pay cut even when their banks posted increases in profit. The emoluments of the rest 8 CEOs were unchanged.

GTB’s Segun Agbaje maintained the top spot, his N400 million earnings almost two times those of his closest rival. Oluwatomi Somefun of Unity Bank earned the least pay, according to Premium Times report.

The analysis below show the pay spread on a table and infographic.

Directors’ Pay

Generally, the emoluments of bank directors in Nigeria were little impacted by the 2020 global economic crisis, given a modest increase in their pay and entitlements for the year, relative to those of 2019.

Only one (FirstBank) of the Big 5 banks, commonly called FUGAZ, reported an increase in directors’ remuneration; the rest four recorded a drop. In some ways, it reflects the efficiency of frugality as a winning factor in the time of austerity. Even when some lenders had grounds like bigger revenues and profits to up the pay of directors, they chose to lower them and took the longer view by laying up more earnings for future operations.

Fidelity, Polaris and Sterling all upped the emoluments of board members (excluding CEOs) despite reporting a slide in revenue, with Fidelity increasing its by as much as 78 per cent. Wema retained the remuneration of its top rank at the same level as 2019.


Cutting its directors pay by almost one third, Zenith Bank adopted the most prudent approach in compensating its directors out of the 14 banks monitored by Premium Times.


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