The Calabar Export Processing Zone (EPZ), has been thrown into utter darkness following the inability of the management to meet its financial obligations.
The EPZ our findings reveal was thrown into darkness following its inability to meet its obligations to Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution (PHED) Plc, the DISCO supplying energy to the EPZ Community.
We gathered that trouble began when the EPZ started under paying for their electricity consumption on the pretense that they doubt the integrity of the PHED metering.
It was at this pont that NEMSA – Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency, NEMSA, was invited to check the accuracy of the metering, and following NEMSA’s report, a reconciliation was done and a demand was made on the EPZ for the outstanding payments.
Despite the report confirming the accuracy of the PHED meter reading and the reconciliation achieved by NEMSA, the EPZ has refused to pay the outstanding arrears of N71,965,299 owed PHED. Consequently, power supply to the complex was disconnected, leaving the entire EPZ community in total darkness, and despite several entreaties made to the EPZ, they are yet to make payment due to mismanagement and alleged internal fraud rocking the organisation.
Meanwhile, stakeholders in the complex have begun agitating; describing the situation as worrisome and very disturbing.
Some who spoke to our correspondent on anonymous grounds berated the management of the EPZ for subjecting them to such harrowing experience.
They wandered how they can remain in business and production, let alone make profit when a major ingredient of production is lacking.
They therefore called on the management of the EPZ to urgently resolve issues with PHED by paying the power supply company that has over the year made life and business good for them, noting that they are confident once the issues are resolved, power will be restored to the complex without further delays.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of First Bank Nigeria Limited, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, last year saw his tenure extended as part of efforts to ensure the stability of the financial institution. In this interview with THISDAY, he speaks about the intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the future of the bank, trends that shaped the economy in 2021, his expectations for 2022 and other pertinent banking sector issues. Excerpts…
What is the level of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s involvement in First Bank?
The central bank’s involvement in FirstBank is essentially about playing the role of the regulator. CBN’s intervention has been in the best interest of the bank’s stakeholders and its performance; aimed at restoring confidence in the bank as well as to reassure the depositors, creditors and other stakeholders of the bank of its commitment to ensuring the stability of the financial system.
Your third quarter results saw a decline in some of the key indicators such as gross earnings, profit before tax and profit after tax, what was responsible for this?
The Commercial Banking reported a resilient performance resulting in a Profit before Tax of N44.3billion for the nine months period ended September 30, 2021. This result was delivered in a sustained low yield environment, which continues to compress margins as the macro-economic environment remained challenging amidst the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
FirstBank’s focus on putting the customers first continues to be a driving force as we keep supporting our customers in meeting their business needs. The evidence of this support is reflected in the 24.1% y-t-d growth in the loan book, underpinned by solid risk management practices and from which sustainable good quality earnings are being delivered as asset quality remains firmly under control. Furthermore, in our concerted efforts at sustaining our dominance in financial inclusion and digital banking, we continue to record growths in our agent banking business, supporting the 17.5 per cent growth in non-interest income.
We remain determined to continue strengthening our capabilities across our footprints, as we are confident that our investment in technology and the strong balance sheet, which the Group has built over the last six years, will provide the solid platform for more impressive results into the future.
The CBN recently introduced the eNaira, what has been the acceptance rate by FirstBank’s customers, and do you think this will positively impact your bank?
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as the regulator of the banking industry continues to lead and drive development in the industry. In the banking industry, digital currency is the future and the CBN is staying ahead of the curve in Africa with the introduction of the eNaira given the several benefits associated with the digital currency, such as safety, speed, and convenience. A review of the events over the course of the past few years has shown that digitalisation in its different forms has been net positive for the financial services industry.
The eNaira is no different; the digitalisation of the naira expands upon Nigeria’s already advanced payment ecosystem; the roadmap for the eNaira over the next couple of months will reveal some exciting use cases that will further grow the ecosystem and encourage even more interaction with this new form of currency. Currently we have a whole segment of digitally curious customers who have started interacting with the eNaira, and as the eNaira ecosystem grows and acceptance increases as a store and exchange of value, so will those numbers.
FirstBank’s channels currently account for about 17 per cent of the total reported eNaira transaction volume. The bank is dependably dynamic and continues to be at the vanguard of innovation in the banking industry. Overall, I am confident that the eNaira will positively impact the bank as our customers continue to transact through the bank’s channels, supporting the digital economy drive. The number of customers will increase as the eNaira will enable the sign-on of excluded people in the financial system, thereby supporting the financial inclusion drive of the CBN. The eNaira will reduce the cost of processing cash for the bank, thereby making it a cheaper, reliable and faster way of exchange and the bank will have access to customers across the continents, simplifying and facilitating cross border payments and trade.
What’s opinion about the CBN’s FX and what long-term impacts will it have on the exchange rate and has your bank been able to meet the demands of customer?
The main objectives of exchange rate policy in Nigeria are to preserve the value of the domestic currency, maintain a favorable external reserves position and ensure external balance without compromising the need for internal balance and the overall goal of macroeconomic stability. The new CBN’s foreign exchange (FX) policy is geared towards harmonising the FX rates across the various markets and increasing the availability of FX to those who genuinely need it and not for those who are speculators or those who deliberately try to distort the market. The current FX policy of the CBN has recorded some successes in improving the availability of FX for transactions and curbing the incessant decline of the naira exchange rate in the parallel markets.
The current policy is expected to strengthen the naira exchange rate, however, there are several other factors that are critical to the movement of the exchange rate, predominantly oil prices and capital inflows. If these factors continue to trend positively, then we can expect a relative stability of naira relative to other international currencies. I believe the long-term impact will be the relative stability of the naira, as the CBN continues to meet all legitimate needs, increasing the confidence of the people and sending the right signaling effect to foreign investors. Typically, FirstBank engages the regulators, providing all the necessary foreign exchange bid documentations and following defined processes to ensure that our customers’ bids are successful, and we get as much allocation as possible for all our needy customers.
How prepared do you think banks are for Basel III?
The Basel III accord was developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) and is built upon the frameworks of the existing Basel II accord, with the aim of strengthening regulation, supervision, and risk management within the banking industry, globally. Due to the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis on banks, it became imperative for the current frameworks under Basel II to be revised to improve the ability of banks to handle shocks from financial stress and to strengthen their transparency and disclosure. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on September 2, 2021, issued a circular to all banks in Nigeria titled Basel III Implementation by all Deposit Money Banks. The circular aims to inform all banks of the issuance of guidelines for the implementation of the Basel III standard which is a voluntary global regulatory framework that addresses banks’ capital adequacy, stress testing, and market liquidity risk.
Basel III standard will prevent banks from taking excessive risks that can negatively impact the players and the economy. Implementation of Basel III will have significant implications for capital requirement – there will be a higher minimum CAR requirement for players in the industry. However, the apex bank has engaged and defined a road map to ensure that operators in the banking industry meet and surpass the higher capital requirements. The Basel III will be implemented in phases and banks have developed their capital plan to ensure they meet and surpass the higher capital and liquidity requirements for the Basel III implementation. Many banks have revamped their operational and credit risk infrastructure to mitigate operational and credit risk losses. The effect is already being seen in the general decline in the industry’s non-performing loan portfolio. The successful implementation of the Basel III frameworks would be beneficial to the banking industry and the economy at large.
Do you think it would spur more mergers and acquisitions in year 2022?
The Basel III standard implementation by the Central Bank of Nigeria is aimed at decreasing the risk of the financial services sector. The main aim of Basel III is to improve financial stability – the standard is set to increase the soundness of Nigeria’s financial services sector and the confidence of the people in the financial system. The implementation is expected to impact banks’ capital adequacy by raising liquidity and lowering bank leverage. Analysts believe that the implementation of Basel III would increase the capital requirement of Systemic Important Banks (SIB) in Nigeria to 17 per cent from 15 per cent but, most banks in Nigeria are well-capitalised and are expected to increase capital buffer that can be drawn upon in periods of stress. However, despite being well-capitalised, the implementation of Basel III would reduce the capital headroom of operators and banks would have to resort to various strategies to strengthen their capital positions to drive credit and business growth. These strategies may include mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as Basel III policy implementation takes effect to strengthen their capital positions as the policy requires higher capital requirements/enhanced capital cushions. Nonetheless, I believe Nigerian banks are well-positioned to withstand regulatory headwinds whilst driving growth.
How would you assess your bank’s performance through the pandemic?
The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted several sectors of the economy, the banking industry was one of the most impacted given the critical role that banks play in the economy and across all sectors. However, FirstBank navigated the pandemic crisis successfully and recorded the best financial performance since 2015 in the 2020 financial year. FirstBank delivered a strong performance both on the financial and non-financial front underpinned by resiliency, digital innovation and customer centricity. On financial performance, despite the pandemic, the bank recorded significant growth in its revenue base, profitability and asset. Revenue and Profitability Performance: In the context of the pandemic, FirstBank Group delivered strong financial results, generating gross revenue of N539 billion for the year ended 31 December 2020. The Group’s non-interest income grew impressively by 24 per cent between 2019 and 2020, closing at N154.5 billion for the year ending 31 December 2020.
The non-interest income growth was propelled by transactional and eBusiness income and credit related fees. In 2020, FirstBank Group delivered its most profitable year since 2015. The Group’s profit before tax increased from N70.8 billion for the year ended 31 December 2019 to N73.6 billion for the year ended 31 December 2020, resulting in a year-on-year profitability growth of 4 percent between 2019 and 2020. Strong Asset Growth and Stable Funding Base: FirstBank Group experienced solid total asset growth of 25.5 per cent to N7.4 trillion as at December 31st, 2020 (2019: N5.9 trillion). The Group continues to maintain a strong liquidity and capital position driven by its high volume of customer deposits held in low-cost current and savings accounts, which amounted to over 75 percent of the Bank’s customer deposit base as at 31 December 2020.
Renewed emphasis by the Group in improving the service performance level in the retail segment, expanding digital touchpoints and repurposing of its branch network have resulted in 20.5 per cent increase in deposits to N4.7 trillion as at December 31st, 2020 (2019: N3.9 trillion); a reflection of our strong franchise value which has come to be associated with safety, stability and innovation. Through the bank’s extensive physical footprint and expanding agent banking network and digital banking capabilities, the Group continues to reach an increasing number of customers, which drives customer deposits in low-cost current and savings accounts that serve as an important funding base. On non-financial performance, the bank’s non-financial performance across disruptive innovation and customer focus lens has been impressive. Some of the milestones achieved during the pandemic was us launching the pioneer FastTrack ATM in Africa offering customers a touchless solution for ATM transactions and enabling customers to pre-order cash on ATMs via the bank’s USSD or mobile banking platforms.
We unveiled FirstBank’s Virtual Payment Card, a digital representation of the naira-denominated plastic debit card, launched the Firstmonie Agent Credit, a digital lending solution designed to provide bridge finance to help our Agents solve liquidity challenges, leveraged technology to promote digital account opening process through the Digital Sales Executive App, ATMs, Firstmonie Agents, *894# USSD banking, FirstMobile and Company website. Also, we upgraded the Bank’s mobile banking application, FirstMobile, with new and improved features to promote a convenient and secured mobile banking experience for customers, rolled out FirstBank Digital Innovation Lab’s proprietary developed Mobile Banking App for our wholly owned subsidiary FBNBank Senegal, Increased customer account base (including wallets) to over 30 million.
Maintained the dominant digital bank rating in Nigeria with over 20 per cent market share of electronic banking transaction volumes, about 16 million users on our digital banking platforms (USSD *894#, FirstMobile and FirstOnline) and over 11 million card users. Expanded the Agent Banking network to over 86,500 agents across 772 out of 774 local governments in Nigeria and paid out over N18 billion as commissions to Firstmonie Agents.Reinforced the Bank’s financial inclusion drive with the disbursement of over N22 billion and N35 billion in loans through FirstAdvance and Agent Credit digital platforms, respectively. Provided free e-learning solutions in partnership with Roducate, IBM and the Lagos State Government, thereby helping to reduce the negative impact of school closure following the COVID-19 pandemic on students in Lagos State. Additionally, the bank, in partnership with Junior Achievement, positively impacted over one million students through its financial literacy, entrepreneurship and career counselling programs and Improved customer ranking in the Wholesale Banking segment by four places in 2020.
What are your expectations and forecast for the economy in 2022?
Globally and in Nigeria, economic recovery was strong in 2021 following improved vaccination exercise, and support from monetary and fiscal authorities for demand. However, I believe 2022 will witness slower pace in economic growth over lingering health crisis (the fourth wave of the covid-19 pandemic with the omicron variant) and rising price levels globally. Also, the boost from base effects and reopening of the economy will decline in 2022. Locally I expect economic growth to improve slightly; however, the following trends are expected in 2022 are disinflationary trend to continue in 2022 but inflation would still bite harder although potential PMS subsidy removal is the most consequential known factor that could push inflation to its worst-case estimates in 2022. Higher taxes may take the center stage as the federal government explores all options to cover for burgeoning budget deficit. Potential improvement in fiscal metrics given the bullish sentiment in the international oil market and savings potential from the PMS subsidy removal.
Capital importation may improve as foreign portfolio investments, diaspora remittances and other sources of inflow witness gradual growth following global economic recovery and increased employment for Nigerians in diaspora. Monetary policy measures may normalise in 2022 with the Central Bank of Nigeria maintaining an accommodative stand. Economic growth in 2022 is projected to be with the range of 2.7 per cent and three per cent. However, the key activities to look out for in 2022 include electioneering, the penultimate year before the next general elections, increase in taxes, buoyant oil market, PMS subsidy removal, and exchange rate policy of the CBN.
With the recent push to increase lending by CBN, don’t you think this would impact or drive up your bank’s NPLs?
The Central Bank of Nigeria had in recent times taken some tough decisions to address the challenges affecting the growth of the real sector and the Nigerian economy. This includes ensuring that banks comply with the minimum 65 per cent loan to deposit ratio (LDR). This increased lending by CBN has proved potent in filling the financing gap as credit to private sector has indeed risen to an appreciable level. Although there is a concern that this push to increase lending by CBN would drive up bank’s non-performing loans (NPLs), a report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) noted that despite the increase in LDR there is an inverse proportionate reduction in non-performing loans. FirstBank has achieved great strides in reducing its NPL from double-digit in 2016 to single digit in 2021 which attest to the fact that the bank is strong and resilient.
I am happy to note that the recent drive to increase lending will not affect the bank’s NPLs negatively as the bank has instituted a robust and automated operational and credit risk management processes and infrastructure. FirstBank has in the recent years built an enduring risk culture and governance system, strengthened the risk infrastructure through specialised training, digitalisation credit processes and imbibe disciplined and active portfolio management approach thereby ensuring strict regulatory compliance. FirstBank will continue to support CBN’s lending initiative to achieving strong economic growth and diversification as the bank is well positioned to maintain good asset quality and profitable credit portfolio.
With the emergence of PSBs and telcos granted licences, how much would that deepen financial inclusion and do you see this competing with banks’ agency banking?
The introduction of Payment Service Banks (PSBs) is another step taken by the CBN in line with its goal of promoting financial inclusion and enhancing access to financial services for the unbanked, underbanked, and underserved segments of the population across all parts of the country. The entrance of the PSBs will certainly deepen financial inclusion. It will impact the financial services landscape to the extent that the Telcos will be able to leverage their extensive infrastructure to offer last mile delivery of financial solutions to those currently unbanked. Today, we have 70 million Nigerians that have been issued the National Identity Number.
About 20 per cent of this number are currently unbanked, and they can more easily be reached. The expected impact will ride on the back of synergy and collaborations across the industry. And this is what we are already seeing. For us at FirstBank, the development is not a threat, we see it more as an opportunity. You will agree that for an institution like ours that has been around and flourishing for over 127 years, our ability to read and effectively respond to market trends has been well proven. What we have done with our agent banking is to build a platform that could be leveraged to enrich customer offerings in diverse ways. We do not just possess spread, we possess depth. So, leveraging technology and open API, we are poised to work with the PSBs to deliver value to the banking public and citizenry.
Still on agency banking, can you give us an update on the expansion of your bank’s agency banking and the impact it had especially during the lockdown?
FirstBank’s agent banking, Firstmonie, has witnessed continuous growth since its launch. The Firstmonie agent network operates in 772 of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria and is the largest bank-led network in Nigeria, and indeed Sub-Saharan Africa, with over 150,000 agents including over 22,000 women agents, enabling the Bank to drive gender inclusive growth within rural communities. The Firstmonie network has processed over N17 trillion ($39.3 billion) in over 817 million transactions between 2018 and December 2021. The Firstmonie initiative has been a very formidable vehicle for job creation and economic development in several communities across the country, as over 150,000 direct jobs and 450,000 indirect jobs have been created, with an agent earning an average monthly commission/income of N85,000. Over 1.5 million individuals have been economically impacted through the jobs created via the FirstBank’s Firstmonie agent banking proposition. Significant percentage of Firstmonie’s agents are in the rural areas, contributing significantly to the development of the rural economy in Nigeria.
Overall, FirstBank is supporting the social-economic development of Nigeria in a profitable way. During the peak of the lockdown, the Firstmonie network provided an alternative channel for the Bank’s customers to conduct transactions and meet their basic financial service needs, serving as quasi-physical touchpoint for the bank’s customers. This resulted in the Firstmonie network processing over N6.6 trillion worth of transactions during the period We are not resting on our oars and the growth in 2021 is equally impressive; as at Q3 2021, we had processed more value of transactions than we did in the whole of 2020. The outlook for 2022 and beyond is also quite exciting. We will continue to focus on impacting the lives of the communities we serve and deepening the services we offer through collaborations with partners, the regulatory authorities, other industry players, and our customers.
Your tenure as CEO was last year renewed, can you speak on your achievements and milestones thus far?
I was appointed Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director of this iconic institution – FirstBank of Nigeria Limited in January 2016. The board and management team embarked on a transformation journey with deliberate and focused extraordinary actions to rescue and gradually rebuild the bank. Fast forward, the rebuild effort of the last five-plus years has translated to significant outcomes across key indicators of business momentum and growth. Some of the achievements and milestones include: Grew the bank’s average assets to N8.2 trillion as at Q3, 2021 from N3.9 trillion as at December 2015, increased Group deposits base to N5.1 trillion in Q3, 2021 from N2.9 trillion as at December 2015.
FirstBank grew the Bank’s profit before tax to N52.7 billion in Q3, 2021 from N10.2 billion as at December 2015, reduced the Bank’s NPL ratio from double-digit in 2016 to single digit in 2021 (vintage NPL is <1%). Reduced cost of risk to <2% as at Q3 2021 from double digit in 2016, transformed and repositioned international subsidiaries businesses for improved performance – all are returning positive profitability, upgraded the core banking platform (Finacle Future Ready – FFR) with improved processing capacity and availability + better integration agility. Built an industry leading digital banking (electronic banking) business. Made significant progress in transaction banking – controlling 26 per cent of industry corporate e-bills payment market share. Also, during my tenure, the FastTrack ATM was Launched in Africa offering customers a touchless solution for ATM transactions and enabling customers to pre-order cash on ATMs via the Bank’s USSD or mobile banking platforms.Unveiled the FirstBank Virtual Payment Card, a digital representation of the naira-denominated plastic debit card. Launched the Firstmonie Agent Credit, a digital lending solution designed to provide bridge finance to help our Agents solve liquidity challenges.
Leveraged technology to promote digital account opening process through the ATMs, Firstmonie Agents, *894# USSD banking, FirstMobile and Company website. Upgraded the Bank’s mobile banking application, FirstMobile, with new and improved features to promote a convenient and secured mobile banking experience for customers. Rolled out FirstBank Digital Innovation Lab’s proprietary developed Mobile Banking App LitApp. Others are increased customer account base (including wallets) to over 34 million. Maintained the dominant digital bank rating in Nigeria with over 20% market share of electronic banking transaction volumes, about 16 million users on our digital banking platforms (USSD *894#, FirstMobile and FirstOnline) and over 11 million card users.
Build a ubiquitous and robust Agent Banking network across 772 out of 774 local governments in Nigeria with over 150,000 agents. During my tenure, the Bank’s outstanding services have attracted numerous recognitions and awards. In 2021, FirstBank was named “Best Private Bank in Nigeria” and “Best Consumer Digital Bank in Nigeria” by Global Finance; “Most Innovative Banking Application – Nigeria, 2021” and “Best CSR Bank – Nigeria, 2021” by Global Banking and Finance Awards; “Most Innovative Banking Product 2021” by International Finance Awards; as well as “Treasury and Global Markets Brand of the Year 2021” and “Alternative Delivery Channel of the Year” by BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards 2021.
For six consecutive years, FirstBank was named, “Most Valuable Bank Brand in Nigeria,” by the globally renowned The Banker Magazine of the Financial Times Group and “Best Retail Bank in Nigeria” eight times in a row by The Asian Banker Awards. We are grateful for accolades and achievements which attest to our exceptional commitment to promoting national, regional and global economic growth and development through constructive engagements with the public and private sectors of various economies, and our host communities across the globe.
What should your customers and shareholders expect from your bank in the near future?
The industry has changed and will continue to evolve at a faster pace with new innovative technologies, and the customers will continue to gravitate towards institutions that provide the best digital payments services that address their changing needs for convenience, speed and security.
FirstBank will remain at the cutting edge of innovation and technology in the industry. FirstBank has the right capabilities and competencies to lead and take advantage of the new developments in the digital payment space, and indeed, the banking industry. At FirstBank, we will continue focus on customer-led innovation as we put our customers first in everything we do.
We understand that although the needs of customers may remain the same, the channel of delivery remains dynamic, and we must stay ahead of the curve; Our stakeholders should expect to see a bank that is future-proof and ready to provide best-in-class products and services that will meet and surpass their needs.
FirstBank remains dependably dynamic and will ensure that the needs of all stakeholders are met to the customers, we will provide the best products and deliver exceptional customer experience, to the shareholders, capital appreciation and good dividend payout,to employees, competitive emolument and good career path, to regulators, voluntary compliance to all rules and regulations and to communities, we will be good corporate citizens and give back to the society where we operate.
Tell us about some of the impact of FirstBank on the communities where it operates?
At FirstBank, we are committed to nation-building and have been driving sustainable social, economic and environmental growth for over 127 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 economic development and ensuring economic stability 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. I will highlight achievements for a few. 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 and recently commissioned a Primary Health Centre in Ijedodo Community in partnership with Lagos State Government. 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 170,000 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.
The Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Week (CR&S) Week which started in 2017 is a dedicated week designed to offer opportunities for employees to give their time and resources to defined causes in line with the Bank’s CR&S strategic approach. The Week’s activities are an aspect of the Bank’s Employee Giving & Volunteering Programme, which was instituted with the aim of encouraging employees to give back to the community as well as inculcate in them the integral corporate culture of giving. The main initiative implemented during this week is SPARK.
SPARK is a values-based initiative designed to raise consciousness that we can choose to be kind. 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 2021, the lives impacted include 60 Beneficiary schools; over 18,000 secondary students’ participants in SPARK launch; 20,000 underprivileged including widows lives touched 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, SPARK Amplification has expanded and deepened staff involvement within our various host communities by integrating and institutionalizing acts of random kindness, which has seen 7 Directorates & Departments in the Bank implement various initiatives including empowering small businesses; infrastructure and books for schools, and providing household items for orphanages. In 2021, staff contributions spent to implement SPARK amplification stands at N13,570,743.10 and a total of 9,706.5 volunteering hours.
When will the Elephant (FirstBank) stand ‘Gidigba’ again?
As I said earlier, the bank is consistently delivering a resilient performance within a challenging macro-economic environment amidst the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. I highlighted some key points as evidence in our commitment to and journey towards reclaiming our top position in the industry. These include firstly, our determined efforts at sustaining our dominance in financial inclusion and digital banking, reflecting growth in our agent banking business, supporting the 17.5 per cent growth in non-interest income. The second thing is our deliberate, planned and consistent efforts in putting the customer first as shown in the 24.1% y-t-d growth in the loan book, fortified by solid risk management practices and from which sustainable good quality earnings are being delivered as asset quality remains firmly under control.
And the confidence that our stakeholders including our customers repose in us is reflective in 10.3% y-t-d growth customers’ deposits. This is in addition to our constant investment in technology. We have always maintained that FirstBank is built to be resilient, stable and for the long-haul. And we remain committed to reinforcing our performance by the continued implementation of the Bank’s strategy, which is designed to deliver accelerated growth in profitability and overcome the possible challenges of the environment.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has commenced total digital manifest management regime for all vessels calling at all Nigerian Ports. The Physical transactions concerning Sailing Certificates and cargo manifest processing are being phased out completely as stakeholders are encouraged to fully embrace the Agency’s initiative by visiting the NIMASA portal.
The Director General of the Agency Dr. Bashir Jamoh said that the automation is aimed at further reducing human interaction, improve efficiency and block revenue leakages.
According to him, “In line with the Federal Government’s Executive Order on Ease of Doing Business, we are committed to improving turnaround time of vessels, reduction of human interface in majority of our transactions with our stakeholders and this is in our bid to ensure transparency and professionalism that the sector require to grow.”
“We have improved our operational relationship with our sister Agencies, as we speak, we have made tremendous progress in our determination to convey sailing clearance for Vessels to the NPA electronically. We also receive and process manifests electronically” . This has improved efficiency leading to improvement in the turn-around-time of vessels calling at the nation’s Ports. Jamoh said.
“Right now we have ensured that the process of submitting and processing manifests is reduced from 72Hours to 5hours for VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers) and larger container vessels whereas it would only take two hours or less for smaller vessels), you would agree with me that these are marked improvement and its still work in progress.
The NIMASA DG noted that the benefits that would be derived from the total digitalization of all the Agency’s processes expected to be completed by 2022 would be enormous not just for the Stakeholders, but for the country at large including helping to improve balance of trade, and improved commercial shipping activities in Nigeria.
It would be recalled that the Dr. Bashir Jamoh led administration had always advocated the automation of the Agency’s processes for enhanced and effective delivery of services. This renewed drive is seen as another stride in the total transformation of the maritime sector for economic benefit.
The Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, (Pantami) FBCS, FNCS, FIIM, says the Federal Government has further extended the deadline for the National Identification Number (NIN)-Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) data verification to the 31st of March, 2022.
The move follows requests by stakeholders, including citizens, legal residents and Nigerians in the diaspora. According to a statement jointly sigbed by Dr. Ike Adinde, Director Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission , NCC, and Mr. Kayode Adegoke, Head of Corporate Communications, National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, the Federal Government has extended the deadline of the exercise to the 31st of March, 2022. This extension is to enable the Federal Government to consolidate the gains of the process and accelerate the enrolment of Nigerians in key areas like the remote areas, diaspora, schools, hospitals, worship centres, and the registration of legal residents.
Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim also implored Nigerians and legal residents to enrol for their NINs and link with their SIMs during this period of extension as more services will be requiring the NIN for identification. He also reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government to support the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in ensuring that the objectives of the exercise are achieved.
The Honourable Minister, the Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, and the Director-General/CEO of NIMC, Engr. Aliyu A. Aziz, on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria, wish to thank all Nigerians and stakeholders for their commitment and support towards the success of the project. They also applaud the efforts of the respective staff in ensuring a seamless NIN-SIM linkage and urge citizens and legal residents to complete the process of enrolment, verification, and SIM linkage on or before 31st March 2022.
Mmeanwhile, stakeholders have applauded the Federal Government on the significant growth in the number of NIN enrolments and the increased drive to enlighten Nigerians and legal residents across the country. As of 30th December 2021, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has issued over seventy-one million (71m) NINs with over fourteen thousand (14,000) enrolment centres set up across the country.
Furthermore, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has also set up enrolment centres in over thirty-one (31) countries to cater for Nigerians in the Diaspora. The unprecedented growth in the National Identity Database to over 71 million unique NINs in such a short period, with about 3 to 4 SIMs linked to a NIN, reflects the concerted effort of the Federal Government, the Nigerian populace and legal residents and this is truly commendable.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company ltd has stated that a minor fire incidence that occurred this morning 01/01/2022 at the Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC) has been put out.
The incidence which was contained in less than two hours according to a press statement made available to BusinessUpdate, was caused by a spark while a 33,000 litre truck was discharging naphtha into a tank at the PHRC.
The management of the refinery led by the Managing Director, who was at the scene supervising the operation, the statement further adds, immediately mobilized the safety structure at the PHRC and with support from the Federal Fire service, successfully brought the fire under control.
The management of the PHRC, it noted, “wishes to reassure Nigerians resident in the neighbourhood of the facility that they have no cause to worry about the incident; and to also affirm that the safety of life and of property is at the top of its priority list.
The incident affected only the discharging truck and the pump bay. No other property was damaged.”
The management and staff of the PHRC is therefore expressing its profound appreciations to all those that contributed in bringing a speedy end to the incidence; while wishing all Nigerians a very happy and fulfilling New Year 2022.
The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Dr Alfred Adewale Martins has enjoined Nigerians to be optimistic and embrace a positive mind-set as they enter the New Year 2022, filled with renewed trust in God Almighty.
In his New Year message signed by the Director of Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu, the prelate admitted that there were indeed numerous challenges that characterized the outgoing year for the country as a whole and for majority of Nigerians. He, however, urged Nigerians to look beyond the shortfalls and negatives of the past and approach the New Year with optimism and positive expectations.
He advised them to shun every attempt to create fear and apprehension by the predictions of doom that are being circulated in the social media space. He counselled that we should simply be full of prayers, committing all our experiences to God rather than dwell on such predictions that can only lead to depression and further mental anguish.
“We thank the good Lord for making it possible for us to see the New Year. As we celebrate, let us remember our brothers and sisters who passed on during the year, thereby ending their earthly journey. We pray that their souls find lasting peace with God.
“For those of us who are still alive, let us remember the admonition of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace to us: not to fret or fear over tomorrow, but to live with the courage and belief that each day is in the hands of God, and He has the blueprint by which He will make our lives better in the coming year. On our part, we must do that which is right and good towards our neighbours, living in peace and harmony with everyone. We must not allow the predictions of doom and other challenges that we face to lead us question the presence of God even in our circumstances. He is able to turn around all things for good.”
Archbishop Martins also sounded a note of caution for the political class in positions of leadership, particularly the executive arm of government, to be more proactive in addressing the fears being expressed by many Nigerians.
“There are very many issues plaguing the nation and agitating the minds of citizens. These call for the urgent attention of our rulers especially the Legislature and the Executive. The most pressing on people at this time is in the area of insecurity which claimed thousands of lives in the outgoing year. It is such a serious problem that Government needs to explore new and better ways of dealing with this issue in such a way that Nigerians would be assured of better security in the new year.
“Another area of concern that touches people every single day is the economy. The inflation level is too high even as the value of our currencies are nose-diving daily. We can all feel the consequences of high inflation rate and the value of our currency that has nose-dived. As we begin the Year 2022, the Federal Government must be taken further steps to reappraise its economic policies and inject fresh ideas to cushion the effects of the harsh economy on the masses and mitigate the suffering that would arise from the projected economic challenges of the new year,” he added.
On the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and its new Omicron strain, Archbishop Martins commended the Federal Government for its efforts so far in curtailing its spread. He implored Nigerians to embrace COVID vaccination in order to reduce the rate of infection and ensure that the effects are light even if one contracts the virus, reminding all to be mindful of the presence of the pandemic as we begin the new year. “Unfortunately, we still have to battle the pandemic in this New Year. Let us start each day with prayerful optimism and go about our daily activities with utmost caution and in strict adherence to the COVID-19 protocols. Thus, as we pray for divine intervention, we must also be prepared to work hard and do the needful since heaven helps those who help themselves, he said.
The Archbishop urged government to do more in addressing the health care needs of Nigerians. He advocated for improved funding in the area of research and development in the health sector in order to buoy local production of drugs and vaccines to reduce over-reliance on foreign aid, which have become embarrassing for a nation as vast and blessed as Nigeria.
Finally, he called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to leave any stone unturned in his efforts at safeguarding the lives and properties of Nigerians in the new year and where necessary, to inject fresh personnel with first-rate minds in the top hierarchy of our security Agencies.
gGrammy award winner Burna Boy electrified fans at the FirstBank Decemberissavybe campaign with a sterling performance at the ‘Burna Boy The Live Experience’. The 30-year-old singer expressed how delighted he was to have relocated back to Nigeria at the concert.
The self-claimed ‘African Giant’ performed a catalog of his songs from 2012 to 2021 at the Eko Convention Center Lagos which was filled to the brim with fans.
FirstBank – through its yearly DecemberIssaVybe campaign – unveiled the 2021 calendar of events earlier in December as it reiterates its impact on the arts and entertainment industry. The campaign which started in 2018 has been making waves across the cities in the country and Nigerians.
Speaking on Burna Boy’s concert as one of the events lined up for campaign, the Group Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications, FirstBank, Ms Folake Ani-Mumuney said: “We are delighted to be back with DecemberIssaVybe”.
“Burna Boy’s concert further shows that the 2021 edition is enriched with loads of impactful and celebratory activities as we witness the year-end.
“As a bank woven into the fabric of society, we have ensured that the events are spread across the country and there is an event for everyone, irrespective of age. “We remain committed through resourceful partnerships to nation building; empowering all including the youth to achieve their dreams as these events promote the continued growth of the entertainment industry, unarguably an economic game-changer in the global business landscape, especially a country like ours that is blessed with talents and amazing creative minds,’’ she concluded.
Here are some of the highlights from his performance:
Returning to Nigeria was my best decision
Amid his performance, the Burna Boy proudly told fans that the best decision he has ever made was returning to Nigeria. “Coming back home is the best decision I’ve made.” He took the opportunity to thank his fans for the love shown towards him since his career berthed.
Practise what you preach
The African Giant was reborn when Burna Boy decided to practise what he preaches. For his first outfit of the night, Burna was dressed like a full African royalty. He was decked in a tuxedo adorned with a Gorilla fur design on both arms. And he swayed from left to right as he elegantly showed off the richness of African tradition.
The African Giant
The Nation observed the high point of Burna Boy’s 3-hour long concert was when he showed that truly his aim is to unite Africans in Africa through entertainment. During the show, Burna Boy invited his African collaborators ‘Black Sherif’ and the ‘Yaba Buluku’ singers on stage to perform alongside him. The moment was one of the memorable moments of the night.
And fans got a thank you message
Burna Boy performed so many songs from his classics which saw the fans singing along. After the show, he appreciated his fans for coming through and the love they’ve shown him thus far. Burna Boy returned to Nigeria after leaving the United Kingdom to continue his quest for fame and stardom. His decision paid off after the hit single, ‘Like to party’ kicked off his career in full swing in 2012.
For centuries, there have been heated debates over the sources of economic growth in developing economies and why some countries reflect strong economic growth compared to others.
The hypotheses have often centred around crude oil, agriculture, revenues, private capital, bubbling stock market, stable security, low unemployment rate, high standard of living amongst others. But in recent times, one factor that has been added to this list is diaspora remittances as it is one of the major international financial resources, which sometimes exceed the flows of foreign direct investment (FDI).
Remittances promote economic growth by increasing household income and increasing income creates the opportunity to boost consumer spending, accumulation of assets, promotion of self-employment, and investment in small business.
Data from the World Bank in 2014 indicates that global remittances stood at $430 billion dollar in 2011 and was 0.31 per cent of global GDP in 2009. The impact of remittances on any economy is more profound in developing countries because they receive $307.1 billion of the total N416 billion inward remittances, amounting to about 74 percent.
Remittances also account for about 27 percent of the GDP of developing countries. According to the World Bank, remittances flows to the developing world have reached $414 billion in 2013 (up 6.3 per cent over 2012), and are now, behind foreign direct investment, the second largest source of external financial flows to developing countries.
Daily Sun investigations reveal that the enormous upward movement in remittances payments may be attributed largely to two factors, namely; immigration between developing and developed countries which increased dramatically in the past 20 years and declined in transaction costs as technological improvements have allowed for faster, lower cost mechanisms for the international transfer of payments between individuals.
This means that it is different from other external capital inflows like foreign direct investment, foreign loans and aids due to its stable nature. Little wonder why the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) unveiled a new policy in 2020 that granted unfettered access to forex from the diaspora and other money transfer remittances like Western Union and MoneyGram.
The bank also clarified transactions that are eligible under the policy in line with global best practices. The policy allows beneficiaries of diaspora remittances through International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) to henceforth receive such inflows in the original foreign currency through designated bank of their choice. It explained that the new regulation was part of efforts to liberalise, simplify and improve receipt and administration of diaspora remittances into Nigeria.
Under the new policy, recipients of remittances may have the option of receiving such funds in foreign currency cash (US Dollars) or into their ordinary domiciliary account.
“These changes are necessary to deepen the foreign exchange market, provide more liquidity and create more transparency in the administration of Diaspora remittances into Nigeria,” the apex bank stated.
It explained that the changes would help finance a future stream of investment opportunities for Nigerians in the Diaspora, while also guaranteeing that the recipients of remittances would receive a market- reflective exchange rate for their inflows.
Backed by these words, several commercial banks swung into action to tap into this virgin zone by introducing a variety of offers that yield fruits as more remittances started coming in.
However, the CBN in March 2021, in a bid to encourage more inflows, introduced a new incentive tagged “Naira 4 Dollar Scheme”. In a circular signed by Saleh Jibrin, CBN ‘s Director, Trade and Exchange Department, said, the scheme would allow all recipients of diaspora remittances to be paid N5 for everyone dollar received.
This explains why First Bank of Nigeria Limited chose to expand diaspora remittances inflow into the country by increasing its network of International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) targeted at easing accessibility of its customers to receive money from close to 100 countries across the world in a safe and secured manner.
Before then, it was on record that FirstBank has maintained a long-standing partnership with Western Union, MoneyGram, Ria, Transfast, and WorldRemit. The Bank is also in partnership with other IMTOs including Wari, Smallworld, Sendwave, Flutherwave, Funtech, Thunes and Venture Garden Group to promote remittance inflows into the country, thus putting Nigerians and residents at an advantage in receiving money from their families, friends and loved ones across the bank’s 750 branches especially in this Yuletide season.
For potential customers without an existing domiciliary account, they can have their dollar account automatically created for their remittances and can also receive inflow directly into their account through Western Union. In addition, FirstBank has launched its wholly owned remittance platform named First Global Transfer product to promote the international transfer of funds across its subsidiaries in sub-Saharan Africa. These subsidiaries include FBNBank DRC, FBNBank Ghana, FBNBank Gambia, FBNBank Guinea, FBNBank Sierra-Leone, and FBNBank Senegal.
Reiterating the bank’s resolve in promoting diaspora remittances, regardless of where one is across the globe, the Deputy Managing Director, Mr Gbenga Shobo said, “At First Bank, expanding our network of International Money Transfer Operators is in recognition of the significant roles diaspora remittances play in driving economic growth such as helping recipients meet basic needs, fund cash and non-cash investments, finance education, foster new businesses and debt servicing.
We are excited about these partnerships, as it is essential to ensure our customers are at an advantage to receive money from their loved ones and business associates, anywhere they are across the world.”
Having been at the forefront of pioneering international funds transfer and remittances over 25 years ago, it is safe to say the bank’s wealth of experience and operation in over 750 locations nationwide gives it the edge in the market.
With its total principal standing at N100 billion and over one million customers to service in 2020, FirstBank is providing prospective investors wishing to explore the vast business opportunities that are available in Nigeria, an internationally competitive world-class brand, a credible financial partner, thus promoting economic growth and development.
The Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Access Bank PLC, Herbert Wigwe has disclosed that the bank’s plan to have a strong presence in all the major trade centres in thde continent.
Speaking in an interview on CNN’s First Move with Julia Chatterley, Access Herbert Wigwe who gave hint of the company’s expansion plans in Africa and beyond, efforts to provide financial services to women and digitization said
“It’s something that we’ve been planning as part of our corporate strategic planning 2017, and the whole idea has been to support our correspondent banking business, to support our payments business and to basically ensure that there is greater trade within the continent. So, for us, what are we doing? We’re basically making sure that we have a strong presence in all the major trade centres in the continent.”
Wigwe expressed optimism on the expectations of the bank in 2022. He declared
“I think we’re on track. I think in terms of profitability our different franchises are doing exceedingly well. And I think 2022 perhaps is actually going to be a big, big year for the institution.”
On the bank’s support for women:, Wigwe explained, “In 2014, we created the W-program which is a more robust program, and it’s about inspiring, it’s about connecting and it’s also about empowering women. Right from the professional lady who perhaps whether they’re seeking re-entry, or their businesswoman who needs to be supported or the more – more you know sophisticated businessperson who is thinking about succession and wants a bank that can help them. All of those things were provided. We took it deeper and deeper into maternal health care schemes. Schemes that no other institution in the world have basically looked at. It’s the reason we won several, several awards.”
He further added that
“Coming back to Nigeria, and what it has done for women, half of our customer base today are women, all right. And because they know that they will be served by Access. And if they needed financing, they will be supported by Access. Most times, they have gotten the money, it’s about supporting them with respect to various programs that would help educate them on what to do, how to grow their businesses, all of those type of things. So, that is what has made us so different and the fact that most women would rather bank with Access than anywhere else.”
A total sum of ₦203.73billion was made on the sale of white products in the month of July 2021 by the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a downstream subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Ltd.
This was contained in the July 2021 figures of the NNPC Monthly Financial and Operations Report (MFOR), the 72nd edition of the Report.
The report also revealed that total revenues generated from the sales of white products for the period July 2020 to July 2021 stood at over ₦2.563 trillion where PMS contributed about 99.67% of the total sales.
Similarly, a total of 1.544billion litres of petroleum products were sold and distributed by the PPMC, in the month of July 2021 with PMS accounting for 99% of total volume.
Total sale of petroleum products for the period July 2020 to July 2021 stood at 19.535billion litres and Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) accounted for 99.73% of total volume, the report stated.
The report also indicated a 5.23 percentage increase in the average daily gas supply to power plants in the month of July 2021 which stood at 759million standard cubic feet of gas per day (MMSCFD), equivalent to power generation of 3,250MW against the June 2021 figure of 721mmscfd to generate 3,181MW.
According to the report, national gas production in July 2021 increased by 3.99% at 232.69Billion Cubic Feet (BCF) compared to output in the previous month, translating to an average daily production of 7,502.28mmscfd.
For the period July 2020 to July 2021, a total of 2,891.53BCF of gas was produced representing an average daily production of 7,305.43mmscfd.
Period-to-date production from Joint Ventures (JVs), Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) and NPDC contributed about 58.67%, 20.45% and 20.89% respectively to the total national gas production.
In the Downstream sector, to ensure sustained increase and effective distribution of petroleum products, especially Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), across the country, the NNPC has continued to diligently monitor the daily stock of petrol to achieve success in this regard.
In July 2021, the MFOR noted that 42 pipeline points were vandalized representing 10.64% decrease from the 47 points recorded in June 2021.
This month, Port Harcourt area accounted for 40% and Mosimi Area accounted for 60% of the vandalized points.
In the Upstream, NNPC recorded total export receipt of $191.26million in July 2021 as against $188.00million in June 2021.
Receipts from crude oil amounted to $12.95million while gas and miscellaneous receipts stood at $78.69million and $99.61million respectively.
Total crude oil and gas export receipt for the period July 2020 to July 2021 stood at $1.73billion.