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2014: Nigeria’s Financial Sector In Retrospect

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In spite of turbulence
occasioned by the liquidity tightening of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the finance sector within the first quarter of 2014, the year remains one that witnessed many activities in monetary and fiscal policies of government.
The financial sector began the year with the controversial removal of Malam Sanusi Lamido as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in February.
Lamido, now the Emir of Kano, was replaced by a former Managing Director of Zenith Bank, Mr Godwin Emefiele.
Emefiele assumed office in June, with a pledge to stabilise the naira and keep interest rates as low as he met it, at least, till after the February 2015 general elections.
However, the new CBN helmsman failed to keep the pledge due largely to falling crude oil prices, which invariably reduced government’s revenue earnings.
The effect is that the CBN has increased the interest rate and followed up with the devaluation of the currency, a decision taken at a meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee meeting in November.
The currency was devalued by 8.38 per cent, raising the official exchange rate of the Naira from N155 to N168 to the dollar, a N13 loss.
According to government, these are part of measures aimed at strengthening the nation’s economy.
The CBN also increased the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) from 12 per cent to 13 per cent, and the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) on private sector deposits from 15 per cent to 20 per cent.
The MPR is the rate at which banks borrow from the apex bank to cover their immediate cash shortfalls, while the CRR is a monetary policy tool used to either call up excess liquidity or release funds needed for growth of the economy— as situation demands.
The pronouncement of the CBN attracted mixed reactions from financial experts, some of who believe that the upward review of the CRR could force banks to reduce their ideal funds, while an increase in MPR automatically increases lending and interest rates.
A former Director, Research Department, CBN, Mr Titus Okurounmu, says the ripple effect of the devaluation will eventually be felt in all sectors of the economy.
Okurounmu notes that Nigeria as a net importer of consumable products, as opposed to net exporter, would be adversely affected.
He says most of the consumables and non-consumables are imported.
“Therefore, as the naira continues to fall, prices of goods will continue to go up, leading to inflation,’’ he says.
According to him, it is possible that the devaluation will eventually curtail the much sort after foreign direct investment in the country.
Okurounmu adds: “the situation may drive investors to reconsider investing in Nigeria because the devaluation may not generate good returns on investment’’.
In his reaction, the Head, African Markets at FBN Capital, Mr Olubunmi Ashaolu says the development has made sales in the bi-weekly sales of foreign exchange at the CBN’s Retail Dutch auction System (RDAS) to decline.
Ashaolu admitted that sales went down by 700 million dollar, from 2.99 billion in October, to 2.29 billion dollar in November.
Also, Mr Sewa Wusu, Head, Research and Investment Advisory at Sterling Capital, says the effect of the CBN pronouncement was to curtail excess liquidity by increasing the CRR deposits with the apex bank.
Wusu notes that the development makes it expensive for banks to borrow from the CBN’s standing facility window as the measure may force them to focus more on the interbank market.
He adds that the situation could automatically increase lending rates of banks and consequently discourage investment.
The slump in crude oil price, from a peak of 106 dollars a barrel, to below 65 dollars, and still sliding, has also compelled the continued downward slide in the country’s foreign reserve, which shed an accumulated 17.5 per cent within the year.
According to the latest figures made available by the CBN, the external reserves, which stood at 43.5billion dollar at the beginning of 2014, dropped to 35.88 billion dollar as at December 9.
Before then, the country was in the limelight after it re-based its Gross Domestic Products (GDP) on April 6, from about 270 billion dollars to 510 billion dollar for 2013.
The increase of about 90 per cent was attributed to the new sectors in the economy, such as telecommunications, movie-making and the retail trades- which were previously not captured or underreported within the financial year.
As a result of the re-basing, the country has become the largest economy in Africa and 26th largest in the world.
According to the Statistician-General, Dr Yemi Kale, this confirms that the country’s economy has grown in total value.
A Financial and Management Consultant, Mr Eghes Eyieyien, commends the exercise, saying it provided useful data for further planning and development of the economy, Eyieyien, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Pharez Ltd., says the exercise has revealed the critical sectors that government should pay closer attention to.
The CBN in collaboration with the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) on February 14 launched a scheme called Bank Verification Number (BVN).
The scheme, which took effect from November 3, is a follow-up to the advancement on the nation’s payment system to stem fraud and identity theft, in order to protect customer transactions and enhance confidence in the banking system.
The Managing Director of NIBSS, Mr Ade Shonubi says a phased rollout approach was adopted, beginning with Lagos, for efficient processing.
Shonubi says biometric data capturing machines had already been deployed to not less than 1,000 bank branches in Lagos, and that to date, over 16,000 BVNs had been issued.
Mr Wale Abe, Executive Secretary of the Financial Market Dealers Association says the increase was as a result of commercial banks scramble for more funds to meet their obligations.
Abe notes that the recent CBN monetary policy pronouncement and the fall of oil price at the international market had started ‘taking their toll’ on banking activities.
“Banks are at interbank market to position, to have enough liquidity, following the effect of the CBN monetary pronouncements on the MPR and CRR.
“As soon as there is equilibrium in the market, it will adjust itself because there is the tendency that the situation will reverse after the general elections,” Abe says.
The Managing Director, Financial Derivatives Company Ltd., Mr Bismack Rewane also notes that the country would overcome the current challenge, the falling oil prices, adding that in most cases, Nigeria performs better under pressure.
In June, the CBN increased the minimum paid up capital for Bureau de Change operators from N10million to N35million.
It also imposed other rules that include banning of operators from owning more than one bureau de change.
There is no doubt that monetary and fiscal policy framework of 2014 have made the economic direction in 2015 a bit unpredictable.
However, some experts are hopeful that a successful conclusion of the 2015 general elections could usher in a calm atmosphere that the economy will need to bounce back.
Ashafa isof the News Agency of Nigeria

 

Olawunmi Ashafa

L-R:  Director-General, West African Monetary Institute, Mr Abwaku Englama, Chairman, Convergence Council, Amb. Bashir Yuguda and Chairman, Committee of Governors, Mr Godwin Emefiele, during the 2014 Mid Year Statutory Meeting of  West African Monetary Zone in Abuja, recently.

L-R: Director-General, West African Monetary Institute, Mr Abwaku Englama, Chairman, Convergence Council, Amb. Bashir Yuguda and Chairman, Committee of Governors, Mr Godwin Emefiele, during the 2014 Mid Year Statutory Meeting of West African Monetary Zone in Abuja, recently.

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…Creates Two New Offices In Govt House

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of two new executive offices to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness of activities at the Government House, in Port Harcourt.
The governor’s action was made known in a statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Governor, Kelvin Ebiri in Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The terse statement reads, “To ensure activities are functioning efficiently and effectively, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff will be in charge of the Logistics, Correspondence of the Governor and Legal Matters.
“Similarly, he has also announced the creation of the Office of the Special Adviser on Aviation”.

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Accelerating Gender Parity In Nigeria

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In virtually all societies, women are in an inferior position to men. Sex or gender determines  more rights and dignity for men in legal, social and cultural situations, These are reflected on unequal access to or enjoyment of rights in favour of men.
There are also the assumption of stereotype social and cultural roles.
In Nigeria, gender inequality has been for decades in spite of modernization and the fact that many females have done better than men in many spheres.
Analysts are convinced that gender inequality is largely influenced by religious and cultural beliefs, as some cultures and religions still hold strongly that women are the weaker vessels created mainly to be home keepers and child bearers.
Analysts are also worried that gender inequality negatively affects status in all areas of life in society, whether public or private, in the family or labour market.
Although the Global Gender Gap Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows some progress amongst the 149 countries that were indexed, the progress toward closing the gender gap is slow, because it will take 108 years to close the gender gap and another 202 years to achieve parity in the workforce, according to the report.
The report benchmarks the 149 countries on their progress toward gender parity across four dimensions – economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
A number of initiatives have been made by corporate organisations and governmental and non-governmental organisations  to address gender imbalance in Nigeria.
One of the latest is the launch of First Women Network  (FWN) by the First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., in commemoration of the 2019 International Women’s Day (IWD).
IWD is celebrated globally every March 8 to recognise social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The celebration is also a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The global theme for the 2019 celebration is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” while the theme for the social media campaign is “#BalanceforBetter”.
According to the bank, the FWN initiative is an avenue for career management and mentoring for women to enable them to balance their career with private endeavours.
The aim,  according to the bank, is to address gender gap and increase women representation in its senior and executive levels, as well as encourage women to tap into opportunities and contribute to nation-building.
The bank’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Adesola Adeduntan,  explains that First Women Network is targeted at the banks’ staff and customers, among others.
He believes that women can achieve more if given the necessary strategic support, hoping that the initiative
will increase the bank’s productivity and profitability.
Adeduntan notes that the initiative is  also a demonstration of First Bank’s adherence to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goals which mandate increased women representation in all banks.
The sustainable goals require that the financial services sector should adopt a quota system to increase women representation on boards to 30 per cent and that of senior management level to 40 per cent by 2014.
Adeduntan is optimistic that the FWN will address six key area –  career management, personal branding, mentoring, welfare, financial planning and empowerment.
He is convinced that the initiative will address gender disparity at the workplace.
“It is commonly agreed that gender parity is an essential factor influencing the advancement of institutions, economies and societies.
“Studies have shown that gender parity in corporations promotes increased performance and returns on investment.
“The need to invest in composite women empowerment and enhance their contributions at senior management levels to achieve organisational goals cannot be over-emphasised,” the CEO says.
For him,  it is paradoxical that the presence of women in paid employments continues to increase, yet the progression of professional women to positions of leadership and management remains slow.
“Gender gaps persist in economic opportunities and political participation in many countries.
“This is part of the reasons for this women network initiative,” he notes.
The chief executive officer wants employers of labour and the entire society to encourage women to advance, excel and contribute optimally in  workplaces and communities.
Mr Abiodun  Famuyiwa, group head, Products and Marketing Support, promises that First Bank  will continue to promote female entrepreneurship for national growth and development.
“We recognise that promoting female entrepreneurship and independence is key to economic viability of every home in the country,” he says.
 According to him, FWN is a further demonstration of the bank’s commitment to women empowerment after the launch  of FirstGem in 2016.
He is satisfied that FirstGem is providing opportunities for women to achieve their financial goals and aspirations through with access to support funds, free business advice, specialised trainings on business development and insight on business development.
For Mr Lampe Omoyele, managing director, Nitro 121, an integrated marketing communications agency,  points out that courage is important in addressing gender imbalance.
“For gender imbalance to be resolved, there has to be courage, vision, values and character,” he says.
He is convinced that women should  have courage and confidence in taking risks within  organisations.
Omoyele advises that women must not play the victims.
“Ultimately, whether you are a female or male, what is going to sustain you is your character and values.
“You need to have values; character is important in the balance that we live to, and it sustains you as you move into the future,” he adds.
The Chief Executive Officer,  Standard  Chartered Bank, Mrs Bola Adesola, wants women to take advantage of FWN to make their lives better.
 She urges women to aspire to grow in their endeavours and refuse be limited because of their gender, stressing that they should use all resources at their disposal to grow.
 For the bank chief, FWN is not a silver bullet to creating the first female chief executive officer of First Bank, but  about opportunity.
“So, it is important that as women, we take advantage of it,” she urges.
 Ms Cecilia Akintomide, independent non-executive director, FBN Holdings Plc, is dissatisfied that Nigeria is still far in gender balancing.
Akintomide says Nigerian  women are still being restricted from working in some places and owning some property.
According to her, restrictions are rendering 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population –  mainly women –  economically unviable.
 A First Bank customer,  Mrs Ifeyinwa Okoye, lauds the FWN, and urges the bank to ensure that its customers – the secondary target of FWN –  benefit from it.
Okoye describes women as critical to economic growth and development but regrets that many women were lagging behind in their endeavours because of gender inequality.
She wants the banks to enlighten its customers on FWN for maximum results.
 “If you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
“Empowering women is especially effective because the benefits are felt throughout the whole community,” she argues.
Analysts call for more strategic support for Nigerian women to  enhance gender parity.


By: Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
Joel-Nwokeoma is of the News Agency of Nigeria.

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Covid-19 Vaccination: Role Of Local Leaders

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It was a matter of time, but Covid-19 vaccination has already started to generate heated arguments following a hint that the Federal Government could start sanctioning anybody who refused to be vaccinated.
Dr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director,  National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, disclosed this at a recent press conference in Abuja. He, however, said that implementation was dependent on availability of the vaccines.
“The Presidential Steering Committee and the Federal Ministry of Health are exploring ways of making vaccines more available to all Nigerians, including federal civil servants and corporate entities.
“Once these vaccines are made equitably available to all Nigerians, then we will need to have a frank discussion about justice, fairness and liberty that exist around vaccine hesitancy.
“So, you have a right to refuse vaccines, but you do not have the right to endanger the health of others,” he said.
Already, attempts have been made by two states – Ondo and Edo – to make Covid-19 vaccination compulsory, especially for public servants and members of the public who wish to gain access to certain places.
These places include religious worship centres, banks and public buildings.
However, those attempts and the suggestion that the Federal Government might sanction those who refuse vaccination have been criticised by some trade, professional and religious associations.
 The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) that kicked against the compulsory vaccination, said that government should rather embark on advocacy and persuasion, than coerce citizens into getting vaccinated.
The spokesman for JOHESU, Mr Olumide Akintayo, said the policy would only be sensible if there were enough vaccines to inoculate eligible citizens.
Akintayo stated: “If you are thinking of it in terms of responsibility, it makes sense; but practically, we all know it is an impossible task.
“ If all the doses that have been sent to Nigeria since this outbreak is less than 10 million, how do you enforce that kind of policy in a country of over 200 million people?
“You don’t just come up with policies that are not backed by common sense; you don’t just say things because you want to talk. It would have made some sense if the vaccines are available for everyone.”
The General Secretary of the NMA, Philips Ekpe, said citizens could not be forced to be vaccinated against Covid-19 the same way they had the right to reject medical treatment.
Rather than being forced, he said Nigerians should be made to understand the need to be vaccinated. 
According to him, although they cannot be forced, citizens who refuse vaccination should stay in their houses so that they don’t endanger others.
He said: “The Federal Government needs to make people understand the reason why they need to be vaccinated. They have the right to say no. You cannot force people. People have the right to say no to medical treatment.
“But you should let them understand the dangers of not getting vaccinated.
“For example, if you want to travel out of the country, if you are not vaccinated, you will not be let in. The reason is because the other country you are going to won’t want to endanger the lives of its citizens.
“Let them understand the importance, but then if they refuse, they should stay in their houses and not go out and endanger others.”
Experts believe that properly communicating the advantages of being vaccinated, through the use of existing structures, such as religious and cultural institutions, would yield better results than subtle threats.
Communication connotes persuasion, even on occasions when the purpose of a piece of communication is not to persuade, there is still the need to win over the audience to accept the message.
In this era of fake news, and when the social media is awash with conspiracy theories against vaccination, persuasion must first be deployed to get the attention of citizens.
The burden increases tremendously when there are cultural and religious stereotypes which could prevent many adherents from accepting that being vaccinated is safe.
This challenge is not peculiar to Nigeria. In the U.S. for instance, vaccine hesitancy is responsible for over 90 per cent of all Covid-19 related hospitalisation.
Getting some Americans vaccinated has been so challenging that many people have been offered monetary incentives to convince them to get vaccinated in an unusual case of persuasion.
In Nigeria, where religious and traditional leaders are custodians of faith and culture respectively, they wield great influence on devotees and those institutions can be deployed to boost vaccination drive.
Historically, religious and traditional rulers often employ the cognitive process of persuasive communication to change an entrenched social perception or public opinion hindering required public support for relevant people-oriented policies.
Leaders have the influence to subtly appeal to the target to listen, accept, comprehend and act.
Therefore, before considering the stick, government should first explore the use of carrot.
Religious and traditional leaders can help in giving correct messages on vaccination as well as being role models, making sure that they and their loved ones too are vaccinated.
Faith-based and culture-based organisations can also collaborate with other leaders to sensitise communities on the benefits of vaccination and to also dispel the many myths and disinformation about it.
King Bubaraye Dakolo of Epetiama Kingdom in Bayelsa has been putting this practice to use, since vaccination was first rolled out in Nigeria in March.
“The arrival of the vaccine brought a huge relief to our kingdom. I mobilised my people to carry out awareness campaigns in the various communities to guard against apathy.
“My council chiefs and I led by example in being vaccinated early. When the people saw that, they were fully convinced that the vaccine is not harmful.
“We made it clear to our people through town hall meetings that the vaccine is safe and is designed to save humanity.
“We equally reminded them how some persons who refused to be vaccinated for poliomyelitis in the past are suffering the consequences of their actions today,” the traditional ruler said. 
According to the WHO Covid-19 Dashboard, Nigeria had administered 4.4 million Covid-19 vaccine doses as at Aug. 31, 2021. Out of that number, 2.9 million Nigerians have been fully vaccinated, according to the NPHCDA.
With a fairly efficient vaccination structure, owing to many years of immunisation against polio, the Nigerian government should activate collaboration with religious and traditional bodies in its vaccination drive.
Experts, including health professionals and public administrators, believe that involving these leaders in advocacy and public enlightenment will lead to more people accepting to voluntarily get Covid-19 vaccination.
Of course, with just a paltry 0.7 per cent of the population vaccinated, the key indicator for any punitive measure for avoiding vaccination will be subject to availability of the vaccines.
However, to achieve the goal of vaccinating 40 per cent of its 200 million population before the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by the end of 2022, Nigeria will need more than availability of vaccines.
There has to be the acceptance and willingness of the majority of its population to be vaccinated.
One of the crucial and effective way to achieve that is to work with religious and traditional leaders.

By: Kayode Adebiyi

Adebiyi writes for News Agency of Nigeria.

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