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Banking Sector

CBN Halts Opay, Palmpay, Others Onboarding Amid Forex Scandal

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Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)

The Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) has directed four leading fintech companies, OPay, Palmpay, Kuda Bank, and Moniepoint to halt the onboarding of new customers pending further investigation.

This directive, issued by the apex bank, comes in the wake of allegations linking these fintech giants to illicit foreign exchange transactions.

The move has sent ripples across Nigeria’s burgeoning fintech landscape, raising questions about regulatory oversight and the evolving dynamics of financial technology in the country.

Representatives from two of the affected companies confirmed the CBN’s order, shedding light on the gravity of the situation.

While acknowledging the allegations, they highlighted potential misdirection, emphasizing that the majority of implicated accounts are affiliated with commercial banks rather than fintech platforms.

“I can confirm that 90% of the accounts implicated in the illicit forex transactions are with commercial banks, and only 10% are with fintechs. Why then has the CBN not extended this directive to the commercial banks? We face a widespread issue here, and targeting fintechs seems like an unfair focus on the more vulnerable targets,” one source explained.

This revelation underscores a broader concern regarding regulatory asymmetry within Nigeria’s financial ecosystem.

Despite fintechs demonstrating robust Know Your Customer (KYC) practices, they find themselves under intense scrutiny while traditional banks seemingly evade similar directives.

The controversy deepened with recent revelations from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which secured a court order to freeze over 1,100 bank accounts allegedly involved in illegal foreign exchange transactions.

Justice Emeka Nwite’s decision, issued on an ex-parte motion, underscores the urgency to address financial malfeasance within the country.

However, scrutiny seems disproportionately directed towards fintechs, leaving industry insiders perplexed.

“In terms of KYC, the fintechs are doing better than the banks, but all eyes seem to be on the fintechs whenever the issue of KYC occurs,” a source revealed.

This regulatory imbalance raises critical questions about the evolving role of fintech in Nigeria’s financial landscape.

Despite their innovative solutions and customer-centric approach, fintechs face a regulatory framework that appears skewed against them, favoring traditional institutions.

As Nigeria strives to maintain financial integrity and stability, stakeholders must address these regulatory discrepancies to ensure a level playing field for all participants.

The outcome of this saga will not only shape the future of fintech regulation but also define Nigeria’s approach to combating financial crime in an increasingly digitized economy.

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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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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