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The results of the parliamentary election that held in Benin Republic few days ago have been released. The outcome of the election shows the strength of the oppositions in the country, which was not expected.

 

The president of the country, Patrice Talon had destroyed opposition in the country since he came into power and they have not gotten any meaning representation in the country’s parliament.

 

However, the recent election seem to threaten the powers of Patrice Talon even though his party has a majority in the parliament, it has been reduced unlike before.

 

This is in fulfilment of the prophecy of Primate Elijah Ayodele, the leader of INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church which he released on his TikTok account to speak about the election before it held.

 

The man of God in his prophecy revealed that the opposition will make waves in the election because the people will show their displeasure in the president with votes.

 

These were his words

 

“ In Benin Republic election, the opposition will make waves, they may not get the expected answers but they will make waves. The people don’t want Patrice Talon again because they believe he is indicting political opposition because of his political oppositions. He has to change his method to go for second term and if he tries to change constitution, the people will go against it”

 

Just as the man of God put it, the oppositions didn’t win the majority but they did well than before. This is also the beginning of Patrice Talon’s troubles as forwarned by Primate Ayodele

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The quiet city of Auchi in Edo State, Nigeria, would be shaken to its very foundation as two powerful God’s ministers, Nigerian-born Apostle Johnson Suleman and Zimbabwean-born, UK based Prophet Uebert Angel, host a mega prophetic conference soon.

 

Insiders at Suleman’s Omega Fire Ministries (OFM) headquarters revealed that, in addition to preaching and ministering, the two remarkable God’s servants would be actively working together to meet the spiritual and practical needs of people in attendance and restore lives in the crusade where thousands of believers are expected to be gathered and fed the Word.

 

Prophet Uebert Angel is a British-Zimbabwean evangelical preacher and founder of Spirit Embassy, a Pentecostal ministry based in the United Kingdom.

 

Once described by popular Nigerian pastor, Chris Oyakhilome, as ‘one of the most remarkable prophets in the history of the church today’, Uebert Angel’s name has become synonymous with miracles, signs, wonders and accurate prophecies. Likewise, his host colleague, Johnson Suleman, whose evangelical undertakings have helped to build homes and save lives by continually demonstrating the gospel and ultimately connecting people with Christ Jesus.

 

“Auchi is going to explode,” proclaims a top member of OFM who divulged about the planned five-day crusade. “When the gospel is boldly proclaimed, nothing will compare to seeing almost every person come to Jesus as Auchi is set to witness God’s delivering power transform lives when the two servants of God meet,” the source adds.

 

Interestingly, both Suleman and Angel are fast-rising voices of liberation originally from Africa, founders and leaders of Christian ministries that are blessed with thousands of members with branches across the world and have both impacted millions of lives worldwide through their passion and resilience for soul winning and humanity. They are equally passionate about seeing lives changed, and especially reaching the vulnerable within their native countries and across the world giving hope for people to hear the Gospel message and receive a fresh start in life and fulfill their purpose through a personal relationship with Jesus.

Nigeria, Lagos: 11 January 2022 , Emirates has finalised plans to offer its passengers around…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
  • ‘We’re complementing party’s efforts, not working at cross purposes’ - Tayo Ayinde
 
The Independent Campaign Council (ICC) working for election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the re-election of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in Lagos State has launched a data driven campaign strategy to ensure the success of the party in the State.
 
The support group said it would leave no stone unturned in galvanising and mobilising the electorate at the grassroots level in order to deliver five million votes promised the APC candidate in next month’s presidential election.
 
At its inaugural meeting held in Alausa on Wednesday, the group’s Director General, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, charged members of all directorates to intensify their activities across the local councils, while using the ICC structure to promote the party’s achievements.
 
The meeting, attended by directors of all the directorates within the group, was chaired by the ICC chairman, Cardinal James Odunmbaku, popularly known as Baba Eto.
 
Ayinde, who is the Chief of Staff to Governor Sanwo-Olu, said the selection and appointment of the directorates’ leaders was based on the testimony of their loyalty to APC and their capacity to deliver their polling units.
 
The group’s Director General said the ICC would be adopting a bottom-up approach to garner support for the APC’s candidates, as direct response to the evolving voter demographics and electoral rules.
 
He reminded the ICC directors that stakes were higher, because of the desperation of the opposition parties to use “cheap blackmail and empty rhetoric” to hoodwink undecided voters.
 
Ayinde said: “APC has a pedigree of incomparable electoral success in Lagos, which has become the home of progressive politics in the federation. The party’s electoral successes have also been matched with trail-blazing, proactive governance for the common good of the majority of the citizens since 1999. The current responsibility of ICC is to take the messages of ‘Awa lo kan’ and ‘a Greater Lagos Rising’ to every nook and cranny of Lagos, to every stakeholder, to every voting block and every voter.
 
“Our campaign must be robust, enlightening, issues-based and focussed on competence, pedigree, the need for structural continuity and public trust. Our products are not only good but they are the best. The manifesto and programmes of our candidates are already available to the public as reference and tool for selling them to the electorate. Like every good product, we have a responsibility to soft-sell our candidates to Lagosians by highlighting their competences and promises.
 
“We are not unmindful of the fact that there is a big gap to fill between our existing electoral results and the current target. There is a big gap between the previous data of registered voters, active voters and the current equivalents. We are determined to run a data-driven campaign towards retaining our core voters, identifying undecided voters and bridging the gap for the success of APC in Lagos. We shall assign, record and review our activities to ensure this objective is realised.”
 
The ICC Director General, however, hailed APC campaign council for its commitment towards promoting the party’s successes.
 
Ayinde dismissed the notion that the ICC was initiated to work at cross purposes with the APC campaign council structure in the State, noting that the independent group and the party were not in competition except working in complementary roles to achieve the same objective.
 
He said many of the ICC directors were party leaders, while the field officers selected to work in the directorates belonged to various grassroots organisations.
 
The Director General charged them to adopt effective strategies and tactics to reach out to potential voters.

 

 

 

 

 

Guaranty Trust Bank UK Limited (GTBank UK) has reached settlement with the FCA, accepting findings in relation to historical Anti-Money Laundering (AML) controls in its operations in the period October 2014 to July 2019.

The Bank has cooperated fully with the FCA investigation and has agreed a penalty sum of GBP7,671,800, which has been calculated by reference to a proportion of the revenues of GTBank UK over the relevant period and includes a 30% discount for early settlement.

 

The FCA’s investigation focused on GTBank UK’s AML controls and steps taken by GTBank UK to remediate these to ensure they operated in line with the relevant requirements.

 

 

The findings are final, and no further action is anticipated in respect of this matter. The FCA acknowledged in its findings that GTBank UK has spent considerable time and resource in order to bring its AML standards up to the required level. Commenting on the issue, Managing Director of GTBank UK, Mr. Gbenga Alade, said: “As a responsible financial services institution that is committed to best practices, GTBank UK takes its AML obligations extremely seriously.

 

 

We note with sincere regret the FCA’s findings regarding AML control gaps in our operations in the past and we are very sorry for this.”He further stated; “We would like to assure all our stakeholders and the general public that necessary steps have been taken to address and resolve the identified gaps.

 

Whilst there was no direct customer impairment arising from the period under review [and the FCA’s findings do not include any instances of suspected money laundering], we have since reinforced our AML control framework and implemented changes in our AML processes in line with best practice with a view to ensuring that the highest standards are maintained in our operations.

 

” The Guaranty Trust Banking Group, including GTBank UK, is fully committed to the fight against all forms of financial crime and to continuing to meet all applicable financial crime regulations and legislation globally.

 

Our AML policies and controls, together with our overall risk management strategy, are regularly reviewed and revised to ensure that they remain relevant and current in line with the evolving regulatory requirements. Media enquiries: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to Editors Guaranty Trust Bank UK is subject to the supervision of the FCA and the PRA in the UK. Guaranty Trust Bank UK customers’ eligible deposits are protected by the FSCS in the UK. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of FirstBank, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, has advised financial institutions in the country to be vigilant and improve the monitoring of their customers’ loans in order to prevent the build-up of non-performing loans (NPLs) in the industry as a result of the macroeconomic challenges.

 

Speaking in an exclusive interview with THISDAY, Adeduntan also urged businesses and their bankers to approach the new year in a collaborative relationship in order to overcome anticipated headwinds in the economy.

 

Adeduntan explained, “To prevent rising NPLs, businesses and their bankers will have to collaborate more and ensure timely flow of information to prevent surprises.

 

“Banks on their part will have to improve monitoring of their loan portfolio to quickly identify early warning signals for attention before a full-scale loan deterioration.

 

“Overall, businesses and their bankers must approach 2023 with a partnership mindset to ensure that a win-win outcome is achieved despite the anticipated macroeconomic challenges.”

 

Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, recently warned that 2023 would be tougher than 2022 for much of the global economy, as the United States, European Union and China see slowing growth.

 

Georgieva had said 2023 would be a “tough year”, with one-third of the world’s economies expected to be in recession.

 

The IMF had in October cut its global growth forecast to 2.7 per cent, down from 2.9 per cent forecast in July, amid headwinds, including the war in Ukraine and sharply rising interest rates.

 

Owing to the anticipated weakening of the global economy, Adeduntan said with slowing growth and elevated inflation rates, the sustainability of foreign debts, especially for developing nations, was likely to call for a re-evaluation by lenders given the increased likelihood of default.

 

He stated, “When this is juxtaposed with the higher interest rate environment at which these debts are likely to be refinanced, you will observe a scenario where further strain is exerted on the debt repayment capacity of these economies.

 

“However, this situation does not necessarily translate to an automatic economic doom for developing nations. The actual impact on each developing economy will depend on the economy’s level of fiscal discipline and revenue generating capacity.

 

“Developing nations, who are able, in the short term, to increase revenues either from taxes or sale/refinancing of idle/sub-optimal assets will be able to negotiate reasonable refinancing terms from lenders and prevent further economic turmoil.

 

“Nonetheless, all concerned nations need to take the issue of debt sustainability more seriously by limiting fiscal wastages, reducing inefficiencies, growing revenues, and aggressively working down unsustainable debt-to-GDP levels that may worsen the impacts of external shocks.”

 

Adeduntan also pointed out that expectedly, rising cost of debt and contracting demand would exacerbate the challenges that businesses would face this year, particularly for players operating in small-margins sectors of the economy.

 

Locally, the surging inflation rate was also expected to reduce disposable income of most consumers and demand for non-essential goods and services may dip, he said.

 

He, however, pointed out that despite the expected macroeconomic challenges in 2023, there were also emerging business and revenue opportunities that could be exploited by discerning players in the financial services industry.

 

Specifically, he identified the areas that would provide significant opportunity to players in the financial services industry to include payments, digital security, mergers and acquisition (M&A) opportunities, partnership across segments and consumer lending.

 

Adeduntan explained, “The Central Bank of Nigeria’s renewed drive on cashless policy has provided an opportunity for players in the financial services industry to enhance existing digital product offerings and create more attractive product offerings that will further reduce frictions in the payment process.

 

“This will help to reduce the financial exclusion gap, increase fees and commissions revenues, and improve overall viability and stability of the financial system.”

 

In the area of digital security, the chief executive said, “Increasing adoption of digital payments platforms will necessitate increased requirement for the security of payment channels. Thus, opportunities exist for players in the financial services industry to leverage robotics and artificial intelligence to improve security protocols on digital payment channels.”

 

He added, “With the anticipated pressures on earnings, opportunities exist for big and liquid players to gain additional scale and market share through outright acquisition of fringe players with the right strategic fit.

 

“There is also an opportunity for two or more small and/or medium size players to merge their operations/businesses to obtain scale advantage.

 

“The growing number of Fintechs and licensed Payment Service Banks also presents an opportunity for improved partnerships across various categories of players in the financial services industry for both mutual and industry-wide benefits.

 

“Tightening financial conditions of the average household will create opportunities for consumer loans in several variants such as buy-now-pay-later (BNPL), salary advance, consumer asset finance, etc. The industry is already witnessing a rising trend in the creation of digital consumer loan product offerings. This is likely to intensify in 2023.”

 

Culled from ThisDay


 

 

 

 

 

January 9 Collective, a socio-political group of professionals has called on governments across Nigeria to pay more attention to and increase funding for mental health.

 

The call was made by the association's Captain, Loye Amsat while declaring open its 11th Anniversary lecture where he noted that the rise in mental health cases was a cause for concern.

 

Also lending her voice to the urgent need for intervention was the guest speaker,Oluseyi Elizabeth Odudimu, a UK-based mental health expert and CEO,  Stop Mental Illness Foundation ( SMIF) who delivered a paper on the topic: "Mental Health: Non- Governmental Organisations (MHNGOs) Role in Nigeria's Health Sector".

 

According to Odudimu,  state and federal governments need to examine why there is a rise in mental health cases and take steps to reduce the incidents of the stigmatisation of mental health patients.

 

She noted that mental illness was like physical health challenges that can be healed with proper care.

 

According to her, the growing problems in the mental health sector include:inadequate mental health care facilities to meet the needs of our large population, zero budget or low investment in mental health care services, unavailability of education and relevant training materials at national and sub-national levels and failure to integrate mental healthcare to primary healthcare.

 

She noted that Mental Health NGOs like SMIF have played a major role in stemming the tide by providing treatment services, educational programmes for public and community mental health educators, advocacy, empowerment and promotion of equal right to treatment.

 

She noted that despite their best efforts, MHNGOs still face challenges such as scarcity of mental health professionals, insufficient facilities and inaccessible services, financial and resources constraints, the criminalization of attempted suicide victims and policy makers giving less priority to mental healthcare issues.

 

She stated further that mental healthcare can be  improved if governments and other stakeholders can work together for policy improvement, integration of mental health care to primary health care, political buy in and urgent bio psychosocial research to understand the cause, course and outcome of mental disorders in Nigeria.

 

Odudimu rounded off in an optimistic note when she affirmed that there are indications that things will get better in future with the signing of the Mental Health Bill into law.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Nigerian Female Journalist, Jennifer Nwosu publisher Sky Newspaper and skynewslin.com, seek help for Chinyere Nwosu Nwaorgu, her sister, who was diagnosed with kidney failure. 

 

For six months, family of the diagnosed patient have made efforts to save the life of their beloved sister at Federal Medical Centre (FMC), and have spent all they had.

 

To save Chinyere Nwosu Nwaorgu's life, the doctor advised them to go for kidney transplant due to the two kidney was bad.

 

Jennifer Nwosu and Chinyere Nwosu Nwaorgu are seeking for help of well meaning Nigerians to save a life.

 

You contact her FMC Ebute Metta Oyibo Lagos or her residence is at 721 road opposite H close, block 8, flat 15 her phone is 08032413038

 

Please no amount is small to save her, God bless you as you do.

 

This is her number

0699586060

Gtb

Nwosu Jane Chinyere

Tuesday, 10 January 2023 00:00

JIFORM Hosts National Migration Summit Feb 9

Written by

 

 

 

 

 

The Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM) in collaboration with other partners will host a national migration summit at the Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja on February 9.

 

Some of the organizations already invited to feature at the event include the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigeria Police Force (NPF), National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Nigerians in Diaspora Organization (NiDOE), embassies and others.

 

A statement signed and made available to the media by the President of the JIFORM, Dr Ajibola Abayomi said the summit themed: “Irregular Migration: The Missing Links and The Remedy was aimed at deepening the efforts to improve migration policies in Nigeria and improve the capacity building of the media and other stakeholders.”

 

“We are concerned about the need to further engage the public and the government on migration matters and make interventions where necessary for all of us to be on the same page. We cannot pretend that issues of human trafficking, irregular migration and others are not with us.

 

“On these challenges we must reason together on how to stop these and cater for vulnerable ones among us without playing to the gallery. There is a need for us to have the understanding about the laws and how to evolve opportunities to better the lots of our people through the positive sides of migration. JIFORM is ready to work with every concerned organization” Ajibola said.

 

Organizations listed as partners are Diaspora Innovation Institute (DII), Nigeria Project 4040, Home For the Needy, Edo State (HFTN) and Initiative for Youth Awareness on Migration Immigration Development and Reintegration (IYAMIDR).

 

The event shall have participation from the media, government agencies and non-governmental agencies, embassies, students, civil society, security agencies and others.  

 

 JIFORM is a non-profit body comprising over 300 journalists and other volunteers across the continents covering migration matters.

 

Since 2019, the organization has become a major force organizing a series of local and international capacity building for journalists and other stakeholders. In 2021, it initiated the annual African Migration Summit held in Ghana in partnership with Nekotech Center of Excellence, Accra, the West African Media Migration Summit in Lome  Togo and held its 3rd Global Migration Summit in Toronto, Canada in October 2022.

 

The body in collaboration with the City University, New York City, US between November 2-4, in Brooklyn hosted the international migration summit.

 

 

 

E-signed

 

Dr Ajibola Abayomi

 

President, JIFORM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of First Bank Nigeria Limited, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, in this interview with THISDAY reviewed the performance of the global economy in 2022 and advised businesses and their bankers to approach 2023 with a partnership mindset to ensure that a win-win outcome is achieved despite the anticipated macroeconomic challenges. Excerpts:

 

What are your forecasts and anticipations for the global economy in 2023?

 

I would like to start by noting that 2022 was indeed a turbulent year for the global economy. In 2022, the global economy witnessed record high inflation rates with the attendant high cost of living across several economies. The elevated inflationary rates were attributed to the aftereffects of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the Russian-Ukraine crisis. In its last World Economic Outlook report, the IMF projected a 2.7 per cent global growth rate in 2023, lower than the 3.2 per cent in 2022. The 2023 projection will be the weakest global growth profile since 2001 except for the global financial crisis year and the acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. In my view, in 2023, we will likely witness slower growth across several global economies due to lingering trade tensions as the impact of the Russia-Ukraine crisis will still weigh heavily on global trade flows. However, we may witness a decline in commodity prices as more import-dependent countries explore alternative sourcing options for these commodities. Inflationary pressures will however reduce as the impact of rising monetary policy rates continues to yield expected outcomes. The removal of COVID-19 restrictions in China should lead to a boost in global economic output. Oil prices are expected to remain largely elevated as tensions between Russia and Ukraine lingers, so energy prices will remain high. The transition to other sustainable forms of energy may also be accelerated by the prolonged crisis.

 

Given the tepid growth associated with the global economy in 2022, developing countries have been having difficulties in refinancing their foreign debt, do you see a gloomy impact on the economies of the developing countries in 2023 as a result?

 

With slowing growth and elevated inflation rates, the sustainability of foreign debts, especially for developing nations, is likely to call for a re-evaluation by lenders given the increased likelihood of default. When this is juxtaposed with the higher interest rate environment at which these debts are likely to be refinanced, you will observe a scenario where further strain is exerted on the debt repayment capacity of these economies. However, this situation does not necessarily translate to an automatic economic doom for developing nations. The actual impact on each developing economy will depend on the economy’s level of fiscal discipline and revenue generating capacity. Developing nations who are able, in the short term, to increase revenues either from taxes or sale/refinancing of idle/sub-optimal assets will be able to negotiate reasonable refinancing terms from lenders and prevent further economic turmoil. Nonetheless, all concerned nations need to take the issue of debt sustainability more seriously by limiting fiscal wastages, reducing inefficiencies, growing revenues, and aggressively working down unsustainable debt-to-GDP levels that may worsen the impacts of external shocks.

 

Do you think that the corporate default and NPL would increase in 2023 due to the current economic headwinds?

 

Expectedly, rising cost of debt and contracting demand will exacerbate the challenges that businesses will face in 2023, particularly for players operating in small-margins sectors of the economy. Locally, the surging inflation rate is sure to reduce disposable income of most consumers and demand for non-essential goods and services may dip. To prevent rising non-performing loans (NPLs), businesses and their bankers will have to collaborate more and ensure timely flow of information to prevent surprises. Banks on their part will have to improve monitoring of their loan portfolio to quickly identify early warning signals for attention before a full-scale loan deterioration. Overall, businesses and their bankers must approach 2023 with a partnership mindset to ensure that a win-win outcome is achieved despite the anticipated macroeconomic challenges.

 

With the tightening financial conditions which has partly led to slow global economic growth, what opportunities do you think exist in 2023 for players in the financial services industry?

 

Despite the expected macroeconomic challenges in 2023, there are also emerging business and revenue opportunities that can be exploited by discerning players in the financial services industry.  Specifically, the following areas will provide significant opportunity to players in the financial services industry:

 

Payments: The Central Bank of Nigeria’s renewed drive on cashless policy has provided an opportunity for players in the financial services industry to enhance existing digital product offerings and create more attractive product offerings that will further reduce frictions in the payment process. This will help to reduce the financial exclusion gap, increase fees and commissions revenues, and improve overall viability and stability of the financial system.

 

Digital Security: Increasing adoption of digital payments platforms will necessitate increased requirement for the security of payment channels. Thus, opportunities exist for players in the financial services industry to leverage robotics and artificial intelligence to improve security protocols on digital payment channels.

 

M & A Opportunities: with the anticipated pressures on earnings, opportunities exist for big and liquid players to gain additional scale and market share through outright acquisition of fringe players with the right strategic fit. There is also an opportunity for two or more small and/or medium size players to merge their operations/businesses to obtain scale advantage.

 

Partnerships across Segments: The growing number of Fintechs and licensed Payment Service Banks also presents an opportunity for improved partnerships across various categories of players in the financial services industry for both mutual and industry-wide benefits.

 

Consumer Lending: Tightening financial conditions of the average household will create opportunities for consumer loans in several variants such as buy-now-pay-later (BNPL), salary advance, consumer asset finance, etc. The industry is already witnessing a rising trend in the creation of digital consumer loan product offerings. This is likely to intensify in 2023.

 

What are the key events that will shape 2023 domestic economic outlook and how strategically positioned is FirstBank to manage the challenges and opportunities?

 

Three key events will shape the 2023 macroeconomic outlook of Nigeria: The outcome of the 2023 general elections and peaceful political power transition; government’s ability to curb crude oil theft and increase production to meet OPEC quota; and successful removal of petrol subsidy. For us at FirstBank, we are strategically positioned to take advantage of and harness the opportunities that the three key events will bring as well as successfully ride the waves of any challenges that may arise. For over 128 years, FirstBank has built the capabilities and competencies required to succeed and thrive in any macroeconomic situation. As a Bank, our belief and commitment to the domestic economy is unwavering – FirstBank is truly woven into the fabric of the society.

 

How will you define the trends we saw in the banking sector landscape in 2022?

 

2022 was quite an eventful year and some visible trends emerged. I would like to classify the trends as follows:

 

Financial System Trends: The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) raised the monetary policy rate and the cash reserve ratio, cumulatively, by 500 basis points to 16.5 per cent and 32.5 per cent, respectively as a way of enforcing liquidity tightening measures to curb rising inflation. In the same vein, the interest rate on savings accounts was restored to the pre-pandemic levels of 30% of MPR within the year thereby increasing the interest expense profile of banks. In addition, the paucity of foreign exchange exerted considerable pressure on banks’ foreign currency (FCY) trade lines in the course of the year, forcing banks to explore alternative ways to meet customers’ foreign currency needs, including deliberate focus on supporting and promoting non-oil export businesses and transactions.

 

Technological Trends: The banking sector witnessed an increase in technological innovations, as the industry strived to meet the ever-evolving customer needs. In Nigeria, FirstBank was at the forefront of the technological trend, as we successfully launched a Digital Experience Center, a fully automated branch to meet our customer needs, while providing a unique and wholesome experience. FirstBank also launched robotics process automation initiative, FirstRobotics, that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to handle high volume transactions The industry also witnessed increasing collaboration of banks and fintechs in 2022; enhanced digital product offerings, especially the rise in digital loans and advances; and an overall increase in acceptance of digital product offerings by banks and other financial services players.

 

Customer Trends: In 2022, we witnessed an increasing shift in emphasis from consumer banking to lifestyle banking in a bid to capture more of the customers’ journey. This shift has been hugely supported by technology as customer trends can now be easily identified, and new product offerings developed to meet customer needs. The emigration trend witnessed in the past year also led to a boost in the industry’s diaspora customer base, leading to increased focus on meeting the needs of this peculiar customer segment.

 

Employee Trends: The banking industry, probably like any other industry in Nigeria, has seen significant attrition in the number of employees due to increased relocation to other countries (popularly known as Japa) in 2022. This has impacted the industry’s skill base and execution capabilities especially in critical areas of the industry. While this may be a national challenge, more creative ways must be explored to retain scarce talents for national development.

 

The Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Government have set a target of 95 per cent financial inclusion by 2024, how realistic is this target and what role will First Bank be playing to support the government achieve this target?

 

Financial inclusion is usually seen as the gateway to economic prosperity as it signals the first step in the journey to financial freedom. In 2012, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had unveiled its National Financial Inclusion Strategy with the principal goal of reducing the nation’s financial exclusion rate to 20 per cent of the adult population by 2020. Although this goal was not achieved (as financial exclusion rate stood at 35.9 per cent at the end of that period), the nation had nonetheless made giant strides in raising financial inclusion levels from that take-off point. As such, while the CBN’s revised target of 95 per cent financial inclusion rate by 2024 may be audacious, it is achievable given the level of financial awareness that has already been created in previous years which has raised financial literacy among the average citizenry. In addition, in view of the additional investments and infrastructural base that is available in the country, more mileage can be made now than ever before. It should also be noted that the Central Bank of Nigeria has been deliberate in pursuing its financial inclusion agenda through the licensing of several players/operators in the financial services industry, including fintechs, mobile money operators, Payment Service Banks (PSBs), Microfinance Banks/institutions, new deposit money banks (DMBs), etc. As such, several players are making various attempts at solving the same problem which will significantly increase the likelihood of success. As the foremost financial institution in Nigeria, FirstBank has always collaborated with the Central Bank and the Nigerian government to push several national initiatives, particularly as it relates to the financial services industry. Specifically, FirstBank’s Firstmonie Agent Network is fully aligned with improving financial inclusion in Nigeria. With over 196,000 agents spread across 772 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Nigeria and many of the agents operating from 512 LGAs without a FirstBank branch, the Bank has been a clear partner to the Central Bank of Nigeria in improving financial inclusion in the country. FirstBank’s USSD (*894#) product, which is demographically positioned for the unbanked, has over 14 million users with more than 261 million unique transactions, worth over NGN1.1 trillion processed on the platform. FirstBank has been at the forefront of increasing financial inclusion in Nigeria and will continue to play its part until every adult in Nigeria is adequately banked.

 

What is your take on two recent policies of the CBN – the naira redesign and the cash withdrawal limits?

 

The CBN as the apex regulator of the financial services industry has overall responsibility to ensure the soundness of the nation’s financial systems. In discharging this responsibility, it develops policies that are meant to strengthen the monetary environment and stimulate further economic development of the country – the recent naira redesign and cash withdrawal limits policies are part of its core mandate. As noted by the CBN, the naira redesign will improve both the integrity of the local legal tender and the efficiency of its supply, thus addressing a situation where 80 per cent of currency in circulation is outside the banking system. To aid its implementation, the CBN has also suspended charges on cash deposits to encourage everyone to deposit old naira notes in the Banks. The new N200, N500 & N1000 notes which came into circulation on 15th December 2022 will co-exist with the old notes until 31st January 2023 when the old notes will cease to be legal tender in Nigeria.

 

Similarly, the cash withdrawal policy which will limit weekly cash withdrawals by individuals and companies to N500,000.00 and N5,000,000.00 respectively, is expected to accelerate Nigeria’s transition to a digital economy. The policy which comes into effect from January 9, 2023, will present the added advantage of bringing more people into the banking system thus improving financial inclusion. At FirstBank, we view both policies as business enablers with bright prospects and we are poised to take maximum advantage of the opportunities they bring to improve our service offerings and the overall experience of our customers.

 

FirstBank has a lot of Firstmonie agents scattered around the country, how will the cash withdrawal limit affect their operations?

 

As at November 2022, FirstBank has over 196,000 Firstmonie agents spread across 772 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Nigeria. These agents have also processed over 1.16 billion transactions valued at N26.52 trillion. About 45 per cent of our Firstmonie Agent network are in rural areas, 18 per cent located in semi-urban areas and only 37 per cent are in urban areas. Beyond Cash-in-Cash-Out (CICO) transactions, these agents also render other services such as account opening, airtime purchase, bill payment, government-revenue collection, transfer and disbursement, mobile-money (wallet creations, deposits, withdrawals), bank verification number (BVN) enrollment and other non-bank ecosystem value-added support services, in line with CBN’s guideline for Mobile Money and Agent Banking businesses. These services have helped to bring banking services closer to local communities thereby empowering them and facilitating their economic development. Through Firstmonie, FirstBank provides convenient low-cost financial access for millions of Nigerians in rural areas. Therefore, given the spread of our agent banking network and the scope of services they offer, the cash withdrawal limit is not likely to have an adverse effect on their operations.  In reality, we see it as an enabler that will bring more people into the banking system. The new cash withdrawal limit will help to drive the penetration and uptake of digital/mobile wallet offerings in the industry.

 

FBN Holdings doubled its Q3 2022 profit to N105 billion and the performance by the bank was the major contributor, can you take us through the drivers of the impressive Q3 result?

 

FirstBank’s Q3 2022 results reflect the robustness of our business model and go-to market approach even in a challenging business and operating environment. The impressive profitability performance was driven by the resilient execution of our strategy and transformation program. Specifically, FirstBank delivered a 42.4 per cent year-on-year (yoy) increase in interest income on the back of yield optimisation on existing assets and addition of about N700 billion to the risk asset portfolio. Also, the bank recorded a decent 6.8 per cent growth in fees and commission within the period driven by significant improvements in LC commissions, account maintenance charges etc. The bank also recorded over 47 per cent y-o-y increase in other operating income within the same period. Overall, I would say that the results are a clear outcome of the collective efforts and resilience of the entire staff and the Board of Directors of the FirstBank Group in deliberately executing on our transformation agenda.  We remain confident that our growth trajectory is sustainable, and we are focused on delivering on our 2020 – 2024 strategic ambition of accelerated growth in profitability through customer-led innovation and disciplined execution.

 

What is the level of non-performing loans and what has the bank been doing to reduce it?

 

FirstBank Group has achieved great strides in reducing its NPL from double-digit in 2016 to below regulatory benchmark of five per cent in Q3 2022, which attest to the fact that the bank is strong and resilient.  FirstBank has, in the recent years, built an enduring risk culture and governance systems, as well as strengthened its risk management infrastructure through technology, process automation and specialised training.

 

Few years ago, FirstBank embarked on a business expansion drive within the continent, can you take us through the performance of your subsidiaries in the continent?

 

FirstBank embarked on its African expansion in 2011. Today, the Bank is present in six other African markets namely: Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Guinea. As part the 2020 – 2024 strategic plan, FirstBank refreshed its vision to be “Africa’s Bank of First Choice” to serve as an anchor for its renewed African expansion drive. As such, the Bank is exploring entry into additional high-impact African markets. While the growth journey of each African subsidiary is different, we are extremely proud of the investments that we have made in these markets and the positive contributions we are beginning to see from each subsidiary. Overall, I would like to note that all our African subsidiaries are making positive contributions to the Group in terms of profitability.

 

How is the bank positioning to take advantage of the AfCFTA?

 

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement has created the largest free trade area in the world (measured by the number of participating countries) as it involves most of the 55-member countries of the African Union with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion and connects 1.3 billion people across the continent.  According to the World Bank, the AfCFTA has the potentials to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty and raise the incomes of 68 million others who live on less than $5.50 per day. It also has the potentials to drive $292 billion in income gains for participating members. FirstBank is already actively playing in seven African countries with plans to enter additional high-impact African markets in the short to medium term. The bank has also institutionalised a collaboration framework across all operating jurisdictions to ensure clients operating in multiple African jurisdictions can be effectively served across the network. The bank has developed special products (known as First Global Transfer) to facilitate regional payments for our pan-African clients in addition to our online and digital platforms. On the part of the customers, FirstBank has conducted several non-oil export seminars to raise awareness levels on the opportunities presented by AfCFTA and equip our clients with the right knowledge to exploit these opportunities. As a bank, we view AfCFTA as an enabler of our corporate vision and we will continue to ensure the right investments are made to capture the opportunities it presents.

 

Your UK subsidiary recently marked its 40th anniversary, what was the journey like in that 40 years and looking ahead, what should customers be expecting from FirstBank in UK?

 

FirstBank’s foray into the United Kingdom (UK) forty years ago is a clear demonstration of uncommon foresight by the leadership of the Bank. Given the burgeoning trade relations between Nigeria and the then European Union (which included the UK) and the growing status of London as a leading global financial center, the decision to establish a subsidiary of FirstBank in the UK could not have been better made. Since commencement of operations in the UK, FBNBank UK has provided a bridge for Nigerian firms with interests in the UK to achieve their financial goals and meet their banking needs. FBNBank UK has provided trade and correspondent banking relationships that have facilitated the achievements of several Nigerian and indeed other African entities’ trade objectives. This is in addition to offering other services such as advisory, mortgage and investment products to its clientele base. FBNBank UK has also provided access to foreign capital markets to African firms and countries to raise much-needed capital that have contributed to the economic transformation of the African continent. As we look to the future, customers of FBNBank UK can be assured of the same excellent services they have become accustomed to with more innovative products that will help them solve their emerging needs.

 

We saw the licencing of a few banks in 2022 and the industry becoming more competitive, why should your customers continue to bank with FirstBank?

 

Indeed, the industry has changed and will continue to evolve at a faster pace with the competitive landscape becoming more challenging because of the inter-play of several actors – new banks, fintechs, etc. However, customers will continue to gravitate towards institutions that provide the best digital banking services that address their changing needs for convenience, speed, and security. With over 128 years’ experience in this market, we believe that FirstBank is well positioned to continue to delivery excellent customer experience and thrive. Our customers can bank on our commitment to continuously re-invent our processes and products to meet both their present and future financial needs. The bank will intensify ongoing efforts to simplify banking for every customer segment leveraging cutting-edge digital capabilities and platforms that make banking more seamless. Combining our deep local knowledge of this market with our unmatched physical presence, FirstBank customers will always have an edge over their competitors. Our rich bouquet of products and service offerings also guarantees there will always be the right product for every customer, with each customer interaction constantly made better through data-driven insights. Our “You First” brand promise to our customers is a commitment that will always keep us on our toes until every customer’s financial needs are excellently satisfied. Overall, to the customers, we commit to provide the best value proposition and deliver exceptional customer experience.

 

FirstBank has made good progress in positively impacting the communities where it operates. Can you speak about some of these?

 

At FirstBank, we are committed to nation-building and have been driving sustainable social, economic and environmental growth for over 128 years of our existence. Our community development initiatives are anchored on our strategic Education, Health and Welfare pillars. Our engagement in sustainable business practices is based on our promise of enhancing social and economic development as well as contributing to environmental sustainability for the present and future generation.

 

Our key programmes include Infrastructure Development programme; Endowment programme; Future First (Financial Literacy, Entrepreneurship and Career Counseling); E-Learning Initiative; SPARK (Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness) and CRS Week.  First Bank Infrastructural Development programme is aimed at promoting infrastructure development under its identified areas of support. This includes providing infrastructure facilities in schools, hospitals and environmental infrastructure projects. This is in recognition of the importance of these facilities in improving the quality of life. We have built over 16 infrastructure projects which include universities and secondary and primary schools. The FutureFirst programme in partnership with Junior Achievement Nigeria has impacted Over 1,000,000 people across the regions of the country including Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja with knowledge of financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Over 175,000 students have benefitted from the E-learning initiative thus far. This include 20,000 indigent students that have received free low-end devices preloaded with accredited content. SPARK which was introduced in the maiden edition of the Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability (CR&S) week in 2017 espouses reigniting our values which appear to be eroding fast.

 

The initiative focuses on creating and reinforcing an attitude of going beyond just meeting the material needs of people who are unable to help themselves to showing compassion, empathy, affection. In 2022, over 8 million people were impacted including students underprivileged including widows in 8 countries including United Kingdom, Ghana, DRC, Guinea, Sierra Lone, Senegal & Nigeria.  We had partnerships with over 100 Charities / NGOs including LEAP Africa; International Women Society; UNGC; UN Women; Junior Achievement Nigeria. In addition, one of our long-term approaches to sustainability includes minimising the bank’s direct and indirect impact on the environment. So, beyond our education and health interventions, the bank has been employing international best practices tools to manage risks in the lending process in accordance with our subsisting Environmental Social and Governance Management System. Over N6.2 trillion worth of transactions were screened for ESG risks. We are partnering at the moment with the National Conservation Foundation on the Green Recovery Nigeria (GRN), as part of the Bank’s climate initiative which includes driving afforestation and reforestation.

 

 

Culled from ThisDay