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Banks to Accelerate Financial Inclusion with 500,000 Agent Networks

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CBN
  • Banks to Accelerate Financial Inclusion with 500,000 Agent Networks

Commercial banks in Nigeria in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the licenced mobile money operators and the super agents, on Tuesday disclosed plan to aggressively roll-out 500,000 agent networks to offer basic financial services across the country.

The financial services to be offered under this arrangement include cash-in, cash-out, fund transfer, bill payments, airline purchase, government disbursements as well as remote BVN enrolment to an estimated 50 million Nigerians that are currently under-banked or unbanked.

According to the plan, the CBN and banks would over the next few months roll out new initiatives, products and services to accelerate financial inclusion in Nigeria.

The approved CBN-Bankers Committees roll-out ratio include: North-East -30 per cent; North-West -30 per cent; North Central – 20 per cent; South-south -7.5 per cent; South-east – 7.5 per cent; and South-west -five per cent.

Speaking with journalists at a media conference together with his colleagues, the chief executive of Access Bank Plc/Chairman of the Body of Bank CEOs, Mr. Herbert Wigwe explained that the 10 licenced mobile money operators and super agents are expected to immediately deploy financial services agents’ outlets in underserved urban and rural areas in the country. He said higher priority would be given to the northern geo-political zones of the country where financial exclusion is most prominent.

According to Wigwe, over the next three years, Nigerian banks aim to on-board and formally bank 60 million additional Nigerians, an average of 20 million yearly, as well as enrol 40 million Nigerians for BVN.

He added: “To this end, renewed focus will be given to driving low cost digital access, broadening financial literacy campaign, creating micro loans, micro insurance and micro investment products for the benefit of the excluded, the underserved and low-income Nigerians.

“This agreement reflects our commitment to aggressively pursue the CBN 2020 financial inclusion target in an integrated way with minimal systemic risk to the financial system”

Also speaking at the event, the chief executive of the United Bank for Africa Plc, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, stressed that the initiative would help take banking services to those that had been excluded from the financial system.

“Be rest assured that people who will come to the network based on the extended infrastructure that we are providing will have access to banking services,” he added.

Responding to a question, his counterpart from Guaranty Trust Bank Plc (GTBank), Mr. Segun Agbaje explained that the difference between share agent plan and other initiatives in the past “is that this is being led by the private sector and the banks.”

“This is not a government-led initiative. As banks, anything we start, we tend to finish. This is not being done for profit.

“Ultimately, profit will eventually come, but initially, the whole objective is to bring people into the financial system.

“And we are using monies that we had already set aside out of the profit that we had made. So, this is an initiative that is essentially for Nigeria and to bring people into the financial system. It is about deepening the financial system,” he added.

On his part, the chief executive of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Peter Amango said: “We are poised to providing convenience at affordable cost. We are engaging the telcos and the CBN is in with us on this. We want to bring all those in the rural areas in.”

Also speaking at the event, the chief executive of Diamond Bank Plc, Uzoma Dozie said with the arrangement, the banks are investing in the future, adding that it would be beneficial to the entire nation.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Finance

Nigeria’s Public Debt Hits ₦121.67 Trillion as Borrowings Surge – DMO

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The Debt Management Office (DMO) of Nigeria has announced that the country’s total public debt has risen to ₦121.67 trillion ($91.46 billion) as of March 31, 2024.

This represents an increase of ₦24.33 trillion from the ₦97.34 trillion ($108.23 billion) recorded at the end of December 2023.

The surge in debt is attributed to both domestic and external borrowings by the Federal Government, the 36 state governments, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The DMO’s report reveals that Nigeria’s domestic debt now stands at ₦65.65 trillion ($46.29 billion), while the external debt is ₦56.02 trillion ($42.12 billion).

The DMO noted that the rapid increase in public debt is largely due to new borrowing to partially finance the 2024 Budget deficit and the securitization of a portion of the ₦7.3 trillion Ways and Means Advances at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

“The increase was from new borrowing to part-finance the 2024 Budget deficit and securitization of a portion of the ₦7.3 trillion Ways and Means Advances at the Central Bank of Nigeria,” the DMO stated.

Despite the rising debt, the DMO remains optimistic about future debt sustainability, contingent on improvements in government revenue.

“Whilst borrowing, as provided in the 2024 Appropriation Act, will continue, we expect improvements in the Government’s Revenue to enhance debt sustainability,” the DMO added.

The increase in debt comes at a time when President Bola Tinubu is preparing to present the 2024 Supplementary Budget to the National Assembly.

This follows the President’s approval of the ₦28.7 trillion 2024 Appropriation Bill on January 1, 2024, which was ₦1.2 trillion higher than the budget originally proposed in November 2023.

The 2024 budget, dubbed the “Budget of Renewed Hope,” set ambitious targets, including pegging the oil price at $77.96 per barrel and estimating daily oil production at 1.78 million barrels.

However, the naira has faced severe depreciation, plunging to nearly ₦2,000/$1 in February, before stabilizing around ₦1,500/$1.

Economic analysts warn that the escalating debt and currency depreciation could pose significant challenges to Nigeria’s economic stability.

The government’s ability to manage its borrowing and stimulate revenue generation will be critical in navigating these fiscal pressures.

As Nigeria grapples with these economic realities, the focus remains on finding sustainable solutions to manage the growing debt burden while fostering economic growth and stability.

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Banking Sector

Federal High Court Sets Date for Contempt Hearing in GTB vs. AFEX Loan Case

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The Federal High Court in Lagos has scheduled June 27, 2024, for the next hearing in the ongoing contempt suit filed by Guaranty Trust Bank Plc (GTB) against directors of AFEX Exchange Commodities Limited.

The case revolves around a disputed N17.81 billion loan obtained under the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.

Presiding over the court, Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke set the date following a session where arguments were presented by the plaintiff’s lead counsel, Mr. Ade Adedeji (SAN), and the respondent’s counsel, Prof. Olawoyin (SAN).

The core issue pertains to the alleged disobedience of a court order by the directors of AFEX Exchange Commodities Limited.

GTB, through its counsel Ajibola Aribisala (SAN), has accused AFEX and its directors—Ayodele Balogun, Jendayi Fraaser, Justin Topilow, Mobolaji Adeoye, and Koonal Ghandi—of contempt for failing to comply with a court directive.

The bank alleges that these directors did not appear in court as mandated, which led to the initiation of contempt proceedings.

During the latest session, Adedeji emphasized the necessity for the directors to appear in person, stating, “My lord, the parties in contempt are not in court. The contemnors cannot sit in the comfort of their homes and send a lawyer to court in contempt proceedings. The law is trite that they must appear before the court.”

In response, Olawoyin argued that he had only recently been briefed on the matter and was not fully aware of the prior developments.

He noted that some of the individuals listed as directors were no longer with the company, adding that one current director, Mr. Akinyinka, was present in court, while another was on pilgrimage.

The contempt case traces back to a suit marked FHC/L/CS/911/2024, where GTB sought to recover the loan amount through legal measures.

On May 27, Justice Aneke granted an interim Global Standing Instruction (GSI) injunction, which directs over 20 banks to transfer funds credited to AFEX into its account with GTB until the debt is settled.

Also, the court authorized GTB to take possession of AFEX’s 16 warehouses across seven states and sell the commodities stored within, as these were procured using the CBN’s loan facility.

The N17.81 billion loan comprises N15.77 billion in principal and interest outstanding as of April 17, 2024, and an additional N2.04 billion covering recovery costs and incidental expenses.

As the court prepares for the next hearing, the financial and legal communities are closely watching the proceedings.

The outcome will significantly impact not only the involved parties but also set a precedent for handling similar cases in the future.

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Banking Sector

CRC Credit Bureau Celebrates 15 Years with Record 14% Credit Penetration in Nigeria

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CRC Credit Bureau Limited celebrated its 15th anniversary with a record 14% credit penetration rate.

The occasion was marked with the CRC Finance and Credit Conference 2024 held in Lagos, where key industry stakeholders gathered to reflect on the bureau’s journey and discuss future trends in credit risk management.

Founded in January 2010 and licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), CRC Credit Bureau has played a pivotal role in enhancing access to credit across Nigeria.

Dr. Tunde Popoola, the Group Managing Director/CEO of CRC Credit Bureau Limited, highlighted the bureau’s journey, noting that from its inception with a single product, CRC has expanded its offerings to 18 products covering all aspects of the lending value chain.

Speaking at the conference, Dr. Popoola underscored the bureau’s contribution to Nigeria’s financial sector, stating, “CRC Credit Bureau has been instrumental in transforming access to credit in Nigeria over the past 15 years. We started with a vision to simplify credit access through reliable data and have since grown to serve millions of Nigerians.”

The event focused on the theme “Sustainable Financing Options: Innovations in Credit Risk Management,” emphasizing the importance of sustainable finance amid economic challenges.

The conference provided a platform for stakeholders to discuss strategies for mitigating risks and enhancing the efficiency of credit operations in Nigeria.

Reflecting on the current state of credit penetration, Dr. Popoola noted that while Nigeria has made significant progress, the 14% penetration rate still falls below global benchmarks.

He highlighted that CRC Credit Bureau currently holds credit scores for 33 million Nigerians, facilitating over 29.4 million searches in 2023 alone, with an additional 10 million searches conducted in the first quarter of 2024.

Joel Owoade, Chairman of CRC’s Board of Directors, acknowledged the economic headwinds impacting businesses in Nigeria but stressed the importance of sustainable financing to mitigate risks associated with lending.

“As we navigate economic fluctuations, sustainable financing remains crucial to fostering economic stability and growth,” Owoade remarked.

The conference also featured insights from industry experts on leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) in credit risk management and regulatory frameworks to support AI-driven innovations.

Olaniyi Yusuf, Managing Partner of Verraki, highlighted the potential of AI to create jobs and enhance economic productivity, calling for supportive regulatory environments that balance innovation with risk management.

Representatives from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) emphasized the regulator’s efforts to promote sustainable credit practices.

Dr. Adetona Adedeji, Acting Director of the Banking Supervision Department at CBN, outlined initiatives such as the National Collateral Registry and Global Standing Instruction aimed at enhancing credit access while minimizing risks.

As CRC Credit Bureau looks ahead, Dr. Popoola expressed optimism about the future, stating, “We remain committed to driving greater financial inclusion and expanding credit access in Nigeria. Our focus is on leveraging technology and strategic partnerships to deliver innovative solutions that meet the evolving needs of consumers and lenders.”

The celebration of CRC Credit Bureau’s 15th anniversary underscored its pivotal role in Nigeria’s financial sector, marking a milestone in the nation’s journey towards broader financial inclusion and sustainable economic growth.

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