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Union Bank, NIRSAL Launch N10b Finance Package

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By Modupe Gbadeyanka

A N10 billion financial scheme to assist farmers and agro-based companies in the country have access to funds to grow their businesses has been launched by Union Bank of Nigeria and the Nigeria Incentive Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL).

At the launch of the scheme last Friday, Group Managing Director of Union Bank Plc, Mr Emeka Emuwa, explained that the participation of NIRSAL in the agriculture business was a soothing development because, in the past, lending to the sector was a tortuous experience since banks could not effectively monitor farmers’ investments and gauge the risks.

“You could not see what you were investing in and it made funding the greatest challenge of the agricultural sector in Nigeria.

“Banks were reluctant to invest in the sector. But now, NIRSAL has come to shine more light on it. Commercial banks and NIRSAL have roles in the agriculture value chain and that sector holds the highest percentage of Africa’s labour force at 65 percent.

“In Nigeria, agriculture holds 50 percent of the employment. It was responsible for 24 per cent of all contributions to our GDP in 2016.

“That means it’s a major plank of in the success of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). To fully diversify our economy, agriculture must play a vital role.

“Our focus is market expansion and to help curb post-harvest losses. We also want to support small holder farmers to access needed markets. We’ve 180 million people in Nigeria. We have to create opportunities to feed ourselves,” Mr Emuwa explained.

On his part, Managing Director of NIRSAL, Mr Aliyu Abdulhameed, noted that the deal will create massive employment, guarantee food security and generate foreign exchange via exports.

He said various arms of agriculture provide excellent investment opportunities for the government, individuals and corporate bodies.

“There are several agriculture value chains that this N10 billion can make flourish. We can acquire 830 brand new tractors, generate 330,000 direct jobs and 1.5 million indirect jobs and cultivate 300,000 hectares of land.

“We have 10 categories of agriculture that includes have ruminants farming, export crops, plantations like cocoa and rubber, poultry, etc. We have 30 commodities in all.

“Our role in NIRSAL is to de-risk the entire transaction and ensure those enjoying the loan from Union Bank have the capacity to pay back. We look at various factors before giving out the loan.

“More financing will come and this launch is part of NIRSAL’s mandate to make banks put more money into agriculture. We have implemented risk management framework in the agriculture value chain.

“We have risk management tools and we keep our eyes on all the projects to ensure success. That is a huge off the backs of the banks.

“The Union Bank’s N10 billion loan will benefit agriculture mechanisation, primary production, input supply, logistics, processing, storage and post storage handling,” Mr Abdulhameed stated.

Managing Director of Development of Nigeria (DBN), Mr Tony Okpanachi, who was also at the event, described the deal as vital.

“When we say we are diversifying the economy, it simply means increasing the contributions of agriculture to the economy. And by that, it means increase the funding of agriculture. “DBN is a wholesale bank.

“We’ve been planning on how to impact the agricultural sector. We will work with NIRSAL and provide funding. We need to bring more financial institutions onboard,” Mr Okpanachi said.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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Banking

Unity Bank, Lagos Food Bank Address Hunger, Malnutrition

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Unity Bank Lagos Food Bank

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Food items worth millions of Naira have been donated to Ogundimu Ilaje, a riverine community in the suburb of Lagos, by Unity Bank Plc and Lagos Food Bank.

No fewer than 150 cartons of food items tagged Unity Box of Hope were distributed to hundreds of households in the underserved community.

The gesture is a collaborative initiative to support and promote interventions addressing hunger and malnutrition in communities.

It is also part of the strategic Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSRs) of Unity Bank aimed at sustaining the improvement of health and social well-being of communities it operates.

The lender, in a statement, further said it supported the programme because its goals align with the Lagos Food Bank Initiative, a non-profit organisation committed to providing welfare programmes to indigent people.

The donation comes on the heels of the worsening economic situation in the country, especially with the soaring food inflation at 23.12 per cent as of August 2022, which has alleviated hunger in many households.

Addressing the beneficiaries at the venue of food distribution, Mr Hillary Oguebo, Unity Bank’s Head, Corporate Resources, said the bank, as an agric-focused financial institution, was fulfilling its core mandate in line with Bank’s drive for food security, adding that the Bank is pleased to donate the food items to the community to help ameliorate the impact of the rising cost of food on them.

“Unity Bank has a financing business model that is principally anchored, amongst others, on boosting agricultural production, and it is also useful for those who have not benefitted from the bank’s Agric financing package to receive direct food intervention as it is being done today.

“Due to a lot of factors, especially growing insecurity, food production has been impacted severely, leading to historical food inflation. That has left many households struggling and battling hunger. So, this is a thoughtful gesture that we hope to sustain to reach as many Nigerians who deserve this form of intervention at this critical period,” he stated.

With a score of 28.3, the Global Hunger Index ranks Nigeria 103rd out of 116 and classifies the country’s hunger level as serious. This is a result of the country’s growing food insecurity, which has risen to more than 80 per cent from less than 20 per cent about three decades ago.

Unity Bank has led some of the most important critical interventions in the agric sector in Nigeria in the recent past and boasts significant investment in the Agric sector over the past six years and a track record of financing smallholder farmers that spur food production through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Through a CSR initiative that feeds households in underserved communities, the Bank is redefining CSR through strategic interventions that align perfectly with its business model.

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Banking

FCCPC Records Decline in Complaints from Customers of Digital Loan Sharks

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By Adedapo Adesanya

The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) says it has recorded a significant reduction in the number of consumer complaints regarding illegal digital money lending activities.

Mr Babatunde Irukera, the Executive Vice Chairman of the commission, said this in a statement via the agency’s Twitter handle on Wednesday.

Mr Irukera attributed the reduction in complaints from customers of digital loan sharks to the enforcement embarked on by the FCCPC joint taskforce.

“I agree that some activities of digital money lending institutions have destroyed relationships, whether professional or personal, and that is why we are doing all we can.

“I will be the first person to agree that there is a problem out there.

“Messages are still coming, harassment is still coming, but frankly, we have been tracking this for a while,” he added.

The FCCPC boss said that the complaints were the lowest recorded in the last two years, following several enforcements embarked by the commission.

“This is the lowest it has been in two years. From March, when we started this enforcement, there has been a significant reduction.

“I will say that after our enforcement last month, we counted probably less than 25 per cent looking at the tracking of the complaints that came in.

“But 25 per cent is not it, we will keep doing what we are doing, even adding more,” Mr Irukera said.

He said that the task force would continue to set the guard rails and make the loan shark businesses difficult.

“Wherever we find their bank accounts, we lock it down, whatever applications they are using, we go to google, we take them down,’’ Mr Irukera said.

He said that in pursuant to the order of the commission, Google had taken down over 70 applications, and the FCCPC had locked out over 60 bank accounts.

The executive vice chairman said Flutterwave had also taken down a dozen applications.

Mr Irukera appealed to members of the public to send their complaints relating to illegal money lending activities to lenderstaskforce@fccpc.gov.ng.

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Banking

Nigeria Can Solve FX Crisis With Adequate Agricultural Financing—Heritage Bank

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George Oko-Oboh adequate agricultural financing

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The foreign exchange (FX) crisis that is putting pressure on the Nigerian Naira, making the prices of goods and services rise in the country, can be solved if attention is paid to agricultural financing, Heritage Bank Plc has submitted.

The lender, through one of its executive directors, Mr George Oko-Oboh, pointed out that if players in the agricultural sector are supported with funds, they will produce crops that can be exported and generate forex for the country, making the domestic currency stronger at the currency market.

At the 15th Annual Banking and Finance Conference of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) in Abuja, he noted that adequate agricultural financing was critical in defining the country’s trade competitiveness, which guarantees sustainable agricultural systems. This critical aspect equips the financial sector to respond to changing market requirements and address critical sector needs for global competitiveness.

He disclosed at the programme tagged Repositioning the Financial Services Industry for an Evolving Global Context that Heritage Bank has been at the forefront of financing agric value chains that have upped its competitiveness in the global market and helped to boost local production, conserve scarce foreign exchange and enhance food security, and ultimately result in the creation of hundreds of new jobs.

According to Mr Oko-Oboh, the bank’s involvement in the sector dates back many years ago. It has always been at the forefront of ensuring the overall growth and development of commodities products in Nigeria. For these feats, Heritage Bank disbursed the N41 billion intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in wheat production in Nigeria for commodity associations and anchor companies.

“We have continued to create market linkages between smallholders’ farmers and anchors/processors, create an ecosystem that drives value chain financing, improves access to credit by the smallholders’ farmers by developing credit history through the scheme and many more.

“As a bank, we partnered CBN and other stakeholders such as wheat farmers association of Nigeria, wheat farmers, processors and marketers’ association of Nigeria, Lake Chad Research Institute and other development partners, flour mills of Nigeria and several seed companies and others to support over 100,000 farmers in wheat production.

“Also, Heritage Bank further factored consideration of value addition of financial services and products flowing to and/or through value chain participants to address and alleviate constraints to growth that have distorted product financing, receivables financing, physical-asset collateralization, risk mitigation products and financial enhancements,” said the executive director.

Also, the Chairman, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, Mr Farouk Gumel, has said Nigerian banks must invest in modernising agriculture, helping it to be more resilient, more dynamic and better able to adapt for the banking sector to compete in the evolving global context favourably.

“Modernisation means much more than technology alone; it is also about farming techniques,” he said.

Mr Gumel noted “to reposition the industry for a ‘Glocal context, we also need to look more inwards,” saying repositioning is not an option. It is a necessity that Nigeria has begun an agricultural renaissance over the past seven years. To be truly Glocal, we must commit the same resources and investments to rural-local customers as we have done to urban global clients.”

He agreed that the local players must keep an eye on what global happenings to stay in tune with international best practices while asking that local/rural farmers should never be forgotten.

President/Chairman of the council for CIBN, Dr Ken Opara, said the financial services industry needs to adapt to a much faster pace of change in advancement in technology and innovation, saying services, products, and technologies that were new and useful in the past will not necessarily be so soon.

Mr Opara said advancement in technology and innovation is bringing about another wave of revolution that will change the landscape of the financial services sector more than ever.

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