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COVID-19: FIRSTBANK’S FIRSTMONIE LEADS THE PACE IN AGENT BANKING

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By Bolatito Adebola

In this COVID-19 era where movement is restricted in some major parts of the world – including Nigeria – with many Banks and business reengineering efforts to improve the adaptability of their customers to electronic ways of carrying out business, Firstmonie Agents, an agent banking initiative from First Bank of Nigeria Limited is bridging the gaps and helping people to meet their needs of accessing the funds to buy food items and groceries as well as to send money to their loved ones.

This is one of the many measures by the premier financial institution in Nigeria to support the need to promote social distancing and the reduction of physical interactions of people in large numbers, thereby guarding against the spread of the coronavirus.

FirstBank introduced this innovative channel three years ago, with the aim of bringing banking to close those who live

in the rural areas and to every Nigerian -regardless of where they are in the country.

Firstmonie Agents also ensure individuals in the suburbs do not have to travel for long hours to the city for their banking activities. The gap between the tech-savvy and the low literacy clients has been bridged as Firstmonie Agent network represents the convenient and comfortable alternative for customers that are unacquainted with the sophisticated digital channels.

With over 53,000 Firstmonie Agents spread across 99% Local Government Areas in the country, the laudable initiative by FirstBank is another way to bank – without visiting a Bank – which allows you to make cash deposit, transfer money to any bank and enjoy other banking services like bills payment and purchase of recharge card amongst others.

Recently, Halima, a FirstBank customer who is a housewife and petty trader, residing in a remote area in Abuja expressed her delight on the Firstmonie Agent initiative as she was able to easily get cash from an agent nearby to procure groceries for herself and her three children. Her bank being far away in Garki was too far to visit to get money. Thanks to Firstmonie which she discovered through her co-tenant, her joy knew no bounds as Halima was able to access her money at the Firstmonie Agent outlet close to her, as well as send money to her mother in far away, Maiduguri in Borno State.

Another customer in Lagos, Adeoye, a civil servant also lauded this brilliant initiative from FirstBank and narrated his experience when he visited the stand of Firstmonie in Ojota area of Ogudu, Lagos. He explained that he was able to do his transaction with ease.

According to Mrs. Sadia Folorunsho, she said ‘I did not know FirstBank has this wonderful service within my area as it actually saved my family from hunger as I was able to perform banking activities without being in the bank,’ she stated.

These are what the management of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, led by its CEO, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan has been able to make available well ahead of time, since no one knew there might be a pandemic that will warrant a lockdown.

Its Firstmonie Agents at every nook and cranny in Nigeria has been able to remove the burden from the shoulders of Nigerians and allow many to carry out several transactions at Firstmonie Agent locations, within close proximity of their home.

Firstmonie Agent banking is a channel specifically designed by FirstBank to bring financial services closer to the unbanked and underbanked segment of the society whilst promoting existing businesses within the communities to deliver their services and contribute to the growth and development of the economy.

With the spread of its Agent Banking network, FirstBank has been able to indirectly create over 150,000 jobs as the Firstmonie Agents have had to employ the services of other individuals to build their businesses and meet the financial needs of individuals in its community.

So far, the Bank has deepened financial inclusion through Firstmonie Agents with 237.3 million transactions processed through the network at a monetary value of over 4.08 Trillion Naira.

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Energy

NNPC increases gas supply to power sector by 19%

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The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has announced an increase of 19.14 per cent in the average daily natural gas supply to power plants in April 2020.

The Corporation disclosed this on its Monthly Financial and Operations Report (MFOR) for April released in Abuja on Thursday.

It said the increase translated to 788 million standard cubic feet of gas per day (mmscfd), an equivalent to power generation of 2,873 megwatts (MW).

It noted that a total of 226.51 billion Cubic Feet (BCF) of natural gas was produced in April, translating to an average daily production of 7.786 BCF per day.

According to the report, the figure indicates an increase of 3.73 per cent at 226.51 BCF, compared to the output in March.

It added that out of the figure, a total of 136.44 BCF of gas was commercialised, consisting of 36.99 BCF and 99.45 BCF for the domestic and export market, respectively

“Out of the 1.233 BCF per day of gas supplied to the domestic market in April, about 787.70 mmscfd, representing 63.88 per cent was supplied to gas-fired power plants.

“The balance of 445.31mmscfd or 36.12 per cent was supplied to other industries,’’ it said .

Similarly, the report revealed that for the period of April 2019 to April 2020, an average of 1.184 BCF per day of gas was supplied to the domestic market.

This, it said, comprised an average of 677.87 mmscfd or 57.24 per cent of total, as gas supply to the power plants and 506.42 mmscfd or 42.76 per cent, as gas supply to industries.

“For the period of April 2019 to April 2020, a total of 3.0823 trillion standard cubic feet (TCF) of gas was produced, representing an average daily production of 7.857 BCF per day during the period,’’ it said.

It added that from the period-to-date, production from Joint Ventures (JVs), Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) and Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) contributed about 69.57 per cent, 21.46 per cent and 8.97 per cent respectively to the total national gas production.

On the downstream sector, it noted that a total of 0.94 billion litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also known as petrol, translating to 31.37 million liters per day, was supplied for the month under review.

It added that the corporation had continued to diligently monitor the daily stock of petrol to achieve smooth distribution of petroleum products and zero fuel queue across the nation.

In the period under review, it revealed that 65 vandalized pipeline points were reported, a marked increase from the 19 points recorded in March 2020.

It said that the Atlas Cove-Mosimi stretch accounted for 55 per cent, while Mosimi-Ore recorded 22 per cent and other locations make up for the remaining 23 per cent.

The MFOR indicated that in April, NNPC remitted the sum of N219.16 billion to the Federation Account, reflecting the naira proceeds from the sale of domestic crude oil and gas.

“In terms of dollar receipts, an export receipt of 193.05 million dollars was recorded in April.

“The NNPC remains committed to sustaining effective communication with stakeholders through publication of its Monthly Financial and Operations reports on its website and in national dailies.

“This is in line with the concept of Transparency, Accountability and Performance Excellence (TAPE) agenda of NNPC Management.” It added. (NAN)

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Energy

FG explains deregulation of oil downstream sector

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The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Chief Timipre Sylva says the deregulation of the downstream oil sector was to ensure economic growth and development of the country.

Sylva made this known in a statement in Abuja, on Thursday.

He said it was unrealistic to continue to subsidise the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also known as petrol as it had no economic value.

He urged Nigerians to ignore recent misguided comments and innuendos on the issue.

“It has become expedient for the Ministry of Petroleum to explain misconceptions around the issue of Petroleum Products Deregulation.

“After a thorough examination of the economics of subsidising PMS for domestic consumption, the government concluded that it was unrealistic to continue with the burden of subsidising PMS to the tune of trillions of naira every year.

“More so, when the subsidy was benefiting in large part the rich rather than the poor and ordinary Nigerians.

“Deregulation means that the Government will no longer continue to be the main supplier of Petroleum Products, but will encourage private sector to takeover the role of supplying Petroleum Products,” he said.

According to him, market forces will henceforth determine the price at the pump.

This, he said was in line with global best practices adding that government would continue to play its traditional role of regulation; to ensure that this strategic commodity was not priced arbitrarily by private sector suppliers.

“A regulatory function not unlike the role played by the Central Bank of Nigeria in the banking sector; ensuring that commercial banks do not charge arbitrary interest rates.

“Petroleum Products are refined from Crude Oil. Therefore the price of Crude (the feedstock) for the refining process will affect the price of the refined product,” he added.

Sylva noted that when Crude Oil prices were down, government, through its regulatory functions ensured that the benefits of lower Crude Oil prices were enjoyed by Nigerians by ensuring that PMS price was lowered.

He noted that government at that time indicated that increase in Crude Oil prices would also reflect at the pump.

“This is a necessary action taken by a responsible government in the overall interest of Nigerians.

“Indeed, one of the reasons we have been unable to attract the level of investments we desire into the refining sector has been the burden of fuel subsidy.

” We need to free up that investment space so that what happened in the Banking Sector, Aviation Sector and other Sectors can happen in the Midstream and Downstream Oil Sector.

” We can no longer avoid the inevitable and expect the impossible to continue. There was no time government promised to reduce Pump Price and keep it permanently low.

“Let us therefore ignore the antics of unscrupulous middlemen who would want status quo ante to remain at the expense of the generality of Nigerians.,” he added.

The minister noted that in addition to attracting investments and creating jobs and opportunities,the policy direction would free up trillions of naira to develop infrastructure instead of enriching a few.

He said that government was very mindful of the likely impact higher PMS prices would have on Nigerians.

“To alleviate this, we are working very hard to roll out the auto-gas scheme, which will provide Nigerians with alternative sources of fuel and at a lower cost, ” he said.

(NAN)

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Agriculture

10,000 farmers get farm inputs support in Kaduna State

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By Mustapha Yauri

The Agro Processing, Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS) Project has commenced the distribution of farm inputs to 10,000 farmers in Kaduna State.

Dr Yahaya-Aminu Abdulhadi, the Project Coordinator, made this known during the delivery of the farm inputs to farmers’ cooperatives at Biye, Giwa Local Government on Thursday.

Abdulhadi said that the intervention in Biye Community was for 985 farmers, while the target beneficiaries in the state were 10,000.

He said that the intervention farm inputs were fertilisers, improved seeds and herbicides, among others, adding that the second intervention would be mainly equipment.

He said that beneficiaries would receive thrashers, combine harvesters and tractors, adding that the support was demand-driven.

Abdulhadi said that the two phases of interventions were decided by the farmers themselves with the aim of boosting their farming enterprise.

He said the interventions were to ensure that the farmers were empowered to enable them make judicious use of the support.

He said that the project was a World Bank supported initiative with the mandate of Kaduna State Government to support the farmers from production, processing and marketing.

“We want them to make use of the knowledge and the resources that was avail them under the APPEALS project, so that they can shift from being subsisting farmers to commercial and economically viable farming enterprises.”

The coordinator said the support was an end-to-end intervention, the farmers who are receiving the intervention now had already signed agreement with up-takers before they could go to the farm.

He added that the farmers already had market for the products.

The Kaduna State Deputy Gov., Hajia Hadiza Balarabe, said that the state had done a lot in improving agriculture productivity.

The deputy governor said that the state had also improved agriculture sector toward diversifying the economic base of the state.

Balarabe was represented by Mal. Sabiu Ismaila, the Permanent Secretary, Kaduna State Ministry of Agriculture.

She said that the state government was working tirelessly to support the development of agriculture as a business so that farmers would be able to feed themselves and supply the products for the use of industries.

“It is the wish of the state to see tremendous reduction in poverty, massive employment generation for the youths and women and general improvement in the wellbeing of the populace through the agricultural sector,” she said.

The deputy governor said that she was impressed with the turnout of women and youths for the programme.

“It also shows that Kaduna State’s policies and programmes on inclusion were working. A society cannot develop if half of its population was idle and are not included.

“The efforts of the state toward bringing women to be part of economic development by enhancing their skills in various fields of endeavor is a worthy cause.

“ I can see here that the people of this community have accepted it; we are also happy that the men were understanding and cooperating. I pray that this level of commitment will result into improve productivity,’’ she said.

The deputy government said that partners to the project were experts from National Agricultural Extension Research and Liaison Services (NAERLS).

Alhaji Adamu Shika, one of the beneficiaries, who spoke on behalf of others commended government’s efforts on the project and for the timely provision of the inputs.

Shika said that the beneficiaries were earlier trained on new and better farming methods and processing of the farm produce to boost production.

He pledged the commitment of beneficiaries to judiciously use all the farm inputs.

(NAN)

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