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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

Military’s Face of the Nation, You Must Not Devalue It – GOC 81 Division, Gen Ajunwa

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The General Officer Commanding 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, comprising Lagos and Ogun States, Major General Obinna Ajunwa, has warned against devaluing the military, saying that such action has a chain reaction, as it reverberates on the collective existence of the people, and affects what the country holds dear in terms of internal unity, national cohesion and international recognition.

Ajunwa made this remark while playing host to a cross section of the Executive members of the National Association of Online Security News Publishers (NAOSNP) in his office on Monday. The General noted that the army, and by extension the military, is the face of the nation, and by no means or circumstance should be rubbished, because an attack on the military through false reports is an attack on the very essence of the people and the nation itself.

“The Military is the face of the nation. If we rubbish it we are rublishing our face. The Army belongs to us as Nigerians. In the Nigeria society, and even elsewhere, the strength of the people is the military. And when the top is dropped, it will definitely affect the other component parts.

He maintained that the military will continue to strive to to keep the peace and security of the nation, while calling on the citizenry, especially the press to assist in the patriotic act through verified publications, and most importantly publications that has national security and interest as consideration

“False reports devalues the military, Nigeria and the people. Once you devalue the military, every other persons in the nation is devalued. Always endeavour to report correctly and avoid false information as it could destroy the nation and paint it in bad light, thereby giving a signal of negativity.

“We must understand that when a country’s military is tainted with negativity, it spiraled on other aspects of that country’s endeavours. That is why the military is the face of the nation, and must not be devalued,” Ajunwa said.

Earlier, the leader of the NAOSNP delegation and President of the Association, Mr. Samson Oki, has briefed the GOC and his team of officers on the need for the division to synergise with the Association to curb the initiation and spread of fake news, which is detrimental to the psyche and peaceful co-existence of Nigerians.

“It is our intention to cooperate with the military, and the army in particular to further engender military/media relationship to continue to fight the war against fake news, which is capable of causing mayhem, for the good of the people.

“Our Association is known for discipline, professionalism and dedication to the Nigerian project, and in the best position to understand that national interest supersedes parochial or personal interest, and that is what we have sworn to uphold,” Oki said.

In his vote of thanks, the Public Relations Officer of NAOSNP, Mr. Eric Elezuo, appreciated the Nigeria Army for the job well done, which have remained their hallmark in recent times, and the GOC 81 Division, Ajunwa, who has been exemplary since he assumed office in August 2022.

“While partnering with you in this task of nation building and defence, we must acknowledge your success stories in the field and with the civil populace. The army has distinguished itself, and remained above board. We also acknowledge the giant strides Major General Ajunwa has taken since he assumed duties about three months ago. We are not oblivious of these milestones, and ask that they be sustained,” Elezuo said.

In attendance at the meeting were ranking military officers including the Commander 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Brigadier General Kingsley Nwoko; Commander 81 Div Provost Group, Brigadier General ML Abubakar; Commander 55 Signal Brigade, Brigadier General EO Oshunsan; Chief of Staff HQ 81 Division, Brigadier General MB Wabili and Deputy Chief of Staff Operations, Colonel JK Maigari.

Other members of the NAOSNP team in attendance were Miss Ebere Obinagwam, Mr. Kazeem Bakene, Mr. Friday Etim and Mr. Femi Arikawe.

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Personality in Focus

‘We Hold You in High Esteem’ – NAOSNP Celebrates Lagos Speaker, Obasa at 50

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The National Association of Online Security News Publishers (NAOSNP) has congratulated the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon Mudashiru Obasa as he celebrates the golden age of 50.

According to a statement signed by the Association’s Public Relations Officer Mr Eric Elezuo, the association holds the ebullient lawmaker in high esteem, and prays the Almighty continues to shine the light of greatness in his path as he effortlessly leads the legislative arm of Lagos State government to enviable heights.

“It is with deep sense of camaraderie and appreciation for your stupendous achievements that we, the members of the National Association of Online Security News Publishers (NAOSNP) celebrate you on your landmark age of 50.

“We pray that the God will continue to lead you in the paths of righteousness as you continue to work assiduously to better the lives of Lagosians and humanity in general,” the statement revealed.

Mr Elezuo further described the speaker as an intellectually oriented administrator, whose warm and cordial relationship with governors during his tenure, has helped in telling the success story of Lagos State till date.

“As one of the longest serving Speakers in the country, we have noted with admiration how you have synergized with different governors of the state to build and continue to make Lagos a progressive place for all and sundry irrespective of religion, ethnicity or party,” Elezuo noted.

The statement also quoted the president of the association, Mr. Samson Oki, as adding that the group, an integrity based security publishers, will continue to give the distinguished speaker every assistance in the positive discharge of his duties for the state and humanity.

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Personality in Focus

Philanthropist Donates N10m Luxury Bus to Disability Foundation Home

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By Eric Elezuo

Renowned social entrepreneur and philanthropist par excellence, Hon Hareter Babatunde Oralusi, popularly known as HBO, has donated a luxury bus worth over N10 million to the Home for Children with Disabilities, a project of the Focus on Disability Foundation, founded by United Kingdom based Mr. Abiodun Paseda.

Hon Oralusi, a native of Osun State, who is also based in the United Kingdom, is the Chairman, Board of Directors, LifeCome Group Limited and Foremedia Group Limited, United Kingdom, is according to Paseda, a man of integrity, whose stock in trade is giving back to the society and extending his God-given blessings to all and sundry, especially the under privileged.

Expressing his appreciation while speaking to pointblank.ng, Paseda said “This is to show our appreciation over and over again to our loving and supportive daddy, Hon Oralusi. We thank and appreciate you for the donation of this bus for the children’s use. It will be used in taking the children to school and bring them back everyday. Once again, we say thank you and God bless you.”

The Focus on Disability Foundation, founded in 2010, is a non for profit organization, saddled with the responsibility of creating and providing new life and hope for people living with disabilities. In 2021, t has scored another high in its unmatched efforts at looking after the disabled, with a magnificent edifice to accommodate  diverse people living with disabilities.

The multi-roomed bungalow with modern and recreational facilities, which is situated in Odogbolu Local Government of Ogun State, was commissioned in the presence of dignitaries from across the length and breadth of the state, who took turns to inspect the facility, and applaud the visioner, and Founder, Focus on Disability Foundation, Mr. Abiodun Enilari Paseda.

Paseda is known for his passion to uplift the standard of living of people living with disabilities across the globe, especially in Nigeria, Ghana and England where his impact has been greatly felt so far. He has supervised the provision of sundry humanitarian assistance to people living with disabilities across Nigeria and the African continent with special mention to England, his place of residence.

“Disable people are the most neglected in the world, especially in Africa. There were no disability laws to protect them as in the UK and other European countries. This aroused my passion to help them and other less privileged,” he says.

Hon Oralusi joined the long list of prominent Nigerians, who have identified with the good work of Paseda, in ensuring the people living with disabilities have a good life.

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