The history of corporate governance is often traced to series of business scams and failures in the corporate world, which led to the collapse of companies. Committees were formed to guide companies, and gradually they evolved into what is now called a board of directors.
The board tries to create a balance between economic and social goals, while cashing in on opportunities, without endangering the company’s assets. All of this is done under the guidance of the Company Secretary, who also serves as Board Secretary.
The role of the secretary in corporate governance is critical as they are to ensure that good corporate practises are adopted and maintained. Unarguably, no company can function without an efficient secretary. Little wonder a new secretary is always appointed immediately one leaves the position.
Let’s have a quick take on the men and women who form the engine rooms of some top companies trading in the NSE.
Sunday Ekwochi (Access Bank Plc)
Ekwochi graduated as one of the top law students from the University of Jos and by 1998, he was done with the Nigerian Law School. For the last two decades, he has garnered varied experiences from top firms like the African Express Bank, Fidelity Bank and Access Bank Plc.
He is an Honorary Senior Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, and also serves as the Vice-Chair of the Association of Banks Legal Advisers and Company Secretaries.
Ekwochi attended the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, London in 2003 where he qualified as a Chartered Secretary. He has also attended several management development programmes at London Business School, Euromoney, Wharton Business School and IMD.
He is currently Company Secretary of Access Bank Plc, a position he has held since March 2010. He played a critical role in documenting and managing the intricacies of several buy-outs over the years, the most recent of which is the just concluded merger of Access Bank with Diamond Bank Plc.
Temitope Hassan (Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc)
Temitope Hassan is a multi-disciplined lawyer with a law degree from the London South Bank University, United Kingdom, in Insurance degree from the University of Lagos, Akoka, and a Masters degree in Business Administration from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife.
She was appointed Company Secretary of Dangote Sugar in January 2020, with almost 2 decades of experience. She worked as Company Secretary and Legal Adviser at UBA Pensions Custodian Ltd, and before that, was the Head of the Company Secretariat of Skye Bank Plc.
Courtesy of valuable skills and expertise gained from previous experiences, Hassan is seasoned in legal drafting, dispute resolution, and corporate strategies.
She has attended several courses on regulatory compliance, corporate services, corporate governance advisory, investor relations and is a certified trainer and an accredited mentor of the National Mentoring Pilot Project UK. She is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria.
Oluseye Kosoko (FBN Holdings)
Kosoko joined the FBN Group in 2017 to replace the outgoing Company secretary.
Before this, he was the Company Secretary and Head, Legal with Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited.
His 30 years’ experience cuts through Banking and Finance, Telecommunications, Law teaching and practice and Taxation planning and advisory. He worked with Econet Wireless Nigeria Limited (Now Airtel Networks), Henley Crankshaw Solicitors, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Nigeria International Bank Limited (Citibank Nigeria).
Seye had started his career with a stint at the Faculty of Law, Lagos State University where he was pioneer lecturer, before he practiced with Professor A.B. Kasunmu’s Chambers.
He has law degrees from the former University of Ife now known as Obafemi Awolowo University, and the University of Lagos, and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1985. He is an Advisory Board Member of the General Counsel Summit, Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and Member of the Nigerian Bar Association.
Besides being a legal counsel, Seye has extensive experience as a business executive and corporate governance advisory.
Bili Odum (UBA)
Odum is group company secretary of UBA, and has occupied this office since march 2010. Before then he served as the company secretary and legal adviser at the Kakawa discount house limited for 2 years, and worked with the BGL limited as General Counsel.
since the late twentieth century, his experience has cut across strategic corporate positions in the financial services sector including Asset Management, Structured Finance, Legal Advisory and Corporate Governance. He has also proven himself in Human Resource Management, Administration, Knowledge Management, and Business Communication.
Bili Odum has his law degree from Edo State University, Ekpoma, and was enrolled as a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1990. He is also a member of the Nigerian Bar Association, the International Bar Association and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (United Kingdom).
Madibinet Cisse (Ecobank Transnational Inc)
Cisse is the Company Secretary of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI). He also has multidisciplinary degrees, with a Masters degree in law from Harvard Law School, a Masters degree in Banking and Finance from the Paris Descartes Universite in Paris, a Masters in Business Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Law from the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense in Paris.
With his versatile background, he is qualified to practise English and French law, and the Organisation for the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa. He is also an Attorney and Counsellor at Law at the New York Bar of Attorneys.
He was an associate in the Finance departments of two Paris law firms – Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and Gide Loyrette- Nouel, and also an associate in the Legal and Tax department of Ernst & Young in Conakry, Guinea.
He joined Ecobank in January 2017 from the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) in Lagos, Nigeria, where he was Senior Vice President and Lead Counsel.
Mahmud Kazaure (Dangote Cement Plc)
Kazaure was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1987, though he now has the license to practise in Nigeria, and the states of Maryland and New York in the USA; he can also appear before the Supreme Court of the United States.
His experience also covers contractual and legislative drafting, having obtained a Master of Comparative Jurisprudence Degree from Howard University School of Law, Washington DC in 1994.
He joined Dangote Cement as Company Lawyer in 2011, bringing with him his vast experience in commercial law, civil litigation and international business.
Erhi Obebeduo (GTBank)
Erhi Obebeduo was appointed Company secretary with Guaranty Trust Bank in 2017, after serving as the Head, Legal group and Assistant Company Secretary for over a decade.
Obebeduo has garnered about 20 years experience since he was called to bar; most of which have been in commercial banking which is his core specialisation.
He obtained his Master’s Degree in International Commercial Law, from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, and his first law degree from the University of Benin.
He is a ICMC Chartered Mediator and Conciliator and also belongs to several professional bodies.
Ahmed Aliyu (BUA Group)
Aliyu is Chief Legal Officer/Company Secretary of BUA Group.
He joined the Cement Company of Northern Nigeria PLC which merged with Obu cement earlier this year to become BUA group. Before then he had worked with the Corporate Affairs Commission of Nigeria where he rose to the position of Zonal Manager of various states.
He has about two decades experience, and is seasoned through and through in Litigation & Arbitration, Legal Drafting, Company Law, Capital Markets, Corporate Governance, Management and International Business.
He obtained his law degrees from Ahmadu Bello University, before attending the Nigerian Law School and later on, the prestigious Harvard Law School (Executive Education).
Aliyu is a member of several professional bodies including the International Bar Association, London, Nigerian Bar Association, and the Chartered Institute of Taxation.
Somuyiwa Sonubi (Union Bank of Nigeria Plc)
Sonubi is one of the few Company Secretaries who know their firms like the back of their hands. He has spent over 2 decades in Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, starting in 1997 as Legal Manager.
He was elevated to Company Secretary in 2010, after holding the position of Deputy Company Secretary for 5 years.
He got his law degrees from Obafemi Awolowo University, and the University of Lagos, and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1988.
Ayotola Jagun, (Oando Plc.)
Ayotola Jagun joined Oando Plc as Chief Compliance Officer and Company Secretary, after leaving Capital G Limited, a financial services Group based in Bermuda, where she worked as General Counsel and Corporate Secretary.
Her work experience spans two decades working on corporate and commercial law, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property and civil litigation.
She started her legal career with Chief Rotimi Williams Chambers, and has also worked with frontline companies like Akzo Nobel Plc and PricewaterhouseCoopers in the United Kingdom, Sara Lee UK Holdings Limited, as well as Citi Group in Bermuda where she was Senior Corporate, Risk & Control Manager.
She obtained her first law degree from the University of Central England in 1989, and her LLM at Sidney Sussex College, University Of Cambridge in 1990. She was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1992 and in 2004, went ahead to bag an M.Sc.in Corporate Governance & Ethics from the Birkbeck College, University of London.
Ayotola is a Barrister of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales and an Associate Member of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators.
Abidemi Ademola (Unilever Nigeria Plc)
Ademola has law degrees from the Obafemi Awolowo University and the Lagos State University.
She joined Unilever Nigeria Plc in 2012 as Secretary and General Counsel and was later Director, Legal and Secretary before moving on to become Company Secretary in 2020.
Bidemi has spent most of her 2-decade career as a Corporate Counsel and Chartered Secretary, partnering the Unilever business to manage legal and regulatory risks and delivering innovative legal solutions to legal, compliance & governance issues.
Abidemi is a member of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators in Nigeria, and the Society of Corporate Governance.
Uto Ukpanah (MTN Nigeria Communications Plc)
Uto Ukpanah became Company Secretary of MTN Nigeria Communications Plc in July 2005.
Her specialty covers corporate governance and telecommunications, issues of ethics and financial services.
She is a Fellow and Member of the Council of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria. She is a Certified Ethics Officer from the Ethics Institute, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, and has been actively involved in developing various corporate governance and ethics related codes, given her extensive global experience. She sits on the boards of several organisations including educational institutions and not-for-profit organisations.
She is a member of Steering Committee on National Code of Corporate Governance in Nigeria, as well as the Committee of the Code and Corporate Governance for the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission, and Secretary of Bankers Committee Sub-Committee on Corporate Governance.
In the early years of her career, she worked with United Bank for Africa Plc.
She is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrator of Nigeria (ICSAN)
Edith Onwuchekwa (Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc)
Mrs. Edith Onwuchekwa assumed the position of Company Secretary/Chief Governance and Compliance Officer of Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc in June 2019.
Before this, she was Legal and Compliance Director at Lafarge Africa Plc. She also worked as Company Secretary and Head of Legal at Lafarge Cement WAPCO Nigeria Plc, Head of Public affairs, and Legal Counsel, Sub-saharan Africa.
She holds a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from University of Uyo, Barrister at Law from the Nigerian Law School, Abuja, as well as a Master of Business Administration from the University of Bradford, United Kingdom.
She became a Chartered Secretary when she finished with the Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators UK, in 2009.
Godwin Samuel, (UAC Nigeria)
Godwin became Company Secretary and Legal Adviser with UAC Nigeria in 2006, and has spent over 2 decades with the UAC group, since 1997 when he joined as Manager, Legal Services.
He worked with the UACN Property Development Company PLC (‘UPDC’) and its subsidiaries UPDC Hotels Ltd and Manor Gardens Property Development Company Ltd., the Allied Products PLC (“CAP PLC”), GM Nigeria Ltd, Opticom Leasing Company Ltd, UAC Foods Limited and other UAC subsidiaries. He is also a Non-Executive Director of Livestock Feeds PLC, a subsidiary of UAC of Nigeria PLC.
For almost three decades, he has garnered experience from the academia and field practice of his profession, giving him a versatile mix that is unique to him – law teacher, legal practitioner, corporate counsel, and corporate governance guru.
The overall best graduating Law student of the 1990 Law class of the Lagos State University, Ojo, Godwin went ahead to obtain other degrees.
He is an alumnus of Haggai Institute Leadership programme, Singapore (2005), Developing General Management Potential programme of Cranfield University, United Kingdom (2005) and is a member of different professional groups.
He is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association and its Section on Business Law, International Bar Association, Nigerian Institute of Management, Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, Society for Corporate Governance Nigeria, and several others.