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FirstBank’s FINTECH 5.0 Summit: Unleashing Possibilities for Operators, Customers

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By Eric Elezuo

The FirstBank FINTECH Summit 5.0 held with total fulfilment of the promises made and expectations of the financial public, who waited with bated breath to experience the feeling and satisfaction only the financial giant can offer.

The event, which was in its fifth year/edition, and held via virtual, was as usual opened to the general public, who were privileged to register via https://firstbanknigeria.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_NmkYfeckQqu4vjTWy5lr5w

Literally a financial technology hub, and themed “Open Banking and its Derivative Opportunities for the Financial Ecosystem”, the well attended summit was addressed by notable professionals, experts, policy influencers, regulatory officials as well as key and leading players from across the globe, with special emphasis to the Nigerian financial, banking and technology climate.

Among the discussants, who presented veritable papers were Prof Ndubuisi Ekekwe, the Lead Faculty of Tekedia Institute with a PhD in Engineering from John Hopkins University, USA, who led the discussion as the Keynote speaker and Ankit Sharma of Strategy&.

Other members of the panel were the Director at Strategy&, a part of the PwC network, based out of Mexico, Ankit Sharma; CEO (Chief Plumber) at One Pipe, Ope Adeoye; Aminu Maida, Executive Director, Technology & Operations at Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS); Deputy Director, Payment Systems, Central Bank of Nigeria, Musa Jimoh; and Head, Corporate Transformation, FirstBank, Olayinka Situ, who completed the list of highly influential discussants.

Anchored by Rotus Odire, the free flowing interactive forum dealt on the importance of open banking system in Nigeria, noting that it goes beyond ‘convenience to its game-changing impact in transforming value creation, product conceptualization and closing the financially excluded gap’.

Leveraging on the CBN’s declaration that FINTECH has raked in over $500, 000, 000 to the Nigerin economy this year alone, FirstBank therefore, has positioned itself as the leading financial institution in the country, and with intimating presence in about six African countries, to initiate a conversation to continually increase earnings for the economy and provide veritable entrepreneurial opportunities for the Nigerian public. It is worthy that testimonies abound of how much FirstBank FINTECH initiative has changed lives.

Kick starting the summit, the ever performing Chief Executive Officer of First Bank of Nigeria Ltd & Subsidiaries and the event’s Chief Host, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, CEO,  delivered a stunning opening speech, which captured the vision and mission of the five years old financial conversation.

Acknowledging the pioneering efforts of FirstBank as Africa’s financial inclusion and innovation pacesetter, Dr Adeduntan noted that while the event was primarily to create a global platform for conversations around the future of innovation in the financial technology space of which objective is to contribute to the evolution of banking and finance service delivery, “this years edition themed “Open Banking and its Derivative Opportunities in the Financial Ecosystem promises to be exciting and engaging with a line-up of local and international thought leaders ready to spur the conversation around the prospects for open banking. The theme recognizes the increasing pervasive role open data, cloud technology and artificial intelligence play in the financial ecosystem.” And surely, with incisive and juicy presentations from the team on ground, the event lived up to its billing.

Open banking today demonstrates the practical fusion of these variables, presenting remarkable potentials that can redefine product development, customer experience and overall value creation; with multiplier effects for both players and consumers.

It is worthy of note that FirstBank has generously taken advantage of the the Regulatory Framework for Open Banking in Nigeria as issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria on the rules and premises under which financial data sharing can take place across the financial ecosystem and the National Information Technology Development Agency’s (NITDA) Nigerian Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) 2019. These, according to Adeduntan, are demonstrations of the future of regulations around Open Banking.

In its 127 years of existence, FirstBank has traversed series of regulatory transformation over the years, and is constantly keeping to promise of continuing to play its role in furthering conversations to refine regulatory frameworks and shape thoughts on industry and societal developments as was witnessed at the 5.0 summit.

He concluded: “We will also continue to demonstrate our support for start-ups and innovators in the fintech space by providing them the relevant data support and infrastructure to enable them scale appropriately.

“Every step we take continues to be geared towards strategically positioning us as the bridgehead and reference point for fintech and financial services providers across the African continent, as we will continue to lead the charge towards realizing the future of banking.”

Leading the lecture, a man described as the doctor of innovations, who doubled as one of the 60 great Nigerians listed as making Nigerians lives matter during the nation’s 60th anniversary, Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe, took the audience on a classic tour of Mechanics of Market System, majoring on a sub-theme, Open Banking: The Grand Unification Application and Utility Age. In his dissection, Professor took the audience down memory lane, resuscitating Pythagoras theory of the world as consisting of numbers, invariably stating that human existence is a product of numbers. He proffered incredible and practical ideas to banking and application utility.

“If you understand the numbers of your customers, you will be a better bank… If you understand the numbers around anything you do on earth, you have a possibility of doing that thing better,” he said.

He itemised perceptions, expectations and needs as the major ways of setting the basis for competition, describing open banking as actually open financial services. He mentioned that across the length and breadth of the nation, the quest for open banking is actually the quest for prosperity.

Following in quick succession was the Director at Strategy&, Ankit Sharma, who spoke on Global Perceptions of Open Banking.

“In the world of open banking, there is a collaboration model that allows you to share data and services through APIs, and this collaboration is not only between financial services fund, but even with non-financial services fun,” Sharma enlightened.

He further itemised personal finance manager, credit scoring and payments as avenues to explore in the world of open banking.

A governing council member of the FINTECH Association of Nigeria and Director of Information System, Dr. Olayinka David West was next on line, as the anchor for the well endowed panel discussion. After a brief expose on the activities of open banking as it relates to fintech, she went ahead to introduce members of the panel including a representative of Central Bank of Nigeria, Director of Payment Systems Management Department, Mr. Musa Atope Jimoh, represented by Olubukola Akinwunmi, Aminu Maida, Ope Adeoye and Olayinka Situ.

All the panelists agreed that FINTECH has come to stay, and bring about the great transformation that everybody is talking about in terms of providing the derivatives of open banking and giving the operators and customers a great leverage in the world of finance.

FirstBank’s FINTECH Summit has remained a regular dish in the menu of financial inclusion in the last five years, and has assisted both operators and customers to operator seamless banking operation in the open – anywhere other than the banking hall.

The bank has through standardized and accessible open API technologies, availed innovators and product developers a wealth of big data and attendant insights. This is in addition to the potential to completely redefine standards for product conceptualization, customer satisfaction and service delivery across Africa’s largest economy.

As Dr Adesola Adeduntan says: “our annual FinTech Summit in the past four years has been a platform of leading conversations and practices that have impacted the financial technology and electronic banking eco-system which has been integral to bridging the gap and digital divide of modern banking in today’s global village. Participants at our summits have been enlightened on ways to optimally carry out their digital transactions and business activities in safe and seamless ways.”

The 2021 5.0 edition was no different.

The next edition of FINTECH Summit to be known as 6.0 is due for 2022.

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Tambuwal Imposes Curfew As Protest, Violence Rock Sokoto

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Violence erupted in some parts of Sokoto metropolis on Saturday when some Muslim youths trooped to the streets to demand the release of the two suspects arrested in connection with the killing and setting ablaze of a 200-level female student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Deborah Samuel, over alleged blasphemy.

Following the violence, the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, imposed a 24-hour curfew on the metropolis to restore order in the city.

Deborah was on Thursday stoned to death and burnt by her colleagues for making a WhatsApp post on a group platform that allegedly blasphemed Prophet Muhammed (SAW). In the post, the deceased reportedly advised against posting religious materials on a WhatsApp group meant for assignments.

Saturday’s protest, however, led to the vandalism of properties and looting of shops in some parts of the metropolis, with many residents running helter-skelter for safety. The protesters also made an attempt to attack the palace of the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, who is the spiritual leader of Muslims in Nigeria and had condemned Deborah’s killing, which many described as barbaric.

The protesting youths, shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great), while bearing placards with different inscriptions, started their demonstration peacefully at the Zabira Mall roundabout and marched through Gao-Nama on Maiduguri Road within the metropolis.

However, despite a combined team of security operatives, including soldiers from the 8 Division, police and personnel of the Department of State Services and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, monitoring the protests to avert its takeover by hoodlums, there were reports of attacks on some public buildings, including an ECWA Church at Aliyu Jodi and a section of the Catholic Clinic, opposite Vision FM.

At the St Backita Catholic Secretariat in the Aliyu Jodi area of Sokoto, which houses the office of the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, the protesting youths burnt the security post and a vehicle on the premises. Kukah later announced in a statement that he was safe and unhurt and that his house was not burnt as rumoured.

He also announced the suspension of Masses across the diocese until the curfew imposed by the state government is lifted.

The statement signed by the Director, Directorate of Social Communications, Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Rev Fr Christopher Omotosho, noted, “ During the protest, groups of youths led by some adults in the background attacked the Holy Family Catholic Cathedral at Bello Way, destroying church glass windows, those of the Bishop Lawton Secretariat and vandalized a community bus parked within the premises. St Kevin’s Catholic Church, Gidan Dere, Eastern Bypass was also attacked and partly burnt.”

Eyewitnesses told Sunday PUNCH that the irate youths stormed the church wielding machetes, stones and sticks. They started throwing stones into the church compound before overpowering the security men at the gate and gaining entrance into the premises. The extent of the damage was unclear as of press time.

One of the eyewitnesses said, “The protesters came en masse. I was across the building opposite the Zenith Bank in Minanata when they began to throw stones into the church. Some of them were attacking traders around the area and burning their wares. They were outraged.

“One of the youth said in Hausa and a very harsh tone that the church wrote an article on its website about Deborah’s murder and called the killers ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’. I called the police as I tried to escape and they told me to leave the place immediately to avoid unforeseen circumstances, so I had to run away.”

The article referenced by one of the protesters was perhaps the statement issued by the Kukah to condemn the killing and ask Christians to pray for the repose of her soul.

Confirming the attack on the secretariat, a senior official of the church, Mr Matthew Otalike, said the protesters gained entry into the building and burnt down a vehicle. He added that they also invaded Kukah’s residence in the building but that the swift arrival of security agents prevented them from torching the residence.

Meanwhile, the youth also made attempts to attack the palace of the Sultan, but were repelled by security agents, led by the state Commissioner of Police, Kamalden Okunlola. When one of our correspondents visited the palace, broken bottles, glasses and sticks littered the floor. Some of the protesters also used the opportunity to attack traders in the market, looting and setting ablaze some of their wares.

A trader, who gave her name simply as Onyedikachi, said, “They attacked my sister’s shop where she sold foodstuff at the Sokoto Main Market. When I read that some people planned to protest on Saturday, I went there to warn her to close the shop. She was packing her goods when they came in from the back and we all ran away. We were told that they later set some shops ablaze and chased other traders away. In the process, some hoodlums looted shops unrestrained.”

Onyedikachi said she and her sister had fled the state before the curfew was imposed and were on their way to Jos, Plateau State, to join a bus to their state in the South-East.

Another eyewitness said, “Sokoto metropolis is boiling as I speak to you. The police are not doing enough. Even the curfew imposed by the governor didn’t change anything. I advise Christians in Sokoto to run away for their lives in case the violence escalates.”

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Deborah: Prophet Muhammad Never killed Anyone Because of Insult – Gumi

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Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, has faulted those of the school of thought that killing is the punishment for blasphemy, saying Prophet Muhammad never killed for blasphemy during his time despite insults from his critics.

Gumi stated this during his religious teaching class in his Kaduna Juma’at mosque, according to PRNigeria.

He said if the Prophet refrained from killing or attacking his traducers and those who blasphemed him while alive, those killing for the same offence have no justification for their actions.

The Kaduna based scholar made the clarification in a video clip obtained and translated by PRNigeria while reacting to the killing of a female Christian student at Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto State over blasphemous statement.

“If we think by killing Deborah, people who are not of the same faith with us will stop insulting our prophet, then we are in delusion,” PRNigeria quoted him as saying.

The cleric added that rather than kill for blasphemy, Muslims in the country must strive to showcase the beauty of their religion by coexisting with non-Muslims and show how beautiful the Prophet lived by adhering to his teachings on how to live peacefully with others.

While condemning resort to extra-judicial killings, Gumi reiterated that Nigeria is a secular state and religious law cannot be used in countries like Nigeria.

“Hence, anyone who kills a non-Muslim who they have agreed to live peacefully with, will not smell the fragrance of Paradise for 40 years,” he was also quoted as saying by PRNigeria.

Furthermore, the cleric called on other Islamic religious leaders to ensure reorientation of their students and followers, saying they must refrain from instigating their followers to carry out heinous act.

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Labour Minister Ngige Chickens Out of Presidential Contest

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The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige has withdrawn from the race to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.

He announced his withdrawal from the contest in a statement on Friday in Abuja.

Ngige’s announcement followed a valedictory session held at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa in the nation’s capital, in honour of ministers seeking elective offices in the 2023 general elections.

He had declared his intention to run for President in the forthcoming polls while addressing a crowd of supporters on April 19 at his hometown in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State.

Three weeks later, President Muhammadu Buhari directed all appointed members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) running for elective offices to resign on or before May 16 – a directive which affected Ngige.

While the President went further to organise a valedictory session for the affected persons to appreciate them for their service, the labour minister decided to keep his ministerial job than continue with his presidential bid.

Stressing that he had yet to fill and submit the N100 million worth expression of interest and nomination forms of the All Progressives Congress (APC) bought for him, he explained that dropping his presidential ambition was in the interest of the nation.

Other reasons, according to Ngige, include family-related and to enable him to concentrate on his ministerial job and assist the present administration, especially in what he describes as the difficult last lap

He stated that he has since communicated his decision to President Buhari and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.

Read the full statement by the labour minister below:

WITHDRAWAL OF MY PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRATION

On Tuesday, 19th April 2022, I publicly declared my interest to contest for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, following the constitutional provision that precludes our amiable incumbent President, Muhammad Buhari from seeking re-election to the office, as he would have completed his two terms in office by 29th May 2023.

The declaration was made in my hometown, Alor, Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State.

My declaration was sequel to pressure on me from my constituents, political associates, friends, and other well-meaning Nigerians, who felt I possess the necessary qualifications and experience for the job.

Some of these supporters even taxed themselves to procure the Expression of Interest/ Nomination Forms of our Party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) for me. The forms, however, are yet to be filled and submitted.

Today, 13th May 2022, I had an audience with President Muhammadu Buhari as a follow up to the one I earlier had with him on May 11th, 2022.

Having also consulted widely with my family, constituents, supporters, and well-wishers, it is my pleasure to announce the withdrawal of my interest and earlier decision to contest the office of the President in the 2023 general elections.

As a result of this, I will NOT be participating in any of the internal party processes of the said election, starting with the primary.

I took this momentous decision firstly in the overall interest of the nation, in order to enable me to concentrate on my job, and assist the President and the Government, to weather the difficult last lap, in the life of the administration and secondly for other family reasons.

I have since communicated this decision to the President and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

My constituents, political associates and well-wishers across the country are by this statement informed of this latest decision, which also has the blessing and support of the overwhelming majority, hence supersedes any other interest, personal or otherwise.

Thanks and God’s blessings.

Senator (Dr.) Chris/ Nwabueze Ngige, MD, OON

Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment

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