Rice Farmers under the aegis of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, RIFAN have commended Unity Bank Plc for the pivotal role it played in facilitating credit to farmers under the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).
The association specially commended the Managing Director of Unity Bank, Mrs. Tomi Somefun for her leadership and doggedness in supporting the rice farmers through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, which is playing a critical role in Nigeria’s quest to attain self-sufficiency in rice production.
Speaking at the flag-off of wet season harvest and display of rice paddy pyramid in Gombe State on Thursday, the President of RIFAN, Alhaji Aminu Goronyo said the association was grateful to Unity Bank for always standing by the association to make sure they got all the support they need in taking advantage of the CBN-backed intervention programme.
On the strength of Unity Bank participation in the ABP, the Central Bank of Nigeria invited the Bank to the Zonal flag-off of sale of rice paddy and display of rice pyramid in Gombe State.
On her part, Mrs Somefun, in a message to the farmers at the event applauded the resilience of the rice farmers despite several challenges, especially insecurity and urged the beneficiaries of this season’s Intervention Programme to “take the Inputs and utilize it judiciously for the farming purpose which is aimed at actualizing the Federal Government’s goal of attaining food sufficiency, diversifying the economy away from oil, job creation for the teeming youth and poverty reduction”.
Represented by the Regional Manager, Abuja and North Central, Mr. Michael Akerele, Somefun also charged the rice farmers to demonstrate further commitment to the CBN’s intervention programme by repaying their loans promptly in order to ensure the sustainability of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
She said, “We remain optimistic that RIFAN under the able leadership of the National President will continue to engage its members on their roles and responsibilities under the ABP.”
Somefun who went down memory lane to highlight the critical role the Bank has played in agric financing in Nigeria noted that since 2017 when the ABP started, the Bank has supported over 642,860 smallholder farmers across 35 states of the federation.
Specifically, on rice production, she added that the Bank’s strategic partnership with RIFAN in 2018 witnessed the financing of about 273,000 smallholder farmers across 33 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, which was the largest single-ticket transaction for that year.
She further explained that in 2019, the Bank increased the tally by financing another 146,810 smallholder farmers for the wet and dry season farming across 35 States of the federation including the FCT.
“In 2020, additional funding was granted to finance additional 221,450 smallholder farmers of the association across the 32 states of the federation including the FCT for the wet season and additional 300,000 hectares will be financed in 16 states for 2020 dry season cropping season,” she stated.
Somefun also commended President Muhammadu Buhari and the CBN for their steadfastness with the programme despite myriads of challenges facing the country, especially with insecurity.
“Without a doubt, the country is faced with a myriad of issues particularly the security challenges which has affected the farming output and movement of food from the farm to table. However, this has not deterred the Federal Government in pursuing its goal of diversifying the economy. This is evident in the continuous support and funding to the agribusiness value chain that has proven to create massive employment for the teeming youths,” she said.
It will be recalled that Unity Bank in 2019 received presidential commendations and an Award of Recognition by ABP.
CBN Extends Letter of Credit Issuance Timeline Amid Forex Crisis
Move Aims to Address FX Scarcity Challenges and Enhance Customer Service
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has announced an extension of the timeline for issuing letters of credit from 24 hours to five working days, according to the newly approved 2023 service charter.
This adjustment comes as the country grapples with foreign exchange scarcity, impacting local and international trade.
The 2020 service charter initially stipulated a 24-hour timeline for the issuance and management of letters of credit, but the updated charter now reflects a timeline extension to five working days.
Also, the CBN has prolonged the timeline for the registration of Form M and NXP from 24 hours to two working days.
The move follows the CBN’s unification of all forex market segments in June 2023, aimed at promoting liquidity and stability.
However, this measure appears to have led to increased market instability, with the naira losing nearly a fifth of its value.
Reports indicate that foreign suppliers are now rejecting letters of credit from Nigerian businesses, affecting the importation of goods and services.
Letters of credit are crucial for the payment of visible goods imports, wherein a bank commits in writing to pay the exporter a specified sum within a defined timeframe upon receipt of proper documentation from the customer.
The extended timelines for letters of credit, Forms M, and NXP in the service charter are seen as measures to manage cash flow and instill confidence in the process amidst the ongoing forex crisis.
CBN Governor Yemi Cardoso stressed the commitment to responsive and citizen-friendly governance through efficient, responsible, and transparent service delivery in the revised service charter.
The move is part of the CBN’s effort to comply with the Business Facilitation Act 2022 and enhance ease of doing business in Nigeria.
Unity Bank MD Advocates Policy Actions to Stem Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria
The Managing Director of Unity Bank Plc, Mrs. Tomi Somefun has called for comprehensive policy actions that will dismantle the structures that enable gender-based violence in Nigeria.
At the Ebony Life Cinema, the venue of the film screening in Lagos, Unity Bank supported the BECKMA movie premiere by ARDA Development Commuications Inc. which was held to highlight issues of Gender-Based violence and driving positive change in society.
Making the call, Somefun stated that the Bank committed to partnering with the movie premiere and putting the power of the brand behind BECKMA as the event brings sustainability and gender equality to the front burner.
Represented by Unity Bank’s Group Head of Compliance, Mrs. Patricia Ahunanya, Somefun noted that “9 percent of women aged 15 to 49 had suffered sexual assault at least once in their lifetime and 31% had experienced physical violence,” citing a recent study by UNDP in Nigeria.
Speaking further, Somefun said “Gender-based violence is not just a women’s issue, but a societal ill that demands our collective attention. It is high time for us to step forward and advocate for comprehensive policy actions that will dismantle the structures allowing such atrocities to persist”.
She added, “I urge policymakers to enact stringent laws against gender-based violence, ensuring swift and severe consequences for perpetrators. Our homes and various organisations must also be a catalyst for change, inspiring others to follow suit.”
While commending the ARDA Development Communications Inc. for their initiatives to promote gender equality and empowerment in line with SDG5, Somefun assured of the Bank’s commitment to sustainable initiatives and further collaborative initiatives and advocacy programmes for the elimination of gender-based violence.
Nigeria’s NIBSS Directs Banks to Disconnect Non-Deposit Financial Institutions from NIP System
Banks in Nigeria have received a directive from the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) to disconnect Switches, Payment Solution Service Providers (PSSPs), and Super Agents from the NIBSS Instant Payment Outwards System.
The circular, dated December 5, 2023, highlighted that including these non-deposit-taking financial institutions as beneficiaries on the NIP funds transfer channels violates the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) guideline on electronic payments.
The NIBSS emphasized that while Switches, PSSPs, and Super Agents might process outward transfers as inflows to banks, their licenses do not permit them to hold customers’ funds.
The circular referred to the CBN’s guidelines on electronic payment of salaries, pensions, suppliers, and taxes, dated February 2014, as the basis for this regulatory stance.
The directive also pointed to a circular dated May 11, 2018, titled “Permissible Services and Products of PSSP Operation in Nigeria,” reinforcing the need for compliance.
As a result, banks were urged to delist all Switches, PSSPs, and Super Agents from the NIP Outward Transfer channels while allowing their participation in inward transfers.
In Nigeria’s payment ecosystem, operators are required to obtain licenses such as Switching and Processing, Mobile Money Operations, Payment Solution Services, or Regulatory Sandbox from the CBN.
Only Mobile Money Operators (MMOs) have the authority to hold customer funds, according to the CBN’s regulatory framework.
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