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KPMG REPORT: FIRSTBANK REINFORCES RETAIL BANKING DOMINANCE, CREATES 150,000 INDIRECT JOBS  

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By Collins Nweze

The unbanked and underbanked, two groups at the centre of retail banking, need to be captured for the financial system to achieve its full potential. The KPMG Nigeria Banking Industry Customer Experience Survey says customers have expectations about how their needs will be met and meeting this requires banks deploying the right network and technology. First  Bank of Nigeria Limited has through its Firstmonie Agent Banking Network created over 150,000 indirect jobs for Nigerians and executed three million transactions via 45,000 agents, writes COLLINS NWEZE.

Banking is no longer where you operate, but what you do. And doing more in today’s banking world requires the right tool, network and technology. Capturing the retail segment of the sector requires the right technology and product. The KPMG Nigeria has for the 13th consecutive year released the Banking Industry Customer Experience Survey, which showed banks playing formidable roles in the retail segment of the market. The retail segment of the report showed that FirstBank scored 71.8 percent, an improvement from 65 percent score in the 2018 survey.

The KPMG report showed that 53 percent of retail customers considered quality of service experience in choosing their bank, 13 percent chosen their bank based on financial stability while 12 percent chose their bank based on image and reputation.

For First Bank of Nigeria Limited, achieving these milestones did not come by chance. It took several decades of investment in the right technology, product and quality leadership.

As the oldest financial institution in the country, founded in 1894, FirstBank has over 28,000 Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), launched the first cash deposit ATM in Nigeria in 2011, has appointed over 45,000 FirstMonie Agents spread across the country, targeting 500,000 agents and operates in over 750 business locations. The bank has also created over 150,000 indirect jobs through the FirstMonie Agents scheme as at December 31, 2019.

Also, the bank’s alternative channels were the first to launch WhatsApp banking, among other milestones. Achieving the 80 percent financial inclusion target set by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will require the support of commercial banks and use of technology. First Bank of Nigeria is one of the financial institutions which have taken steps to make the target a reality by deploying technology in its operations by way of Agent Banking Network. FirstBank has expressed its commitment to continue to drive financial inclusion through its First-monie Agent Network in 99 per cent of the 774 local government areas and has processed over N2 trillion through the initiative.

The Firstmonie service provides financial/banking solutions to rural and semi-urban locations across the country. Such solutions include account opening, cash deposit, cash withdrawals, airtime purchase, and bill payments. Through this channel, the bank is committed to providing convenient services that engender and provides ease of access to banking products, thereby saving time and travel costs for users of the network. Speaking at the Firstmonie Agent Banking National Awards in Lagos, FirstBank’s Chief Executive Officer, Adesola Adeduntan said: “The initiative has witnessed several changes in the operating structure and value proposition of FirstBank

In December 2017, the bank ran a pilot test with over 400,000 transactions processed and following the success of the first run, it re-launched in 2018.”

According to Adeduntan, through Firstmonie, the bank has remained at the forefront of driving nation-wide inclusion, given our belief that access to financial services is part of lifting people out of poverty and fostering collective national economic development.

Adeduntan said: “The key strength of the bank’s services is to look at the gaps in the society and develop products and services that address the gap. As an integral part of our strategy, we believe in working with the CBN to improve financial inclusion index of the country. We would, at FirstBank, assist Nigeria to address poverty and hunger, thereby promoting security of life and property. Because when people are gainfully employed, the implication is that they will think less of crime.”

The bank’s Deputy Managing Director, Francis Shobo, noted that the agents are the most critical part of the ecosystem because they take deposits, make payments and open accounts, provide transfers and sell airtime at locations with little or no access to financial services. He said there are switches and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS) has also supported the Firstmonie network. Shobo praised the CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, stating that the the apex bank has made changes in regulation around agency banking. “They have allowed the programme to scale as much as it has scaled,” he said. At the event, 31 agents at the state level won N250,000 each, five agents N1 million each at the regional level and a grand prize of N2.5 million at the national level.

FirstBank Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications, Folake Ani-Mumuney, said the Bank has, through the First-monie initiative, empowered communities by connecting them to the financial system. She said the bank will continue to support Firstmonie agents. She said customers’ expectations were changing and that it’s the bank’s duty as a customer-focused bank to ensure that customers were provided with the means to carry out banking through any channel they desire. FirstBank has also recognised the opportunities for inclusive growth and influence of financial technology not just in banking but also business operations across industries.

One of the Firstmonie agents said: “I have been with Firstmonie since they started, and I can say that it has been a life-changing experience. I have been able to build trust of the communities around me as many workers in my area have forgotten the last time they visited any bank branch for basic banking services. I am a proud employer and as a result, my members of staff are well paid and comfortable.

“Firstmonie has created an enabling opportunity for dwellers of my immediate community and neighbouring towns to carry out banking transactions with less time, money, resources and risks as people don’t have to waste time embarking on long journeys to the city, added to the dangers of being robbed on the highway.’’ FirstBank has also partnered National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). The deal seeks to leverage the human traffic and commercial activities at various motor parks across the country to ease access to financial services. FirstBank is also in partnership with Azuri Technologies Limited, an off-grid power distribution firm to make access to off-grid power easy, especially in rural communities, as well as other institutions, that seek to provide resources to cushion the effects of economic and social shocks on low income individuals. Under this deal, FirstBank and Azuri will co-brand and co-market Azuri’s solar home television product.

The pay-as-you-go customers will also pay for their solar photovoltaic (PV) system via FirstBank’s Firstmonie agents and mobile payment solution, thereby deepening financial inclusion. Banking with Technology Banking and technology are becoming inseparable. FirstBank under Adeduntan is driving growth and customer services with technology. The Financial Technology (Fintech) Summit organised by the bank was an opportunity for the bank to emphasise the need for technology in e-business, digital offering, agent banking, wholesale/ transaction banking, retail/consumer lending and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) productivity. He noted that as a Tier-1 lender, which celebrated its 125th anniversary last March, the bank had been able to maintain its leadership position in the industry by leveraging technology to offer innovative solutions through its product offerings.

FirstBank is also taking advantage of the opportunities created by cash-less banking to innovate and give value to customers. The bank has introduced the Visa Multi Currency Card, an All-in One-Card and first of its kind to be offered by any financial institution in Nigeria. This card can be linked to four currencies: Naira, United States dollar, Euro and British Pounds Sterling accounts. With the Visa Multi-Currency card, FirstBank customers – within and outside Nigeria – can enjoy the luxury of having their local and foreign denominated accounts in any currency, linked to a single debit card.

Many banks have continued to make impact in the e-payment space. The Nigeria Postal Service and Fidelity Bank Plc have also entered into a collaboration to deploy modern banking services to Nigerians in 266 rural communities. The move is part of the measures to boost the level of financial inclusion in the country and reduce the number of those not yet in the formal financial system. Speaking at the launch of integrated banking services between Fidelity bank and NIPOST in Abuja, the bank said the collaboration would enable the bank to deploy all its banking services in 266 locations using NIPOST offices.

Access Bank Plc has introduced agency banking to deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria, to enable branches to focus more on complex customer obligations. A banking agent is defined as an authorised third party (a retail or postal outlet) contracted by a financial institution to process clients‘ transactions. The Head, Agency Banking, Access Bank, Michael Ogbaa, while introducing the bank’s Omni-channel agency banking application at the bank’s agency banking forum, in Lagos, on Tuesday decried that there are only 307,000 PoS terminals in Nigeria as at last July, of which only 167,000 are active.

Also, the adoption of e-transactions for customers earned Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank), United Bank of Africa (UBA), and other eight banks N135.15 billion between January and September, last year. A look at the unaudited 2019 third-quarter reports of the banks, showed that their revenue from electronic transactions grew by 57 per cent as against the N86.312 billion they earned from the first 10 months of 2018.

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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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