Q3 2023 Performance; Zenith Bank Records Exceptional Tripple-Digit Growth In Top line And Bottom line

Zenith Bank Plc
Zenith Bank Plc

Zenith Bank Plc has announced its unaudited results for the third quarter ended 30 September 2023, recording a remarkable triple-digit growth of 114% from N620.6 billion reported in Q3 2022 to N1.33 trillion in Q3 2023. This performance demonstrates the Group’s resilience and strong market share despite a very challenging macroeconomic environment.

According to the bank’s unaudited third quarter financial results presented to the Nigerian Exchange (NGX), the triple-digit growth in the topline also enhanced the bottom line, as the Group recorded a 149% Year on Year (YoY) increase in profit before tax, growing from N202.5 billion in Q3 2022 to N505 billion in Q3 2023. Profit after tax also grew by 149% from N174.3 billion to N434.2 billion in the same period. The growth in the topline arose from both interest income and non-interest income.

Interest income grew in the current period by 72% to N670.9 billion from N390.8 billion in Q3 2022, while non-interest income grew by 186% from N212 billion to N607.2 billion. The growth in profit is similarly attributable to the twin effects of the improvement in interest and non-interest income. Interest income increased because of the growth in risk assets as well as the effective pricing thereon. The non-interest income growth is largely driven by the revaluation gain due to the unification of exchange rates during the year. The cost-to-income ratio reduced from 55.8% in Q3 2022 to 37.8% in the current period. Impairment levels increased due to the deliberate incremental provisions necessitated by the conservative approach towards the heightened risk environment and the creation of a counter-cyclical buffer needed to deal with any impending volatility of exchange rates. This caused the cost of risk to deteriorate from 1.3% in Q3 2022 to 5.5% in Q3 2023, however this is an improvement from Q2 2023 where cost of risk printed at 8.8% because of prudent management of risk assets.

Total assets grew by 48% from N12.3 trillion to N18.2 trillion in the period ended 30 September 2023, mainly driven by growth in customers’ deposits. Customers’ deposits grew by 49% from N8.98 trillion in December 2022 to N13.38 trillion in September 2023. The growth in customers’ deposits cuts across both corporate and retail segments with the savings portfolio (all currencies) growing from N2.7 trillion in December 2022 to N4.6 trillion in September 2023.Gross loans increased by 48% from N4.1 trillion in December 2022 to N6.1 trillion in September 2023 due to the revaluation of foreign currency denominated loans as well as the growth in local currency loans to strategic and thriving sectors of the economy. The non-performing loan ratio improved to 3.8% in the period ended 30 September 2023, which is well below prudential limits. Net interest margin (NIM) printed at 5.6% from 6.2% reported in September 2022 due to low yield in government securities. Capital adequacy ratio improved marginally to 20.1% from 19.8% while liquidity ratio declined from 75% to 68%. However, all our prudential ratios remain above regulatory thresholds.

The Group is optimistic of finishing the year 2023 strong, with focus on sustainable quick wins that would boost growth across all business segments and enhance stakeholder value.

Zenith Bank’s track record of excellent performance has continued to earn the brand numerous awards including being recognised as the Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital, for the 14th consecutive year, in the 2023 Top 1000 World Banks Ranking published by The Banker Magazine; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria, for three consecutive years from 2021 to 2023, in the World Finance Banking Awards; Best Corporate Governance Bank, Nigeria, in the World Finance Corporate Governance Awards 2022 and 2023; Bank of the Year (Nigeria) in The Banker’s Bank of the Year Awards 2020 and 2022; Best Bank in Nigeria, for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022, in the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards; Best in Corporate Governance’ Financial Services’ Africa, for four successive years from 2020 to 2023, by the Ethical Boardroom; Most Sustainable Bank, Nigeria in the International Banker 2023 Banking Awards; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria and Best Innovation In Retail Banking, Nigeria in the International Banker 2022 Banking Awards. Also, the bank emerged as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria in the Banker Magazine Top 500 Banking Brands 2020 and 2021; Bank of the Year 2023 and Retail Bank of the Year, for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022, at the BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards. Similarly, Zenith Bank was named Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the ThisDay Awards 2020, Bank of the Year 2021 by Champion Newspaper, Bank of the Year 2022 by New Telegraph Newspaper, and Most Responsible Organisation in Africa 2021 by SERAS Awards.

Abuja MoU Secretary General, Captain Sunday Umoren Wins Independence Day Uyo Kitty

Abuja MoU Secretary General, Captain Sunday Umoren Wins Independence Day Uyo Kitty
Abuja MoU Secretary General, Captain Sunday Umoren Wins Independence Day Uyo Kitty

The Secretary General of Abuja MOU, Captain Sunday Umoren has won the Independence Day celebration Golf kitty in Uyo Akwa Ibom State.

Captain Umoren who plays handicap 28 ended the rounds 76 net to lift the trophy. A media consultant Tony Obot came second while Director Special Duties at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Mr Isichei Osamgbi won a medal for closest to the Pin at the iconic Ibom golf course hole 12 with a tee shot that settled less than a meter from the Pin.

The overall winner, Captain Umoren also earned the medal for longest drive with a tee shot of 210 meters at hole 5. The Resident Pro at Ibom golf course Emmanuel Ochayi congratulated all the winners and assured of a well-maintained golf course. Ibom Golf course is one of the three championship courses in Nigeria.

First Lady Felicitates With Nigeria At Independence Anniversary Thanksgiving Service  Says Nigeria Will Be Great Again

Nigeria's First Lady at the 63rd anniversary thanksgiving
Nigeria’s First Lady at the 63rd anniversary thanksgiving

A Nigeria of abundance has begun, and to be part of the greatness that God has started in the nation, Nigerians must look beyond their current realities and embrace hope anew.

First Lady of the federal republic of Nigeria, Senator Oluremi Tinubu gave this counsel in her remarks at the 63rd Independence Day Interdenominational Thanksgiving Service, held at the National Christian Centre, Abuja.

While urging Nigerians to thank, praise and worship God, for His faithfulness and love, the First Lady, who described the theme of the Thanksgiving, ‘Christ in Me , the Hope of Glory’ as a sharp reminder that hope is not just a phrase, called on them to draw strength from the renewed hope agenda of the Bola Tinubu-led administration.

“If we do not have hope, how do we become part of this greatness that God has started in the Nation? We find through the love of Christ, a deeper message of hope, especially, in the theme for this year’s celebration, “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.

Good governance, she says can only be impactful if we all follow the example of Jesus Christ, our Lord, who embodied the fruit of the spirit, including love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance and forgiveness

As the nation marks her 63rd Independence Day Anniversary, the First Lady appealed to Nigerians to celebrate the unity that defines our diversity.

“There is no challenge, obstacle, or difficulty that we cannot overcome or surmount if we imbibe the nature of Christ who said in Matthew 11: 28; come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest with your souls.
In times like these, all we do is to keep our hope alive, the lively hope which Jesus Christ has birthed in us.”

In a message on the theme ‘Christ in Me The Hope of Glory’, President, Nigerian Baptist Convention, Revd Dr Israel Akanji highlighted the need for citizens to put their hope in God as well as align themselves with efforts by the current administration to forge a national rebirth, as captured in the Renewed Hope agenda of President Bola Tinubu.
The Church service was attended by Members of the National Assembly led by the Senate President, Members of the Federal Executive Council, Service Chiefs and Members of the Diplomatic community among others.

China, Nigeria Commit To Bolstering Maritime Security As Chinese Naval Vessels Arrive The Country

Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Chi Jian in a warm handshake with Rear Admiral Joseph Akpan, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) of the Western Naval Command
Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Chi Jian in a warm handshake with Rear Admiral Joseph Akpan, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) of the Western Naval Command

In order to strengthen its bilateral ties with Nigeria and bolster maritime security in West Africa, a Chinese Navy Escort Task Group (ETG) 162, comprising the MSL Destroyer NANNING, MSL Frigate SANYA, and Supply Ship WEISHANHU, arrived in Lagos on Sunday.

While the Chinese warship MSL Destroyer NANNING docked at Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) Berth 21, the remaining two ships stayed at anchorage.

The Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Chi Jian Chun, stated that the port call was a precursor to the upcoming visit of the Chinese envoy from July 2 to 6, 2023.

He emphasized that this visit, along with the presence of a large delegation from China, consisting of over 700 individuals and three ships, aimed to enhance maritime security in West Africa.

He said: “The visit is to further deepen the relationship the two countries have with one another and also seek to strengthen and improve our relationship and cooperation with each other.

“This visit demonstrates the harmony and symphony between Nigeria and China.”

According to the ambassador, China and Nigeria are committed to maintaining their collaboration and fostering peace and harmony, all while actively seeking avenues to make meaningful contributions to the global community.

“I believe that this visit will deepen the cooperation between both countries’ military sectors so that we can work together to overcome obstacles.

MAN Reacts To President Bola Ahmed Tiñubu Inauguration Speech:Suggests Ways To Ease Manufacturing in Nigeria

Segun Ajayi-Kadir,mni. Director General, MAN
Segun Ajayi-Kadir,mni. Director General, MAN

The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, has congratulated the newly elected President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu on his assumption of leadership of the country

A statement from the association notes that “change in administration is usually greeted with expectations and as an advocacy group, we surely look forward to a number of policy changes and decisions.

It is therefore highly commendable and an assurance of better days ahead to hear the President saying that his industrial policy will utilize the full range of fiscal measures to promote domestic manufacturing and lessen import dependency.”

According to the statement, this is a positive development. It is an unmistakable indication of a far-sighted strategic choice. One that is borne out of a deep reflection on the current inclement manufacturing environment and the need to stop the drift into inglorious de-industrialization of the Nigerian economy. What is most gratifying is that it came from Mr. President from day one. The issues of multiple and often times punitive taxation; conflicting and contradictory fiscal and monetary policy measures; skewed and poor management of the foreign exchange regime and the long overdue stoppage of the fuel subsidy were addressed in the President’s speech and I believe they resonate with manufacturers in particular and the business community in general.

“A marching order, so to say”, MAN declared “is needed to move the Central Bank towards a unified exchange rate. I am glad that Mr. President was very clear on this. We also expect that, in line with his promise to enable a supportive fiscal policy regime, Mr. President will order a reversal of the unwarranted violation of the government’s three-year excise escalation roadmap on alcoholic beverages and tobacco. As we have shown, the latest hike as contained in the 2023 Fiscal Policy Measures is not only going to ruin the affected sectors, it will be counterproductive for government revenue in the near future. Our infrastructure has remained inadequate and so the ongoing efforts of the government have to be intensified and this again was mentioned by the newly inaugurated President. In line with this optimistic beginning, I would like to add other low hanging ripened fruits for Mr.President.”

In addition to pursuing the unification of the exchange rate, the statement signed by the Director General of MAN,Segun Ajayi-Kadir, mni wants the president to prevail on the CBN to take effective action to give priority to the allocations of foreign exchange to the productive sector, particularly to manufacturers to import raw materials, spares, and machinery that are not locally available.2. Direct the NERC to admit all qualified applicant companies into the Eligible Customer Scheme in order to allow them access to power as stipulated in the Electric Power Sector Reform Act 2005. 3. Direct all relevant agencies of government to ensure that the electronic call-up system at ports aimed at redressing the congestion works without fail. 3. Revisit the Finance Bill 2022 to ensure it includes the critical inputs of the organized private sector. In particular, the jettisoning of the highly objectionable removal of the 10% investment allowance on the acquisition of plants & machinery (in the Company Income Tax Act, section 32). Additionally, to ensure that the imposition of the 0.5% levy on eligible imports from third countries is limited to goods that we have the capacity to produce locally and quite importantly, exclude raw materials that are not locally available. The input of the Organised Private Sector on the CEMA bill should also be taken on board before the amendment bill is signed into law.4. Announce a special policy initiative to address the revival of closed and distressed industries, particularly in the northeast where 60% of our member companies have closed.5. Craft and announce a special policy initiative to leverage diaspora expertise and investment to address evident gaps and help to boost the performance of the economy. 6. Direct all ministries, departments, and agencies of government to unfailingly comply with Executive Order 003 on the patronage of made-in-Nigeria products. In this regard, there should be strict application of the margin of preference, effective monitoring and periodic evaluation of compliance, and appropriate sanctions meted out to MDAs acting in breach of the executive order. 7. Announce a special policy initiative to derisk manufacturing and release adequate funding for the sector through effective funding of special lending windows.

Nigerian Oil And Gas Opportunity Fair 2023: Jamoh Calls For Review Of Terms Of Freight

Director, Cabotage Services, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, Mrs. Rita Uruakpa delivering the goodwill message at the Nigerian Oil and Gas Opportunity Fair (NOGOF) 2023 held in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State recently.
Director, Cabotage Services, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, Mrs. Rita Uruakpa delivering the goodwill message at the Nigerian Oil and Gas Opportunity Fair (NOGOF) 2023 held in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State recently.

The Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh OFR, said policies of the current administration at the Agency are tailored to complement efforts of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) to grow the Nigerian economy through the Oil and Gas sector.

The NIMASA DG, who was represented by the Agency’s Director of Cabotage Services, Mrs. Rita Uruakpa at the 2023 Nigerian Oil and Gas Opportunity Fair (NOGOF) in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State urged stakeholders to consider a change of trade terms in the Oil and Gas sector from the Free on Board (FOB) to the Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) model.

According to Dr. Jamoh, the efforts of the NCDMB at helping in the development of the indigenous maritime sector had not gone unnoticed stating that, ‘We appreciate the efforts of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board at growing the indigenous maritime sector, such as the proposed Brass Shipyard. We at NIMASA will continue to strive for the development of our maritime sector by pursuing policies that will ensure the indigenous capacity is grown, which in turn will impact on our fleet expansion to position them to be able to participate in the affreightment of the products’.

Speaking on opportunities for indigenous businesses in maritime, he had this to say, ‘I want to reiterate that we must also create a suitable and sustainable business and investment environment that will afford indigenous operators’ opportunities to participate in the oil & gas industry with a view to accelerating Nigeria’s income for the Oil Industry which in turn will impact our GDP”.

On his part, Mr. Simbi Wabote Executive Secretary NCDMB, charged firms operating in the sector to prepare themselves adequately, restating that the oil and gas industry is highly technical and does not compromise safety and standards.

In his words, “If someone gives you projects he intends to execute in the next two years; Nigerian companies, having listened to the opportunities, should go back and continue to build their capacities in readiness to actively participate.”

He also challenged relevant agencies to address the worrisome security challenges, particularly oil theft in the Niger Delta, as this would enable the production of hydrocarbons at reasonable costs and profitability.

Sterling One Foundation Launches New Project For Women Farmers In Flood-Affected Areas 

Sterling One Foundation logo
Sterling One Foundation logo

As part of relief interventions following the devastating nationwide floods in Nigeria, the Sterling One Foundation has launched Project Ladder, in partnership with Whitefield Foundation and Sterling Bank, to provide support for victims whose farms were affected by the floods. 
The project which kicked off in Ndokwa East and Oshimili North Local Government Areas of Delta State is aimed at not only providing relief for the flood victims but providing improved farm inputs with better yield potential than the regular options. 
Delta State is one of the 33 states in Nigeria that were affected by the 2022 floods, which started in May and lasted until October, claiming over 500 lives, displacing millions of people from their homes, and destroying about 110,000 hectares of farmland. Following the cholera outbreak in the country’s north-eastern region, several interventions were launched in response to the disaster, many of which focused on providing alternative shelter for the displaced, food materials, and drugs.
Mrs. Olapeju Ibekwe, CEO of the Sterling One Foundation, explained why they started the project, saying that it was important to shift the focus from the immediate survival response that followed the floods to how to help the victims rebuild their lives. 
“The floods affected several farming communities, and what we’ve set out to do is support them with resources to regain some self-sufficiency. Project Ladder is not just a flood relief project, but an initiative under our food security portfolio aimed at driving increased yield by supporting farmers with better inputs, and teaching them better farming practises, thus fighting the food shortages across the country,” she said. 
For the project’s launch phase, about 100,000 enhanced cassava stems were distributed to women farmers, marking the start of a robust plan to support them all through the planting season in hopes of a great harvest. 
Mrs. Funmi Johnson, CEO of Whitefield Foundation, spoke about the project’s impact, emphasising how important it was for the nation’s food security, as most flood victims are farmers who need to be empowered to rebuild their means of livelihood and continue to contribute their quota to supporting the nations.
The project touches on two of the Sterling One Foundation’s five focus areas: food security and gender equality, as well as women empowerment. This year, the Foundation plans to deepen the work done in these areas to cater to more communities and impact more direct beneficiaries. 

NCC Says iI’s Not Responsible For Monitoring Social Media Contents

L - R: Nafisa Rugga, Head, Digital Media, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); Oscar Kalu, Director, Programmes and Organisation, National Civil Society Council of Nigeria (NCSCN); Nnena Ukoha, Head, Corporate Communications, NCC; Reuben Muoka, Director, Public Affairs, NCC; Amb. Blessing Akinlosotu, Executive Director, NCSCN and Dr. Omoniyi Ibietan, Head, Media Relations, NCC, during a courtesy visit by the NCSCN to the Commission to seek areas of collaboration in Abuja recently. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said it is not the regulator of the contents of the social media networks that many stakeholders have complained about. The submission came during a recent visit of the National Civil Society Council of Nigeria (NCSCN), led by its Executive Secretary, Blessing Akinsolotu, who sought the intervention of the Commission on the worrisome and misleading content of social media platforms. “We know that NCC, as the regulator of the telecoms industry, has greater role to play in helping to curb the spread of fake news and incendiary contents that Internet users put on social media platforms. Therefore, we want NCC to partner with us in this regard,” he stated.

L – R: Nafisa Rugga, Head, Digital Media, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); Oscar Kalu, Director, Programmes and Organisation, National Civil Society Council of Nigeria (NCSCN); Nnena Ukoha, Head, Corporate Communications, NCC; Reuben Muoka, Director, Public Affairs, NCC; Amb. Blessing Akinlosotu, Executive Director, NCSCN and Dr. Omoniyi Ibietan, Head, Media Relations, NCC, during a courtesy visit by the NCSCN to the Commission to seek areas of collaboration in Abuja recently.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said it is not the regulator of the contents of the social media networks that many stakeholders have complained about.
The submission came during a recent visit of the National Civil Society Council of Nigeria (NCSCN), led by its Executive Secretary, Blessing Akinsolotu, who sought the intervention of the Commission on the worrisome and misleading content of social media platforms.
“We know that NCC, as the regulator of the telecoms industry, has greater role to play in helping to curb the spread of fake news and incendiary contents that Internet users put on social media platforms. Therefore, we want NCC to partner with us in this regard,” he stated.

Akinlosotu said the situation demands immediate intervention of key stakeholders to ensure that the content of the social media and the Internet are credible and enhance national social cohesion.

Director, Public Affairs of the Commission, Mr. Reuben Muoka, who received the group on behalf of the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, informed the organization that Commission’s mandate does not extend to controlling the content of such media platforms.

According to Muoka, the major role of the telecom regulator is to facilitate the deployment of telecom infrastructure that provides different types of telecommunications services, including improving broadband that enhances robust Internet experience, and ensuring fair competition as well as the protecting of telecom consumers.

Muoka said the mandate includes making services available, accessible and affordable for Nigerians who may leverage such access to engage in digital social mediation for the benefit of the individual, businesses, and the nation’s socioeconomic growth.

In the performance of its functions, Muoka said the Commission promotes collaboration and partnerships with different stakeholders such as NCSCN, in creating awareness and promoting access to different categories of consumers in the country. He said the Commission looks forward to furthering collaboration with NCSCN in its efforts to align with the aspirations of users of telecommunications services across the country.

The NCSCN, a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, commended the Commission for its people-oriented and consumer-centric regulatory activities.

The Council also seeks collaboration with NCC to spread messages of the Commission’s consumer enlightenment programmes to Nigerians in the grassroots through its over 100-member Civil Society Organisation (CSOs).

Akinlosotu also invited the Commission to partner with the NCSCN in hosting a conference aimed at tackling the seemingly intractable diffusion of fake news, particularly on social media networks

CONMMEP Condoles SIFAX Boss Over Brother’s Death

Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, CEO SIFAX Group
Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, CEO SIFAX Group

Congress of Nigerian Maritime Media Practitioners (CONMMEP) has commiserated with the Chairman of SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi over the demise of his twin brother, Mr. Kehinde Afolabi.

In a condolence letter addressed to Dr. Afolabi and signed by CONMMEP President, Alhaji Tunde Umar- Daniah, the association regretted the painful exit of Mr. kehinde Afolabi describing it as a collosal loss, and prayed God Almighty to grant the family the fortitude to overcome its attendant trauma.

CONMMEP in the letter, described death as an inevitable end of all mortals, and humans having helplessly embraced the reality, must take absolute control of their emotions while mourning a loved one in order to avoid taking dangerous decisions in such event.

“We pray God Almighty to grant the family the fortitude to bear the collosal loss and also provide direction and succour to his immediate family.

“Sir, please do accept our sincere condolences which is also extended to his wife and children as well as the entire Afolabi’s family.

“We express our sincere condolences and sympathy to you and the entire Afolabi’s family as we pray God Almighty to grant his gentle soul eternal rest”.

FirstBank: The Embodiment Of Corporate Responsibility And Sustainability

FirstBank logo
FirstBank logo

Who should corporate responsibility and sustainability lessons be taken from? Some companies are still unclear about the concept but latching onto the sustainability mantra anyway, because it has become a marketing buzzword for business? Or a company through whose creed and deeds, over the many decades it has been around, people can see corporate responsibility and sustainability lived (first) and preached (subsequently)?

If the above set of questions constituted a question in an examination hall, it would be one of the easiest of questions to answer. Not one person would fail it. Outside the examination hall, the answer to this question that seems as easy and simple like the question of 2 + 2 may not be as easy and simple. It may be complicated by all the cleverly arranged noise and claims projected at people to make it difficult for them to see and accept the obvious.

So, it is incumbent on people who know, and care enough (like this writer), to keep stating and restating the obvious. This is in the hope that doing so would help others to take full cognisance of the obvious and not allow themselves to be bamboozled by image without substance and rhetoric without pedigree.

The concept of corporate responsibility and sustainability is not about the clever or manipulative use of marketing buzzwords by corporate citizens. It is about impact, net positive impact, in the lives of real, not imagined, people through the deliberate and well-planned activities of socially-responsible corporate citizens.

Even if history is no longer taught in most schools in Nigeria, the records are there. The records show that Nigeria has been blessed to have standing by her, at all times, a corporate citizen which understands the concept of corporate responsibility and sustainability.

This corporate citizen has been standing by Nigeria before the country’s founding, through its amalgamation, Independence and all the conflicts and crises Nigeria has gone through and still faces. Today, the corporate citizen still stands by Nigeria.

First Bank of Nigeria Limited, a lender of unmatched pedigree, a bank with a history of unparalleled support to Nigeria and Nigerians (right from the colonial era to date, even serving as Nigeria’s central bank at some stage of our national development), has been a corporate citizen like no other.

A brand that has backed innumerable groundbreaking projects across Nigeria and beyond, FirstBank has demonstrated that real impact that can be seen and felt by all, and not mere marketing buzzwords, is the real measure of an institution’s understanding of corporate responsibility and sustainability.

It is incontrovertible that whichever way corporate responsibility and sustainability is understood or defined, FirstBank is sure to tick all the boxes. Just name every parameter for assessing a company’s efforts in corporate responsibility and sustainability and match each against what FirstBank has been doing. Is there any parameter that FirstBank has not surpassed?

FirstBank has been living corporate responsibility and sustainability for most, if not all, of its existence as a going concern. Knowing it cannot do it alone, the bank has also devoted resources to efforts that will enable it to preach or pass the message so other corporate citizens, groups and individuals will emulate it.

One platform the bank has used effectively for this purpose is its Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CR&S) Week. The CR&S Week is a full working week that the FirstBank Group, in-country and across the world where it operates, dedicates to the promotion, execution and celebration of social responsibility initiatives.

The Sustainability Week also includes a huge kindness campaign to reorient citizens towards the right values and reignite acts of kindness in society. It is only one of the many ways FirstBank is living true to its brand promise to always put customers first.

And the Sustainability Week seeks to invite others (individuals and corporate citizens) to follow the bank’s example and begin to intentionally create positive impact in their immediate communities.

From the inaugural edition in 2017, where the theme was “Promoting Kindness: Putting You First”, the Sustainability Week has helped to reinforce FirstBank’s role as a nation-builder that is driving sustainable development across communities where it operates. It was an opportunity for the bank to encourage others (individuals and corporate citizens) to follow in its steps, even if all they can afford to take are small steps.

Taking small steps may have informed the choice of theme for the second edition of the Sustainability Week in 2018: “Touching Lives: You First”. The bank sought to debunk the notion that touching lives in meaningful ways and making an impact on society require big-ticket projects, whilst emphasising the power in the little things people do and the small steps they take.

After all, is it not little drops of water that make a mighty ocean, like the saying goes? And does the journey of a thousand miles not begin with a (small) step, like another saying puts it?

Just take a look at SPARK (Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness), a values-based initiative that raises consciousness promoting kindness to one another in society, which the bank started during the inaugural Sustainability Week in 2017.

Aimed at reinforcing FirstBank’s corporate culture of encouraging giving and volunteering among its staff and the larger society, its magnitude today and the many kind initiatives it has sparked off across the country could not have been imagined when the seed was planted five years ago. Incalculable manhours and financial resources from FirstBank staff and partners have been contributed willingly.

Children in orphanages, internally displaced persons (IDPs) in various IDP camps, widows and other underprivileged or vulnerable groups have been visited and their challenges alleviated if not totally eliminated. Scores of career counselling sessions with secondary school pupils across Nigeria has also been organised as part of the Sustainability Week, which has been the first of its kind in Nigeria’s financial services industry.

In 2019, the third edition of the Sustainability Week with the theme: “Ripples of Kindness: Putting You First” enunciated the values (or pillars) of the SPARK initiative to include Compassion, Civility and Charity. FirstBank believes that these values and the acts of kindness that flow as a result of embracing the values are critical to promoting and building peaceful co-existence and prosperity in society.

Among the key highlights of the 2019 Sustainability Week was a “Nice Comments Day” that was a day set aside to foster words of encouragement, support and kindness to people around one, regardless of ones’ familiarity or close ties, in recognition of the instrumental role kind words play in lighting up people’s day and bringing out the best in them.

Another highlight was the SPARK School Engagement that promoted the SPARK initiative in schools, with the objective of embedding the values of SPARK amongst school children at a young age so the values become part of, and habitual to, them as they develop into adulthood.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic and government-imposed lockdown, the year 2020 witnessed no edition of the Sustainability Week. Any attempt to stage the kinds of activities and events that usually accompany the Sustainability Week would have been counterproductive, spreading infections and possibly deaths instead of kindness and joy that the Sustainability Week has become synonymous with.

However, FirstBank’s avowed commitment to corporate responsibility and sustainability would not allow it fold its hands and just watch while COVID-19 and its debilitating effects tried to make living and learning difficult for most Nigerians.

Working virtually or remotely and, where it could not do otherwise, physically but in strict adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols, FirstBank executed several initiatives meant to ameliorate the very difficult situation in Nigeria then.

The bank contributed to efforts to provide palliatives to vulnerable Nigerians, announced a moratorium on repayment of loans, set up a special loan fund for businesses run by women, established another for school proprietors in collaboration with a state government and drove an e-learning initiative that sought to move one million school children to a safe online learning platform so their educational progress would not be set back due to COVID-19 restrictions, government-ordered lockdown and the closure of educational institutions for the greater part of 2020

“Kindness: A Way of Life” was the theme for the fourth edition of the Sustainability Week held in 2021. Highlights of activities of the 2021 Sustainability Week, designed to entrench a culture of kindness, included a practical-oriented training webinar for staff to embed a culture of kindness in the bank by driving understanding of how kindness (or the lack of it) can impact the workplace, the marketplace and the communities in which staff live and work.

Another important feature of the Sustainability Week was the “Kind Comments Days” that ran all week to inspire a consciousness of kind choice of words and consideration for others. There was also a dedicated programme in secondary schools designed to institutionalise SPARK by using school SPARK champions (including students and teachers) alongside other partners such as Junior Achievement Nigeria (JAN) and Lagos State government to inculcate the SPARK values in school children.

One other feature was the ground-breaking ceremony for the Lagos State government’s OCAAT (One Community At A Time) initiative to provide the Primary Health Care Centre at Ijedodo community in Alimosho LGA. Set up as an initiative to improve the health and welfare of the members of various communities in Lagos State, FirstBank partnered the government on the project as part of its contribution to global efforts to meet some specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

There were also webinars: a general webinar with the sub-theme: “Education: Does Kindness have a Role?”; and a millennial webinar with the sub-theme: “Making the Cyber World a Kinder Place” which sought to proffer solution to the question of how people could become kinder on social media platforms.

All the past editions of FirstBank Sustainability Week highlight the longstanding and relentless commitment of FirstBank not only to continue to live but also to preach the message of corporate responsibility and sustainability.

Given its unmatched pedigree in corporate responsibility and sustainability, FirstBank has earned the right to address all other corporate organisations as well as individuals and groups on matters of sustainability. The bank has earned its right to the people’s audience.

It is against this backdrop that FirstBank’s forthcoming 2022 Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Week should be welcomed by other banks and corporate citizens, irrespective of industry, as an opportunity to come together and take lessons from Nigeria’s foremost corporate citizen with regard to corporate responsibility and sustainability.

FirstBank does not consider itself too big to take lessons from other corporate citizens in areas where they have distinguished themselves. So other corporate citizens should not feel too big to take lessons from FirstBank in this area where the bank stands highly distinguished.

Or can anyone claim not to know that if the concept of corporate responsibility and sustainability were to be represented by one corporate citizen per country on a world map where countries are denoted by their foremost corporate entities, it is unarguable that FirstBank would be the company eminently representing Nigeria on that map?

Culled from Leadership Newspaper