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FirstBank Celebrates 2021 CRS Week, Canvasses Kindness As a Way of Life

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The best definition of kindness is not one provided by any of the world’s best dictionaries but one demonstrated by how we treat others on a daily basis. Kindness is a universal language that does not require any special knowledge, exposure, skills, training or background to understand and appreciate it as a beneficiary or observer of a kind act. Neither is any special knowledge or training required to show and extend it to others. Just as anyone and everyone can be shown acts of kindness, all persons without exception can and ought to show and extend acts of kindness to others. Kindness flows from deep within us, from the better angels of our nature. Hence, the common idiom “the milk of human kindness”.

This is probably the backdrop to the theme “Kindness…a Way of Life”, which FirstBank has chosen for commemoration of its 2021 Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Week (CR&S Week). This year’s CR&S Week, scheduled to hold from 26th – 30th July 2021, will feature Kind Comments Days, visits to orphanages/less privilege homes, webinars focused on the kindness theme, SPARK school engagement among other activities – lined up for each of the days. The yearly CR&S Week is a dedicated week designed to offer FirstBank staff, customers and the public opportunities to demonstrate the milk of human kindness that flows in them and give their time and resources to defined causes. It seeks to amplify FirstBank’s innate culture of giving and volunteering as embodied in its Employee Giving and Volunteering programme.

The Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Week was introduced in 2017 as part of the bank’s longstanding Employee Giving and Volunteering programme created to enable and encourage staff to give back to society through donations and volunteering. Specially designed to reignite acts of random kindness in the society with events that are tailored to reorient people towards the right values, it provides a veritable platform for encouraging the citizenry to intentionally create positive impact in their immediate environment. One of the main highlights of the first CR&S Week was the SPARK Initiative. S.P.A.R.K stands for Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness. But originally the “S” stood for “Staff”. It was changed to “Start” to broaden the initiative beyond just staff and encourage everyone else to be part of the kindness brigade. Also, “P” originally stood for “Promoting” but was changed to “Performing” to convey the sense that participants are equally involved in actually doing kind acts and not only promoting kindness.

Held between 25 – 29 September 2017 with “Promoting Kindness: Putting You First” as theme, the maiden CR&S Week was the first of its kind in Nigeria’s financial services industry. It highlighted the role FirstBank’s corporate citizenship interventions was playing in driving positive impact across various communities – all within one compact week. It was aimed at encouraging people everywhere to step out of their comfort zones, shift attention from themselves and their personal needs to others in society who have not been as fortunate as they have and perform a random act of kindness towards them. The first edition of the CR&S Week provided opportunity for FirstBank staff to give their time and resources to promote acts of random kindness within their communities and contribute to the welfare and well-being of others through giving and visits to orphanages/homes of the less fortunate and internally displaced people (IDPs). Within the same Week the bank held career counselling sessions with secondary school students across the six geo-political regions in Nigeria with FirstBank staff coordinating the impactful sessions that inculcated the values of financial literacy and inclusion in young students. Also, staff had the opportunity to nominate beneficiaries they believe are deserving of random of acts of kindness. Through this activity, Baby Ijeoma was nominated as one of the beneficiary that received corrective heart surgery in India which was in partnership with Vama Wave Foundation. The impact of the first edition went beyond Nigeria as FirstBank’s subsidiaries in sub-Saharan Africa and the UK also participated, benefitting people and at least 22 charities in six countries.

The second edition of the CR&S Week held from 19 – 23 June 2018. Themed “Touching Lives: You First”, the 2018 Week was intended to demonstrate FirstBank brand promise to always put stakeholders first. It focused mainly on five key initiatives/activities. First was the launch of a partnership with VisionSpring to advance social impact by providing vision screening and affordable eyeglasses for 10,000 low-income earners. This aligned with the bank’s financial inclusion and financial literacy approach of promoting accessible and affordable financial products and services to disadvantaged groups with the goal of bringing these marginalised populations into the mainstream economy, improving their chances for resilient livelihoods and financial stability. Second were giving and visits to orphanages/less privilege homes. This was the biggest platform for employee engagement during the week. It followed a needs assessment of the orphanages to be visited to enable employees donate appropriate items, and employees responded generously, donating at a scale that had never been done before. In all, eight countries witnessed this initiative while more than 26 charities participated.

Celebration of the UN International Widows’ Day on 23rd June 2018, which coincided with the last day of the CR&S Week, was the third activity. Driven by the International Women’s Society (IWS) in Lagos with whom the bank partnered to organise an empowerment outreach for 500 widows in Lagos, it provided start-up capital and capacity building required to successfully run start-ups and small businesses, to the widows. Fourth was a Career Counselling Day for over 10,000 senior secondary school students, as part of the broader FutureFirst programme of the bank aimed at ensuring the youth are empowered to be financially independent through fulfilling careers and the right financial knowledge. Fifth and final was the SPARK (Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness) initiative, which included a SPARK Day set aside in the bank for people to act within their individual spheres of influence to promote kindness. The initiative also saw the bank receiving about 200 internal and external nominations of people deserving of kindness, out of which 24 beneficiaries were to emerge. The 2018 Week was marked across Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones with two states from each zone, totalling 12 states in all. It was also commemorated in the six countries/markets outside Nigeria where FirstBank already had subsidiaries – UK, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Guinea, Sierra Leone and Senegal.

In 2019, the CR&S Week held from 1 – 6 July 2019 with the theme “Ripples of Kindness: Putting You First”. The theme was informed by the bank’s belief that every act of kindness (regardless of how little or in whatever form) ignites a ripple effect that goes on without end. The year’s CR&S Week focused mainly on the SPARK initiative, which had gained so much traction since its humble beginnings in 2017. A Kindness Manifesto for both internal stakeholders and external stakeholders was introduced. There were other new activities or initiatives. A Nice Comments Day was introduced for the first time and scheduled to hold on the first day of the CR&S Week. The basis for it, according to the bank’s committee that oversaw the planning and implementation of the 2019 CRS Week, is the important place of words in the “kindness ecosystem”. The committee underlined this point when it noted as follows: “One of the truest reflections of how kind we are is our choice of words. That’s why we have created Nice Comments Day to help build a kinder world [through kind words].”
Another new initiative introduced in 2019 was the SPARK School Engagement, which involved launching the SPARK initiative in schools to promote the 3Cs projected as the pillars of kindness – Compassion, Civility and Charity. The schools – secondary schools across Nigeria – were to be visited to educate students on acts of kindness, encouraging them to make kindness a lifestyle. A crowd-funding initiative was also added in 2019 to enable both employees and external stakeholders donate to defined humanitarian causes, such as supporting widows, sending children (from indigent homes) to school and providing health care for the physically challenged and the old. As at August 2019, nearly N7 million had been raised through the crowd-funding initiative.

The regular initiatives/activities were also retained in 2019. There were visits to orphanages/less privilege homes. Widows’ empowerment was organised in collaboration with International Women’s Society (IWS), Nigeria to empower a select number of widows across Nigeria. The implementation in Nigeria covered the six geopolitical zones with activities held in four states per zone, amounting to 24 states in all. Six subsidiaries of FirstBank also implemented the programme in their markets/countries – UK, Ghana, DRC, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Senegal. In all, 25 schools benefitted with 6,000 students participating in terms of the School Engagement; 50 charities and NGOs, including Leap Africa and IWS, were partnered. Over 20,000 orphans/less privilege people including widows were reached and impacted.

No CR&S Week could take place in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions on public gatherings and visits. But FirstBank did not just fold its hand and sit idly. The bank did something absolutely amazing, demonstrating uncommon solidarity with a vulnerable segment of society – children. Realising that the harsh effects of the COVID-19 crisis were borne disproportionally by children, whose education and thus future were being endangered due to the lockdown and prolonged closure of schools, FirstBank embarked on a mission to do something about it. Working with partners, such as IBM, UNESCO, Robert & John, Curious Learning and the Lagos State Government, it launched the bold and ambitious e-Learning Initiative designed to move one million children onto safe online learning platform. The Initiative was to minimise the disruption to children’s education, ensuring that they remained fully engaged during the difficult period and are not left behind by their peers across the (developed) world. There are already over 150,000 students benefitting from the e-Learning initiative in the height of the COVID-19 crises. In addition, the Bank deployed communication material to create more awareness of the SPARK Initiative and to sensitize staff, customers and the public during the unprecedented times.

What greater demonstration of kindness could there have been in 2020 given the circumstances the whole world found itself, especially vulnerable children? So there may not have been a CR&S Week in 2020 but the same kindness narrative that has characterised all activities of the various CR&S Week since 2017 clearly shone through FirstBank’s COVID-19 response, especially its e-Learning Initiative. In future, people would probably easily be forgiven if they assumed the e-Learning Initiative represented FirstBank’s CR&S Week in 2020. FirstBank has demonstrated uncommon consistency over the years to its Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Week and the ideals it seeks to project through the platform. This has earned the bank the right to make the bold call that is the theme of this year’s CR&S Week.

The question is whether we will heed the clarion call to adopt kindness as a way of life. Will we go out there and extend kindness to others in ways that will make them realise that kindness is not just a word taken from the dictionary but an act that should always be expressed to others? Will we embrace kindness as our new way of life? Will we commit to making our everyday a Kind Comments Day, thus giving others permission and the strength to do the same? Will we Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness towards all and make them feel obligated to start acting kindly towards other people as their new lifestyle?

Culled from Nigerian Tribune

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Personality in Focus

Eminent Personalities Present As Barr Ubani Gives Dad Befitting Burial in Abia

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All roads led to Abia state last weekend in celebration of the life and times of Pa Ubani Egbedubi Nwokocha, the late father of respected lawyer, Dr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani who had passed away aged 101 on 3rd January, 2022. It was a carnival-like event for the entire Ikwuano community which trooped out to welcome the hundreds of eminent personalities who visited the town from different parts of the country.

The Christian Wake, Funeral Service, Thanksgiving service and interment turned out to be a massive celebration for the Chairman of Nigeria Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Dr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani.

He was pleasantly amazed and elated by the huge number of personalities that despised the distance and road network to celebrate with him.

In his letter of condolence earlier, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR extolled the late father, Pa Ubani Egbedubi Nwokocha and prayed for the entire family.

The Senate Chief Whip and former governor of Abia State, Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu; Honourable Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Hon. Uche Samson Ogah; Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Engr. Chinedum Enyinnaya Orji; Ebonyi Guber aspirant, Dr. Ifeanyi Odii; Sen. Nkechi Nwogu; Dr. Chima Anyaso led other politicians to the funeral ceremony.

Also present at the ceremony were clergymen, traditional rulers, and community leaders. Being a member of the Bar himself, Dr. Ubani had Barr. Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, SAN, among other SANs and many other advocates including Barr. Charles Ajiboye in attendance. Members of the 4th estate and delegate members of the National Association of Online Security News Publishers, NAOSNP led by the National President and Publisher of Trek Africa Newspaper, Comrade Oki Samson also graced the event. Popular gospel artiste, Buchi and other Christian bands were also present to thrill the audience to worship songs in honor of the Giver of Life, Almighty God.

Being an only son, Dr. Monday Ubani could not hide his joy for God giving him life to succeed his father. He reveled with delight, jumped for joy, sang happily, danced freely, and beamed with smiles throughout the celebration. The teeming personalities present also joined him to make merry. It was indeed a life well lived.

Speaking with Members of the National Association of Online Security News Publishers, NAOSNP during the celebration, Honourable Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Hon. Dr. Uchechukwu Samson Ogah said that Barrister Monday Ubani is a brother to him and not just a friend. ‘We have come of age together. The death of his father is like the death of my own father, so we are here to give our father a befitting burial. Ubani is affected directly but we that are by the side are equally affected. Anybody consoling Ubani should also console us. We are all connected. I want to ask that as a Christian, Ubani should always believe that on the last day, he will meet again his father because a Christian does not die; a Christian sleeps waiting for the last day when the Lord will come. So we believe Pa Ubani has slept waiting on the arrival of the Lord.’

In the light of the degrading societal values, the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development advised parents, ‘People tend to leave their responsibility to government. The integral part of society is family but overtime family values have gone. People are no longer having the values that are expected. We knew the do’s and don’ts when we were growing but it seems over familiarity with Western societies has made us to lose values but we have values and those values must be trained right from the family, church before the general society. We need to look at what we can do to improve the society. We need to go back to the drawing board.

The elites in the society have a role to play, Paul in the Bible said all things are lawful but not all are expedient. There are things you don’t do because you know younger ones are looking at you. I believe everyone has a part to play. We need to talk to our younger ones about a better way to live in the society.’

The Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Engr Chinedum Enyinnaya Orji, during his condolence visit, described the deceased as a man who was reputed for his philanthropy, integrity, peaceful disposition and stellar achievements.

“Pa Egbedubi Nwokocha was an honorable man; his dedication and contribution to the service of humanity was remarkable, and his meekness, calm demeanor and benevolence have left an indelible mark in the sands of time. I urge you to take heart and be consoled by the fact that he lived a long and productive life”, the Speaker said.

He prayed God to give the family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss and grant the soul of the deceased eternal rest.

Felicitating with the family, Dr. Anthony Ewelike noted: ‘There is nothing that anyone can desire than to have a son that can give you a befitting burial like this at 101. The son ensured that, the father found Christ before he found death. I have known his son, Barr. Ubani himself for more than 40 years.

He is my personal lawyer. He is my friend. He is like a son to me. More importantly, he is a committed, thoroughbred, born again child of God. He is a deacon in the Assemblies of God Church, Ikeja where I worship. We are all here, Pastors and deacons.’

On her part, Sen. Nkechi Nwogu shared: ‘My advice to the family especially Dr. Ubani is for him to take heart. Death is an inevitable end. Papa got up to 101. I want to age healthily and gracefully like him. I want to advice that the thing that had always kept unity, they must not deviate from it and from what Papa has done. My advice to other parents is that we are custodians to our children. We didn’t bring them to earth. The Lord asked us to take care of these children. We will give account.’

Also in attendance, the clergyman in the church that Barr. Ubani attends in Lagos, Rev. Uche Godswill affirmed: ‘Barr. Ubani is a wonderful person. He is my member, friend, brother, and adviser. From all indications, Pa Nwokocha has lived a good life. God has blessed the family. He is the only son but he has given birth to many sons. We pray that God will give them the grace to keep the legacy of goodness and goodwill that the father left.’

A learned colleague, Barr. Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, SAN prayed for the soul of the departed, ‘May the blessed soul of Pa Ubani rest in peace. He lived an exemplary life, a life that sought after God and I think that is one of the most important aspects of the life that he lived that we should emulate.’

‘We are not here to mourn but to celebrate his life. We are also comforted by the Scripture that says pleasing is the death of the saint. We are commanded by the Scripture that we should not mourn like others. Together with Papa, we will live together in eternity. I condole with the family. There is enough comfort in the Scripture’, he told the family.

Royal fathers present at the ceremony also prayed for the family. HRH Eze Dr. Ndimene remarked: ‘The loss of one person will definitely affect a community, especially an elderly. The most important thing is peace. The family should make sure the peace is kept – the peace that their father left behind.’

HRH Eze Ben from the Ikwuano Council of Traditional Rulers commented: ‘Pa Ubani must have lived a good and decent life. I didn’t know him very well but for the display here, I can say he lived a good life. My advice to the son who is my legal adviser is to be strong and courageous. When Moses died, Joshua was afraid but God came to Joshua in Joshua 1:5,7,9 telling him to be strong and courageous. That is my message to him.’

HRH Eze C. E. Ironsi, Awom II of Umuokoro noted: ‘I don’t know him in person but we have come to condole with the son. We ask the Holy Spirit to take control.’ HRH Eze Engr. Obiziala said: ‘we have come to associate with the family from under the umbrella of Ikwuano traditional rulers. May they enjoy peace.’ Another Eze also at the reception added: ‘I have come here with my friends who know the family. May the Almighty be with his soul’.

Earlier, President of the National Association of Online Security News Publishers, NAOSNP, Comrade Oki Samson, who spoke on behalf of the members of the association during the burial reception, commended Dr. Monday Ubani for his selfless service and contribution to the Nation, philanthropic gestures to the less privileges and giving his father a befitting carnival like burial.

In his appreciation to all present at the funeral ceremony of his father, Dr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani indicated: ‘I must tell you that I am amazed by the large turnout of Nigerians from all walks of life, we have politicians, religious leaders, lawyers, traditional rulers, who have come to commiserate with the family. I am so grateful to God for the number of Nigerians, it was so big.’

‘To God be the glory. it is a lesson to me that whatever you are doing, people are watching. My desire is that I leave a lasting legacy. It is a privilege to do this. I am very grateful’, he concluded.

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Personality in Focus

CSP Adejobi Confirmed As Substantive Force PRO

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The Inspector-General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, has confirmed the appointment of CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi as the 25th indigenous Force Public Relations Officer.

A statement by the Admin Officer, Force Headquarters, SP Anjuguri Jesse Manzah, noted that CSP Adejobi was appointed in acting capacity on 16th February, 2022 after taking over from CP Frank Mba who was nominated by the Inspector-General of Police for the Senior Executive Course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos.

CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi studied Archeology and Geography (Combined Honours) from the Premier University in Nigeria, University of Ibadan. He holds a master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from the same University. He had a long stint as Police Public Relations Officer in Ogun State Police Command from 2008 -2016. He also served as PPRO Zone 2 Headquarters, Onikan, Lagos, in 2016 and PPRO, Lagos State Police Command between September, 2020 and August, 2021, when he was posted to deputize the former Force PRO, CP Frank Mba. CSP Adejobi has carved a niche for himself in Police Public Relations Management with the experience he has gained serving as PPRO in different Police Commands and Zone for more than a decade.

He has also served as Operations Officer, OC Anti Bank Robbery and Anti Pipeline Vandalization, Sagamu Division from 2006 to 2008; Admin Officer, Department of Operations, Police Headquarters, Ogun State in 2008; Operations Officer, Department of Operations, Lagos State Command Ikeja in 2017; Directing Staff, Police College Ikeja; and as Personal Assistant to The Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Department of Operations, Force Headquarters, Abuja.

He is a member of several professional bodies and associations, which include: Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR); International Public Relations Association (IPRA); Point Man Leadership Institute, USA; International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), USA; Society for Peace Studies and Practice (SPSP); Boys Brigade Nigeria; and the Institute of Corporate Administration, Nigeria.

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Personality in Focus

Executive Order 11: IFMA Boss Hails Buhari

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The President of the International Facility Management Association Nigeria Chapter, Mr. Segun Adebayo, has commended the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR on his assent to Executive Order 11 on National Public Buildings Maintenance Policy.

While expressing his delight on the assent, Mr. Adebayo noted that the Executive Order is long overdue and with this action, the professional management and maintenance of the Federal assets is assured and guaranteed.

According to the President, “as we earnestly looking forward to the implementation of the provisions of the new order, through the setting up of maintenance department in MDAs, our Association is committed to collaborating with Federal Government through relevant Ministry to provide required capacity building and knowledge development”

“As an association, we have been advocating the integration of sustainable practices into the built environment and this has started yielding the desired results”

We would also want to appreciate the Honorable Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN for this feat because his efforts in the ministry have yielded phenomenal results and it would positively impacts the various projects that this administration has embarked upon.”

The Executive Order states that the Federal Government of Nigeria is committed to establishing a sustained maintenance programme to optimize the enormous investment in public infrastructure. The Government is determined to provide sustainable employment, job opportunities for large, small, and medium-sized businesses, artisans, and persons with vocational skills. Equally, the public assets would be maintained at a minimal cost.

The Department of Federal Public Assets Maintenance will oversee the coordination, implementation, management, and maintenance of federal public assets, facilities, and premises across Nigeria. The agency will conduct maintenance needs assessment, development of maintenance plan, and the necessary procurement.

The agency will monitor the outsourced facility management services of all public buildings and likewise, establish a comprehensive database of all public buildings and facilities. Public buildings will also be modified to accommodate the special needs of persons living with disabilities while ensuring that all buildings would be able to operate at optimal capacity.

IFMA Nigeria is set to celebrate 25 years of impacting the built environment in Nigeria. The Association has always strategically aligned with other institutions in the areas of capacity building; research and development; mentorship and partnership. The current council has engaged both the private and public sector stakeholders to play up the relevance of the profession in the built environment in a complementary way.

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