Jim Ovia’s Rough Road To Zenith Bank

The name Jim Ovia is obviously a name to reckon with in Nigeria’s business enterprise.  He’s not just super rich, he’s equally very influential. Take for instance a man who singlehandedly got his man appointed as Central Bank of Nigeria governor. He’s equally the chairman of Zenith bank with branches across the world raking in huge profits. While all this accomplishments remain an enviable feat to many, his dirty past and how he rose to the top continue to be a dent hunting the banker. 

And like it’s usually said in the local parlance that wealth is filthy but how filthy one may never know. A journalist by name Andy Briggs was the man who first fired the salvo in a viral video and a book he published to xtray what he alleged to be the true Jim Ovia’s story titled ‘Godfather of Banking’

The book published in 2017 never saw the light of the day due to litigation, but surprisingly,  Jim went ahead to publish another book with almost same title The Godfather Of Nigeria Banking.Simply put, the earlier book portrayed Jim as a brilliant banker and how he was able to turn it around though there are allegations that bother on his paternity, love affairs and unethical practices.Most shocking of it was the allegation of how Jim edged out other owners of the bank to claim ownership. The book says Zenith Bank was founded in 1990 by three directors, with one of them as chairman — the late Baba Aladura of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church, Dr Godfrey Itse Mene Otubu. It alleges that Dr Godfrey Otubu, “a former director at the Ministry of Defence…recruited Ovia from Merchant Bank of Africa to run his new banking enterprise and, after he died in 2004, Ovia took over the bank” Although the allegation could not be supported by an official document of CAC that seems to be in contrary.
There’s also the story of Ovia’s brush with the EFCC in 2008. A young bank, Zenith Bank had yet survived the stormy banking consolidation program of Chukwuma Soludo in late 2005, posting insane profits and winning fantastic awards. Briggs credits Ovia’s ICT innovations and managerial “cunning” with the bank’s fortunes, but equally alleges that corruption assisted.

Earlier in 2008, a bank account had been opened without a photograph at a Port Harcourt branch of Zenith Bank, bearing the fictitious name Harrison Da Princewill. Within months of operating, the account had received an impressive haul of over N4 billion. The Nuhu Ribadu-led EFCC linked the account to one Nyesom Wike, then chief of staff of the Rivers State government and now governor, and a money-laundering case was established. Ovia was later arrested in this connection. His detention at the EFCC office was being perfected when Michael Aondakaa, then Attorney-General of the Federation, intervened and he was let go. But three Zenith Bank staffers who allegedly colluded with Nyesom Wike to operate the account became the scapegoats, writes Andy Briggs. The case, now totally forgotten, died a slow natural death
Despite all stories,  Jim whi is alleged to have been originally named James Nzemeke remains one of thr established and accomplished  men in the country.Mosun Usman 

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