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EFCC Warns Banks Directors Against Election Financing, Forex Malpractice

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Achike Udenwa

The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa, has warned financial institutions against fraudulent election financing, foreign exchange malpractice, and money laundering.

Bawa gave the warning on Thursday Thursday during an interactive session with managing directors of banks in Nigeria at the Lagos Zonal Command of the commission, Bawa said it was important to bring the financial institutions in the country up to speed with the evolving policies in the Commission.

In a statement by the EFCC Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujiaren, Bawa was quoted as saying the commission would want to play more emphasis on prevention than enforcement.

He said it was important to bring the financial institutions in the country up to speed with the evolving policies in the Commission, in line with the United Nations’ categorization of the fight against corruption vis-à-vis prevention, enforcement, and assets recovery.

“At the EFCC, we want to place more emphasis on prevention. We want to lay less emphasis on enforcement, which is investigation and prosecution and put our energy more on prevention and asset recovery.

“In addition, some of the issues we have identified include foreign exchange malpractices and fraudulent election financing.

“As you all know, in 16 to 18 months, Nigeria will be preparing for another round of elections, and the government will not want what happened in the past to repeat itself,” Bawa said.

The EFCC boss said it had become necessary to put bankers on their toes, particularly as the 2023 general elections approached.

Bawa also stressed that the “new EFCC” under his leadership believes that the financial institutions have an important role to play in the Commission’s efforts to rid Nigeria of economic and financial crimes.

He charged the bankers to comply with the guidelines of the Central Bank of Nigeria on the issuance of Personal Travel Allowance, PTA, and Business Travel Allowance, BTA, to their customers.

You need to ensure full compliance with regard to knowing your customers and ensuring that you do not give opportunities for foreign exchange malpractices,” he said.

The commission boss, however, disagreed with the allegation of a cat-and-mouse relationship between the commission and financial institutions in the country.

He said that by September 1, anything that would happen or has happened within the industry would be done by the books.

“The Commission will ensure that any banker complicit in any such financial fraud will face the full wrath of the law.

“It is better to have fewer banks complying with the laws of the land than to have multiple banks not complying with the laws,” he warned.

Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, Group Chief Executive Officer of United Bank for Africa, described the engagement as “a very unique gathering”, adding that the new leadership of the EFCC was seeing things from a new prism.

“We see a very positive and engaging relationship ensuing between us and the EFCC, and this has been a warm and intelligent engagement with the EFCC.”

Also speaking, Mr. Ifie Sekibo, Managing Director of Heritage Bank, assured the EFCC of continuous support in its fight against corruption and called for a regular engagement with bankers.

Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, Managing Director, Zenith Bank Plc, also pledged support for the EFCC war against corruption, noting that “it is a collaborative effort.”

[NAN]

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Banking Sector

Nigeria Plans 50% Windfall Tax on Banks’ Currency Profits

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Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu has announced a one-time 50% tax on windfall profits that banks reaped from currency gains following last year’s naira devaluation.

This decision was part of the government’s strategy to navigate the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

The naira, which has depreciated by about 70% against the dollar since foreign exchange rules were relaxed in June 2023, allowed banks holding dollar assets to significantly boost their income.

However, the Central Bank of Nigeria had advised lenders to retain these profits as a buffer against potential future losses.

The proposed tax will apply to the 2023 financial year, with non-compliance resulting in hefty fines.

The move has already impacted the NGX Banking Index, which fell by 1.3% as of midday trading in Lagos. Notable declines were seen in FBN Holdings Plc and Zenith Bank Plc, dropping 3.2% and 2.5% respectively.

This initiative mirrors similar actions in Europe, where countries like Italy and Hungary have imposed taxes on banks to address what they view as excessive profits during periods of high inflation and interest rates.

European banks have criticized these measures, warning of potential impacts on economic growth due to constrained lending capabilities.

President Tinubu’s administration believes this tax will help manage Nigeria’s fiscal challenges while addressing social needs.

Lawmakers are expected to support the measure, alongside a proposal to increase government spending by 6.2 trillion naira ($3.8 billion).

While banks have benefited from currency revaluations, many customers, particularly manufacturers with dollar-denominated loans, faced significant losses as they struggled with the weaker naira.

The new tax policy highlights the government’s broader efforts to stabilize the economy and attract foreign investment, aiming to ensure a more equitable distribution of financial gains.

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Banking Sector

Unity Bank Customers Win Over N4 Million in Cashtoken Rewards Promo

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Unity Bank customers have claimed over N4 million in cash rewards in its ongoing loyalty programme recently rolled out with Cashtoken, a Cash Reward-as-a-Service company.

The winners included no fewer than 40 customers who adopted and transacted on the Bank’s digital banking platforms, including the UniFi mobile banking application, the *7799# USSD platform or activated their Unity Bank Verve Card to transact on e-payment terminals across Nigeria.

Beginning from onboarding in our customer lifecycle journey, the Unity Bank Cashtoken Partnership commenced as a loyalty and reward scheme to reinforce the benefits of e-banking platforms. To begin, Customer transactions earn cash tokens, which are then redeemed to qualify for the monthly Cashtoken Rewards draw. Consequently, winners emerge from the draws to claim the cash prizes.

Recall that the retail lender announced the ongoing Cashtoken Rewards loyalty programme in December 2023 in partnership with Cashtoken Rewards Africa to empower customers and improve customer satisfaction. The partnership with Cashtoken Rewards also provided an opportunity for the Bank to migrate customers—old and new—to a platform that will continually create exciting rewards and appreciation for loyalty.

Eghomware Iyamu, Unity Bank’s Head of E-Business, commenting on the success of the Cashtoken Rewards loyalty program, stated: “We are excited to see our customers win over N4 million in cash rewards through our partnership with Cashtoken. This initiative demonstrates our commitment to recognizing and rewarding the loyalty of our customers”.

“By leveraging our digital banking platforms, including the Unifi mobile banking application and the *7799# USSD platform, we are not only enhancing customer experience but also providing life-changing opportunities. The Cashtoken Rewards program is a testament to our dedication to improving customer satisfaction and creating meaningful rewards along our customer lifecycle journey. We look forward to seeing more of our customers benefit from this exciting program as we continue to innovate and deliver exceptional value to them.”

Unity Bank has robust electronic banking products which include mobile and digital banking channels, including ATM, PoS, or any digital payment channels which support retail product transactions across the country. New-to-Bank customers are invited to open a Unity Bank account, onboard onto the digital platforms and begin transacting on the various platforms to earn cash token rewards and cash prizes while existing customers are encouraged to onboard and transact to win even more rewards and cash prizes.

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Banking Sector

Access Bank and FMO Sign Landmark $295 Million Syndicate Tier II Facility Agreement

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Access bank

Access Bank Plc, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest bank by customer base, has reached a significant milestone in its enduring partnership with the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank (FMO).

This collaboration, spanning over two decades, marked a historic moment on Tuesday with the signing of a monumental syndicate Tier II Facility agreement valued at $295 million, approximately N442.5 billion.

The relationship between Access Bank and FMO, which began in 2003, has been a testament to their shared commitment to economic development in Nigeria.

This latest agreement, the third of its kind arranged by FMO for Access Bank, represents more than just a financial transaction; it symbolizes the deep-rooted trust and synergy between the two institutions.

This historic agreement is notably the largest syndication in FMO’s history, a substantial investment resulting from a collective effort involving a syndicate of Global Development Finance Institution (DFI) partners.

These partners include esteemed entities such as British International Investment (BII), Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO), BlueOrchard, FinDev Canada, Finnfund of Finland, Norfund of Norway, Oikocredit, and Swedfund of Sweden.

The $295 million facility is earmarked to empower local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with a particular focus on underserved segments such as youth- and women-owned businesses, agricultural enterprises, and very small enterprises.

This significant infusion of capital aims to catalyze growth across various sectors, stimulate business development, create jobs, and deepen financial inclusion, aligning with Access Bank’s mission to drive progress and development throughout the continent and beyond.

The ceremony, held in the Netherlands, was attended by dignitaries including Oluremi Oliyide, Nigerian Ambassador to the Netherlands, and representatives from the Dutch government.

During the event, Roosevelt Ogbonna, MD/CEO of Access Bank Plc, expressed profound gratitude to FMO for their unwavering support and emphasized the bank’s commitment to becoming the world’s most respected African bank by adhering to global best practices and maintaining high standards of accountability.

“Today marks a significant milestone in our longstanding partnerships with FMO. This monumental syndicate Tier II Facility agreement underscores the deep-rooted trust and synergy among our institutions. This facility not only enhances our capital reserves but also strengthens Africa’s trade capabilities and export potential,” Ogbonna said.

“Putting these funds to use, we aim to catalyze growth across various sectors, stimulate business development, create jobs, and deepen financial inclusion.”

In his remarks, Michael Jongeneel, CEO of FMO, stated, “We extend our gratitude to our longstanding partner, Access Bank, and our syndication partners for their outstanding cooperation and collective effort in making this loan facility a reality. The syndicated loan provides significant support to SMEs in Nigeria, particularly underserved segments such as women and young entrepreneurs, aligning perfectly with our shared strategy to enhance financial inclusion and empower local entrepreneurs in the agribusiness and SME sectors.”

Marchel Gerrmann, representing the Dutch government, and members of the syndication partners—BII, Finnfund, and BlueOrchard—were among the distinguished guests who witnessed this historic agreement.

This landmark deal is set to bolster Nigeria’s private sector, providing much-needed support to SMEs and contributing significantly to the country’s economic development.

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