My priority is to provide the staff of Umuchinemere Pro-credit Micro Finance Bank the conducive environment to do their job and perform optimally to make the bank even move higher; and I would not want finance or any worldly thing to dictate my life

"My priority is to provide the staff of Umuchinemere Pro-credit Micro Finance Bank the conducive environment to do their job and perform optimally to make the bank even move higher; and I would not want finance or any worldly thing to dictate my life" – Msgr Anijielo

The new Chairman of Umuchinemere Pro-credit Micro Finance Bank, Rev. Monsignor Dr. Anthony Chukwuma Anijielo, recently granted a special interview to the Editor of The Listener, Abuchi Anueyiagu. He spoke on a wide range of issues concerning the bank. Herein is the excerpt of the interview:

Q: Monsignor, how did you feel when you were chosen by the Bishop, your fellow Directors and endorsed by the shareholders at the bank's last Annual General Meeting in July 2016 to be the new chairman of Umuchinemere Pro-credit Micro Finance Bank?

Ans: Well, looking at my antecedents, as well as looking at my predecessors... you know the first chairman of the bank was Chief Gabriel Akachukwu, followed by Monsignor Obiora Ike... looking at those great personalities I knew that the job was a tough one and a challenging on one.

However, looking at the constitution of the Board also I realized that as the Board was when Monsignor Obiora Ike was Chairman and I was member, I was second to the oldest member of the Board so that it's coming to me seemed almost natural since I am supposed to be one of the oldest of the members. So it did not to me in any way make it light for me because I know the enormity of what it is to be chairman of the Board. But since it was coming from the Board members themselves and particularly from the Bishop... we as priests are trained to consider obedience the highest virtue... So in obedience to my Bishop I was ready to accept that function, aware of the challenges involved in functioning as the chairman of the Board. So I readily submitted when the Bishop appealed to me to take up the function.

Q: And how do you see the new responsibility?

Ans: Quite enormous because as chairman of the Board you interact with the Board members, you interact with the Management team and you deal with the staff of the bank. And it is the function of the chairman to see that aims and objectives of the bank are maintained. It is not easy to do that function. But I also know that I myself am not a professional in the banking sector, so as Board Chairman I do not think it is my responsibility to come into day to day activity of banking and accounting as such, but to see that the Board performs it's oversight function in the bank; and that is what we're doing, and am trying my best to restrict myself to those oversight responsibilities. And also the Board is a policy issuing body. That is the major function that the Board has, to enact policies and leave the practical execution of it to the management team. I think in that area I say I centre primarily on seeing that we create the enabling environment for the staff to do the job they are trained to do.

Q: Having accepted the position and formally assumed duties after the shareholders had affirmed your nomination, what would be your objective, aim, vision and mission in your tenure? In summary, what do you intend to achieve, and how do you intend to achieve it?

Ans: It's obvious to me that Umuchinemere has earned credit as one of the respected micro finance banks in Nigeria. In my own tenure I would not want it to lose a little bit of its attained glory. I would want to uphold it, and where possible see that we even move higher. And in order to do this effectively I want to see that the staff is empowered to do his job. Whatever it takes to make the staff function effectively and position the bank where it ought to be, I would go forward to do it. I would also want to see that the members of the Board, the Directors of the Board, work in unison. That is my greatest desire. If we achieve this, that the Board does its primary function and does not over step its bounds; that the management does its functions and does not become dictatorial; and that the staff execute its functions and does not become overbearing so that our customers who come experience the cordial banking environment, that is what it will take to retain our customers and win new ones. It is my desire to see that within this period we do all that: we see a customer friendly staff; we see a management team that is focused and does its job and we see a Board that creates enabling environment for its staff to do what they are supposed to do.

Q: What would be your disposition or relationship toward the employees of the bank, especially to give them a sense of belonging, boost their morale and get the best out of them?

Ans: What is important is that we all should see that they are equipped to function effectively. So if it would mean organizing seminars to see that they are properly enlightened to do their job, it would be my hunger to do that; to equip them to do the job they ought to do. I will work hard to see that we continue to have enlightenment talks, enlightenment programmes that will help the staff to function effectively. No least will be of course to see that they get their due benefits as at and when due.

Q: What is your relationship with your colleagues on the Board, as well as with your Management, so far in these first six months of your tenure?

Ans: Even as I was asked to become the Chairman of the Board, it gives me strength to accept that challenge, knowing that the members of the Board in unison supported me and encouraged me to accept that function. So far so good, I must say that the members of the Board have been very co-operative. There's been nobody who has shown any air of dissent or working unilaterally. There is that cordial spirit, and am encouraged by it. Also the management so far I must say so well. But I also discover that our establishment has the spirit of various other establishments. Sometimes you find members of staff and management not supporting other members of staff. It pains me when I discover it. It pains me when I discover that there are some who are working subterranean to supplant some other members of staff and management. This is what I will work against to see that management is a team and that they are not people working behind the line to make some others uncomfortably or even lose their position.

Q: What do you desire to stand you out among the successive leaderships of the bank in the end?

Ans: I would want to see harmony established at all levels, among the staff, among the management, and with the Board. If these various arms work comfortably and in unison and in tandem with one another I think I will consider my job accomplished.

Q: What would the various publics – shareholders, regulatory bodies, Enugu Diocese, directors, staff, customers and other stakeholders – expect (from you or from the bank) during your tenure of office?

Ans: I am not the one who would determine what they expect. They know what they expect. They would want the bank to continue to make profit. I know that is what everybody wants. Even the staff will want it because if we make profit it flows back to them. The members of the Board will want to earn distinction as members of Board who worked at a time there was greater prosperity, but the bank does not operate in vacuum. Unfortunately we took off at a time when recession was on the lips of everybody and we are feeling the impact in all segments of the bank. We would want to wither this turbulent storm and still see our bank break even. It is my desire to see that the bank continues to break even.

Q: What would you like the bank to be in your first year in office, in the next four years and by the end of your tenure?

Ans: We've already established several cash centre and branches that we have already started. I would want to see these cash centre consolidated and those of them that harbor promises of self reliance to be promoted to branches. That is my hunger, to see that what we have set continues to function. Extension is not my priority but to see that what we have continues to bring profit. So, empowering all those cash centre and branches to function effectively is what I will consider. At the end of the year if we achieve that, at the end of the tenure if those branches are able to function effectively, with some of the cash centre grow up to become branches, I will consider myself fortunate.

Q: Are you going to open more branches or more CMPs within the next four years?

Ans: We have a planned schedule and I am not going to throw it away. We will work by the development plan that the bank has already put in place and I will go by it as far as possible.

Q: What is your advice to your fellow Directors, the Management and the Staff, as well as the customers, of the bank, so as to get the bank successful in the end? Ans: I think I will begin with the staff of the bank because they're the ones who carry the bank. If they attend to customers becomingly; if the customers come in and see themselves treated with dignity, I think that's the greatest that we can have because it will help us retain our customers. If they're badly attended to they can easily go away. So the staff may be the priority I would say I have, to see that they function with the spirit and know that customers should be treated with dignity. It is only when they succeed that more customers can come and that will be the greatest credit you give. When customers are satisfied they are the ones who will go and spread the gospel of the bank. And then the members would also help to see that the staff get their entitlements as at when due, and see to it that they also meet the minimum requirement for excellent service delivery.

Q: Many have wanted to know why the bank has the word "pro-credit" in its name or title, may we know why?

Ans: You know the word "Pro" comes from Latin and means also "For," in favour of. So our bank wants to see that, like all micro finance banks are, credit is a thing upon which micro finance banks function and it means we're giving emphasis to credit because the purpose of micro finance bank is to see that the unreached are reached, that the marginal members of the society are empowered economically to be self reliant. So when they hear that there is a micro finance bank that gives ascent to credit it should encourage them to come to us and know that we will be in a position to empower them to achieve their economic objective. Pro credit is an emphasis of the fact that credit is the mainstay of our micro finance bank.

Q: We would like to know who is Monsignor Dr. Anthony Chukwuma Anijielo?

Ans: Well, I was privileged as a seminarian to be offered the opportunity to complete my theological studies aboard, precisely in Austria in a renowned university, University of Innsbruck in Austria. That exposed me to seeing the world at a large extent. And it's providential that upon the completion of my work and return to Nigeria I was assigned to the Diocesan Catholic Secretariat. I first of all functioned as an assistant secretary and when my substantive secretary left I became the Diocesan secretary and I stayed in that Diocesan secretary post for 13 full years, which was another opportunity to seeing me functioning at various levels, both in the church and in government.

For example, in government, it gave me the opportunity to work with the team of the state on prerogative of mercy, where you work with state Attorney General and other ministers of the Bar to give advice to the governor on those who are to be granted reprieve of their prison sentence or who had stayed in awaiting trial for so long. I worked in that prerogative of mercy. I also was privileged to work with Anambra State Pilgrims Welfare Board and when Enugu State was created I now became the chairman of Enugu State Pilgrims Welfare Board. Also in the diocese I have worked with various diocesan Boards: Health Board, Education Board and our hospitals. It exposed me to administration.

I think I am to say that administration is one thing that has come naturally to me. I have worked with human beings, and it was pleasant to me that even when I left Diocesan secretariat as secretary and became so to say an ordinary priest, I was imagining that I may have stepped on several toes working at that high echelon for 13 years. I was thinking there would be repugnance on the part of priests when they meet me, and they would say, ah you can see you lorded it over us when you were secretary but the relationship was rather so cordial.

Even till today the priests meet me and they do not challenge me. So having worked at that level and also worked in three parishes since I became a parish priest… I started with St. Theresa's Abakpa, went over to Holy Trinity Independence Layout and worked also in the university setting, university chaplaincy and am now in St. Leo… so what has been encouraging and memorable to me is working in the university. It opened my eyes because sometimes we think that our youths in relation to their Faith will be lukewarm but when I came to the university it surprised me to see that our young girls and our young boys in the university would wake up every morning, come to Mass, and do their spiritual exercises without being compelled.

Nobody forces them to do it. They did it willingly. Every morning the church was full of them, amazingly even that when it rained some of them defied the rain to come to the church. That was wonderful for me. It gives me experience to see that religion has prospect in our country Nigeria. There also at the university, even the professors, they did not just come to Mass because they want to fulfill Sunday obligation, some of them were very regular at morning Masses and spiritual exercises conducted in the university.

That was very encouraging to me. And now to transit from university setting to a parish level, St. Leo the Great parish, also seeing the interaction between me and the lay people in the parish it's been wonderful, not to then talk of the bank now here and functioning as the chairman. In the diocese now I am the Director of Vocations, seeing to the animation and sustenance of seminarians, that those who want to come into the seminary are given the opportunity to come and serve God, and that as they come in that they are sustained in their formation. The seminary does the practical side of the formation whereas as vocation Director I do a supportive function. So it has exposed me to various levels and am grateful to God I have done that and I come in touch with people I have touched in those various segments and I still find resonance and a welcome relationship among them. That is something that makes me feel good, that I have worked for God the way He wanted me to work for Him.

Q: What would you like to be remembered for at the end of your tenure as Chairman of UPMFB?

Ans: I have come in here as a priest to do my function for the diocese and for our community. I would want to be remembered as a priest who remained true to his calling in the priestly ministry and at the same time was able to work as a priest in a secular circle and not tempted and be carried away by financial consideration. I would not want finance or any worldly thing to dictate my life. I would want the priesthood to be the highest of all that I attain.

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