Sir Okenmor Fidelis Tilije was born at Obiaruku, Ukwuani LGA, on 23rd April 1958 to the family of Chief Moses Enuezuneka Tilije and Mrs. Mary Tilije (nee Enuma, from Abbi, Ndokwa West LGA).
Banker extraordinaire, marketer, stockbroker, politician and philanthropist, Sir Tilije was educated at the University of Lagos for both his first degree in Banking and Finance (1983) and his Masters Degree in Finance (1985) with specialization in Corporate Finance. Because his Second Class Upper Division was more than excellent, he was granted a University Scholar status to study for his Masters degree in the same University of Lagos in 1984/85.
Sir Tilije began his working career in 1985 with the Lagos State Polytechnic, Department of Banking where he lectured Comparative Banking, Business Mathematics and Elements of Banking. He resigned in 1987 from the Lectureship position at lagos Polytechnic and left for the Securities and Exchange Commission where he was first an Assistant Financial Analyst between 1987 and 1989, then later promoted Assistant Manager and served until 1991. At the Securities and Exchange Commission he was saddled amongst others, with the preparation of policy papers and became the first Head, Capital Market Surveillance Unit, took active participation in Valuation of shares, Financial analysis of Companies, Vetting and Approval of Prospectuses, Vetting and Approval of basis of allotment of Company Shares. Additionally, he was the Securities and Exchange Commission’s representative at the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
In early 1991, Sir Tilije shifted ambition to the Merchant Bank of Africa Nigeria Limited where he was appointed Assistant Manager and Head, Investment Banking Department and later promoted Deputy Manager, Corporate Finance. At the Merchant Bank of Africa he was in charge of credit appraisal, capital issues, financial advisory services, loan syndication, underwriting of capital issues, project finance and equipment leasing. He initiated and became the Head of the Mutual Trust Scheme Desk before leaving the bank for greener pastures
While at Merchant Bank of Africa, higher opportunity beckoned at him from First City Merchant Bank Limited, now First City Monument Bank Plc, where he was appointed as Deputy Manager, Corporate Finance in June 1994 and had rapid promotions as Senior Manager, Corporate Finance and later as Assistant General Manager and Head, Corporate Finance Department. He served with First City until June 1997 when yet another door of higher opportunity opened for him at Standard Trust Bank Limited, now UBA plc, where he was appointed Chief Banking Officer. As the Chief Banking Officer, he functioned as the Deputy Managing Director of the bank, assisted in the development of the bank’s business focus as well as formulation of turnaround strategies, developed and implemented overall market penetration initiatives, led all Treasury and Structured Financial/Investments transactions during his almost five years stay with the Bank.
His duties at First City Merchant Bank and Standard Trust Bank Limited prepared him for the headship of a bank, as it were. This came to fruition in April 1999, when he was appointed the Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of Fortune International Bank Plc. As the Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of Fortune International Bank Plc, he led the Turnaround Team that resuscitated the then comatose Commercial Bank for Africa Limited, which he renamed Fortune International Bank Plc. He was also instrumental to the establishment of Fortune Assurance Nigeria Limited and FB Assets Nigeria Limited. He served on the board of both Companies.
His latter years at the helm of affairs at Fortune International Bank Plc coincided with the period the Central Bank of Nigeria decreed consolidation in the Nigerian Banking Industry, wherein all Banks in Nigeria were forced to increase their paid up share capital from One billion naira to Twenty five billion naira within 18months or merge or liquidate. Consequently, Sir Tilije was appointed Chairman of the Steering Committee of Alliance Bank Plc Merger Group which consisted of eight banks. As the Chairman of the Steering Committee, he was able to obtain CBN pre-merger consent and approval in principle as well as, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s approval in principle for the eight banks, after which the eight banks had their respective court ordered meeting which indeed fused them into Alliance Bank Plc.
Following the refusal of Central Bank of Nigeria to license Alliance Bank Plc due to obvious political reasons, Sir Tilije bid farewell to the banking sector. He thereafter set up Zeep Engineering & Energy Services Ltd (an Oil and Gas Service Company) and serves as its Chairman/Chief Executive Officer till date.
During his banking career, he attended several courses locally and abroad. Some of these courses include, Driving Corporate Performance at the prestigious Harvard Business School, Boston, USA; The Change Program at the International Institute for Management Development, Switzerland and International Capital Market Course at Oxford, United Kingdom, amongst others.
Moved by an uncommon patriotic spirit to bring sustainable development to Delta State through good governance, Sir Tilije, upon retirement from Banking, joined the political fray and pitched his tent with the opposition, Democratic Peoples Party (DPP). He was elected the running mate to Chief Great Ogboru in 2006, again in January 2011 and finally in April, 2011. Tumultuous crowds welcomed them in their campaigns and even though exit polls showed that they won the elections, the electoral umpire declared otherwise. Chief Ogboru and Sir Tilije went to court seeking the reversal of the last declaration in respect of the January and April 2011 Elections. Unfortunately, the merits of these two cases were not looked at in the Courts. However, like a rare political sportsman that he is, he maintained his calm and remained undaunted. He later elected and joined the Merger tray that ushered in the resultant APC political party in 2014 and participated in the Delta State Gubernatorial Primaries for the 2015 Elections in APC. Still unsatisfied and in his continuous zeal to locate justice, he left APC and pitched back his tent in PDP. Having supported the PDP successes in the 2015 Elections in Delta State, he was found worthy and appointed the Hon Commissioner for Water Resources Development by His Excellency, Sen Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa in July 2015, a position he remains till date.
Describing Sir Tilije’s courage, candor and uncommon determination to stay without been compromised, Prof. Steve Agwo Okecha, in a statement entitled “Okenmor Tilije: Steely Man in His Own Class,” wrote, “Some Ndokwa politicians in his situation would have since been compromised… Politicians of Tilije’s class are in short supply in Ndokwa land: self-respecting men and women who are genuinely patriotic, courageous, selfless, dependable, generous and copiously endowed with initiative….. I congratulate Tilije wholeheartedly for his carriage and candor, for his political sagacity, for emerging as a formidable masquerade in Ndokwa political arena. He is the best Deputy Governor that has not yet served Delta State. I am proud of him, for he is worth showcasing as a great Ndokwa son…”
Sir Tilije who served in various national committees while in the banking sector, including Presidential Committee on Offshore Banking in Nigeria, Bankers Sub-Committee on Corporate Governance, Bankers Sub-Committee on Interest Rates Reduction, etc, is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Nigeria Stockbrokers, Fellow, Associate of Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketers of Nigeria.
For his contributions to excellence in banking, he received the West African International Golden Award for Excellence in Enterprise in 2002 and the Paul Harris Fellowship Award by Rotary International.
Happily married to Dr Rose Nkem Tilije and blessed with three children, Sir Tilije is an exemplary family man, a devoted Christian and a Knight of the Roman Catholic Church. He spends his leisure time reading, writing and watching television. Sir Tilije, is generally known as MR. Ndokwa. He is instrumental to the share number of Ndokwasons and daughters in the Banking Industry today. He has supported beyond reasonable doubt most known Ndokwa Business men and women. He has and maintains the ‘’Okenmor Educational Endownment Fund, whose main object is the assistance of the educational pursuit of Anioma indigent brothers and sisters. His name rings a positive bell in Delta State in general and Anioma in particular. No wonder he has not only been reappointed a second term Commissioner but appointed to a very trusty and responsible position he remains today, as the Hon. Commissioner for Finance, Delta State.