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NASS Passes N8.916tn Budget, Proposes N23.7bn for Lawmakers’ Severance



The National Assembly on Tuesday passed the 2019 Appropriation Bill, raising the size by about N17bn from the N8.83tn proposed by the Executive to N8.916tn, with N23.7bn earmarked for lawmakers’ severance gratuities and allowances.

The key components of the budget, as passed by the parliament, include N502,058,892,965 for statutory transfers, against the N492.36bn proposed; N2,254,014,113,092 for debt service, against the proposed N2.14tn; N4,055,940,383,684 for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure, against the proposed N4.04tn.

Although a sinking fund of N120bn was proposed for the retirement of maturing bonds to local contractors, the lawmakers approved N110bn.

While the sum of N2.031tn (including capital supplementation but excluding the capital component of statutory transfers) was proposed, the lawmakers approved N2,094,950,709,632 “for contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure for the year ending on December 31, 2019.”

The Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Appropriations, in their reports considered concurrently by the chambers, had recommended a total budget estimate of N8,906,964,099,373.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives, however, resolved to add N10bn to the Service Wide Vote for the rehabilitation of Zamfara State over the destructions caused by bandits in the North-West state.

The lawmakers also raised the amounts voted to other items in the budget, raising the total proposed amount of N8,826,636,578,915 to N8,916,964,099,373, a difference of about N90.3bn.

A close observation of the estimates passed by the House showed that under Statutory Transfers, the National Assembly raised its budget from the proposed N125bn to N128bn. The legislature got N139.5bn appropriation in 2018.

Under Recurrent (Non-Debt) Expenditure, N1bn was voted for severance benefits to retired heads of government agencies and parastatals, and N2.3bn for the entitlements of former Presidents/Heads of State, Vice-Presidents and Chiefs of General Staff.

Also, about N23.7bn will be spent on “severance gratuity for outgoing legislators and legislative aides, allowances for incoming legislators and legislative aides, and induction programme/inauguration of the Ninth Assembly.”

The sum of N22,682,832,166 was appropriated for the payment of outstanding terminal benefits of Nigerian Airways’ ex-workers.

Operation Lafiya Dole and other special operations by the Armed Forces got N75bn.

Under the executive sub-column, the Presidency will get N430.8bn for recurrent and N18bn for capital expenditures.

Earlier during consideration of the bill at the House, a member from Kano State, Mr Damburam Nuhu, noted the large amount allocated to the Office of the National Security Adviser as against what came to sections of the National Assembly. He said it was important for Nigerians to note that one office got as much as N86bn.

The Punch

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FirstBank’s Ibukun Awosika Becomes President of IWEC Foundation’s Board of Directors



The International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge Foundation (IWEC) has announced the appointment of Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika as the new President of their Board of Directors. FirstBank is Nigeria’s Premier and Leading financial services provider.

Mrs. Awosika was elected to replace Miguel Valls, former President of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce and president of the IWEC Foundation, who passed away last month. “The Foundation is very excited to announce the appointment of our new president,” stated Ruth A. Davis, IWEC Chairwoman and distinguished former U.S. Ambassador. “Ibukun Awosika has been a solid, steady presence at IWEC since its inception, and she is also a past IWEC awardee.  Ibukun has not missed one IWEC Conference since 2008 and has lent her voice and experience not only to our conferences, but to our meetings after joining our Board in 2017.  We are delighted that our Board of Directors voted on her appointment, and we’ll introduce her as our president at our upcoming 12th Annual IWEC Foundation Conference in New Delhi, on November 10th.”

The Foundation’s 2019 Conference will focus on “Connecting Women Businesses Globally: Leading the Way to Innovation and Integration”. The event would be hosted locally by the FICCI Ladies Organization (FLO) of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), which represents over 5000 women entrepreneurs and professionals across India. This year, IWEC welcomes 39 awardees from 18 countries, with a combined revenue of over US$5.7 billion among all awardees to date.

IWEC Foundation Vice Chair, Carmen Castillo, CEO of SDI International, adds: “Ibukun has demonstrated a significant commitment to IWEC over the years.  Her breadth of knowledge extends from being an entrepreneur running ‎SOKOA Chair Centre Limited, to overseeing the board of directors for the renowned First Bank of Nigeria Limited.  We are looking forward to her wise counsel and to continuously drive IWEC globally as a source of support, connection and impact for women business owners all over the world.”

Ibukun Awosika heads Nigeria’s premier bank, and she is also the founder and CEO of the Chair Centre Group, an association of large companies in the manufacturing, retail, and financial security services.  Mrs. Awosika further holds seats in the corporate boards of Cadbury Nigeria, Digital Jewel Limited and the Convention on Business Integrity, and she is a former chair of several other enterprise boards.   

Ibukun is a graduate of Chemistry from University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Nigeria, an alumna of the Chief Executive Program of Lagos Business School, the Global Executive MBA of IESE Business School, Wharton’s Global CEO Program, and the IESE and China European International Business School (CEIBS). Ibukun is a multiple award-winning entrepreneur and the first Nigerian recipient of the prestigious International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC) Award as a nominee of the US Department of State in 2008.  Ibukun is also a best-selling author and motivational speaker.

Ibukun was just honoured last month with the International Friendship Award presented at the IESE Business School by the Queen of Spain.

About the IWEC Foundation

IWEC is a New York-based international economic empowerment organization exclusively for women business owners, formed in 2007 with the assistance of the U.S. Department of State.  In addition to the State Department, its founders include the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce (MCC), FICCI/FLO Chamber in New Delhi.  IWEC’s mission is to develop a global business network for successful women entrepreneurs, helping them gain and expand access to international markets by presenting a platform to exchange knowledge, experience and connections, and to promote dialogue among women entrepreneurs and business leaders throughout the world.

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FBNHoldings, FBNBank Ghana Visit Ghana President, Akufo-Addo in Accra



The Group Board Chairman, FBN Holdings Plc, Dr. Oba Otudeko CFR in company of Directors of FBN Holdings, FirstBank of Nigeria Limited and FBNBank Ghana Limited, have paid a courtesy call on the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa-Akufo-Addo in Accra.

The visit was to appreciate the President for participating in First Bank of Nigeria Limited’s 125th anniversary activities held earlier this year as well as update him of recent investment activities of the Group.

In his speech, Dr. Otudeko assured President Akufo-Addo of FBNHoldings’ belief in the Ghanaian economy and indicated that it was evidenced by the recapitalization of FBNBank Ghana by its parent bank, First Bank of Nigeria Limited. He pointed out that the Group’s investment of US$100 million was well above the new minimum capital requirement set by the Bank of Ghana into its Ghana operation.

Otudeko added that the bank’s confidence in the Ghanaian economy and the talent of Ghanaians had resulted in the appointment of Victor Yaw Asante as the first Ghanaian Managing Director of FBNBank Ghana Limited.

Dr. Otudeko lauded the President of Ghana for giving the youth opportunities to serve in his government, saying it will prepare them to take over the leadership of Ghana in the near future. He congratulated the President on the choice of Ghana as host of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, saying that it must have taken significant effort to bring this to Ghana.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo thanked Dr. Otudeko for his kind words and recounted the crucial bilateral and economic ties as well as historic bond, pre and post-independence, that exist between Ghana and Nigeria.

While stating that it is important for the economies of both Ghana and Nigeria to do well for ECOWAS to succeed, the President thanked FBN Holdings Plc for investing in Ghana and gave the assurance that government will provide the necessary support to FBNBank Ghana Limited and the entire business community.

The President also touched on the banking sector reforms and observed that Nigeria also had to embark on a similar exercise in the recent past. He said it was a painful but necessary exercise to strengthen the financial services industry and position it to support business and the economy.

President Akufo-Addo emphasized the importance of providing opportunities to the youth to enable them support the nation’s growth and development agenda and the need for all citizens of the two countries to find avenues to give back to their nations.

Members of the delegation pledged, on behalf of FBN Holdings Plc and FBNBank Ghana, their commitment to helping build a stronger Ghanaian economy, as well as forging stronger economic ties between citizens and businesses of Ghana and Nigeria.

The FBNHoldings Group Board Chairman, Dr. Oba Otudeko, CFR, was accompanied by Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, Chairman, Board of Directors, First Bank of Nigeria Limited; Mr. U. K. Eke, MFR, Group Managing Director, FBN Holdings Plc.; Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, Chief Executive Officer, First Bank of Nigeria Limited; Otunba (Mrs.) Debola Osibogun, Non-Executive Director, FBNHoldings; Dr. Hamza Wuro Bokki, Non-Executive Director, FBNHoldings, and Mr. Victor Yaw Asante, Managing Director, FBNBank Ghana Limited.

FBN Holdings Plc is the most diversified financial services group in Nigeria and includes FirstBank of Nigeria Ltd the mother company of FBNBank Ghana and other subsidiaries around the world.

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FirstBank as Synonym for Growth of SMEs in Nigeria



By Eric Elezuo

It is not by accident that banks need to be at the heart of the SME business, providing support, capital and innovative solutions to help small businesses prosper. It is also not accidental that most countries can boast of some quality banks that hold sway the prosperity of small and medium enterprises. In Nigeria, that bank is FirstBank Nigeria Plc, unarguably the best bank in the country going by its very many firsts, awards, honours and initiatives.

At inception 125 years old ago, FirstBank, having known that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the growth engines for much of the world’s economy as well as its sources of innovation, development and jobs, took it upon itself to pioneer the growth of the sector in Nigeria.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) by every standard play a major role in most economies, particularly in developing countries, and especially Nigeria. SMEs account for the majority of businesses worldwide and are important contributors to job creation and global economic development. They represent about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide.

According to the World Bank, 600 million jobs will be needed by 2030 to absorb the growing global workforce, which makes SME development a high priority for many governments around the world. This is the yardstick FirstBank has keyed into to circulate among all and sundry through the provision of funds and technical know-how to practitioners of SMEs.

Again, in emerging markets, most formal jobs are generated by SMEs, which create 7 out of 10 jobs. But because access to finance is a key constraint to SME growth, and of course the second most cited obstacle facing SMEs to grow their businesses in emerging markets and developing countries, FirstBank has stepped in to bridge the gap with clear cut modalities and activities tested and trusted to grow SMEs and lift not a few out of the poverty line.

It is worthy of note that the business of SMEs invariably refer to ‘individuals who are working alone, in growing firms or as part of platforms to create economic well-being’.

However, SMEs can basically be explained as businesses with 10 to 2,000 employees and an annual revenue of US$1m to US$500m. They make up a large, diverse group — both globally and across the industry.  However, many of these businesses face common challenges throughout their lifecycle such as access to working capital, talent and the expertise needed for growth.

It is in the light of the above that FirstBank has taken it upon itself to raise men and women who have what it take to develop businesses from the scratch, and nurtured to great heights in other to continue generating diverse revenue to sustain world economy and eradicate hunger in every form.

According to Ernst and Young 2019 Global Fintech Adoption Index, 25% of SMEs worldwide have used services in the past six months provided by FinTechs in all of these four categories: banking and payments, financial management, financing and insurance.

The bar FinTechs and big tech companies have raised notwithstanding, FirstBank has remained resolute in providing the needed assistance to SMEs and other developing businesses through the provision of funds and needed enablements for growth and sustainability.

It is on record therefore that FirstBank has in a space of just two years (2017 – date) released a total of N170.3 billion in terms of loans to SMEs, the product type notwithstanding while in the same vein a total of 70, 703 different and diverse kinds of SME businesses have been supported and given new leases of life within the last three to seven years. That is pure, transparent dedication to lifting Nigerians from poverty, and out of financial doldrum.

Over the years, FirstBank has delivered innovative solutions to SMEs for basic financial services, such as customer payments, foreign exchange hedging and cash flow management.

And in retaining their dominance, FirstBank has remained at the heart of the SME business, using technology to better understand the needs and context of the business.

As part of its efforts to further launch its specialized SME propositions to its customers, FirstBank cleverly designed a wide range of events and activities during its SMEs week, specifically targeted to and for the growth of SMEs operators. This includes the SME Masterclass with a mind boggling theme “Designing and Implementing a Growth Strategy for your Business”. There was also a specialized one on one sessions with renowned business coaches, culminating in the launch of seven unique pillars which make up the brand’s SME propositions. These and many more are available via SMEConnect – The FirstBank SME portal.

The SME portal is a platform through which SMEs can access FirstBank’s unique propositions specially tailored with the essential tools needed for the growth of their business. The SME portal, according to FirstBank, is also designed to help SMEs identify various gaps that hinder their business growth leveraging the brand’s innovative Business Diagnostics Tool, with a view to proffering tailored solutions and creating opportunities for business improvement, profitability and sustainability.

In addition, FirstBank through extensive research in the past years, has identified these seven strategic pillars to be essential for the sustainability and growth of the SMEs. These seven pillars are access to infrastructure, access to talent, capacity building, policy and regulation, access to resources, access to market as well as access to finance. The pillars, rightly named, have duly informed the bank’s strategy and propositions for SMEs.

To this end, FirstBank’s weeklong activity dedicated to operators of SMEs and held across six locations in Lagos, Abuja, Rivers, Oyo, Kano and Owerri in the month of August was practically centred on one on one coaching advisory sessions. The business owners came out of the sessions better equipped and prepared for the task ahead.

Buttressing FirstBank’s unalloyed leadership status in SME projection in Nigeria, the bank’s Deputy Managing Director, Gbenga Shobo, hinted thus:

“FirstBank has over the years, been at the forefront of supporting Businesses, especially the SMEs as we recognise that the SMEs are the engine of the economy. We are committed to ensuring that we leave no stone unturned as we connect with them in their continued contribution to national development in terms of the employment opportunities they create as well as their contribution to the nation’s GDP amongst many economic values.”

The event promoted the Bank’s SME proposition, and helped SMEs bolster their contribution to the growth and development of the economy.

Consequently, every SME operator can visit to take the FirstBank SME Diagnostics test and get guidance for business improvement opportunities.

It must not be forgotten that in October, at the prestigious Oriental Hotel, Lagos, FirstBank celebrated some SME operators, better known as Firstmonie Agents, when it held the Agent Banking National award in an event themed Planting Community Heroes Nationwide. The Agent Banking Scheme was initiated in 2017, and ever since, has recorded giant strides at promoting financial inclusion across the nook and cranny of the country. There are about 40, 000 agents raised by FirstBank in the 774 local government areas of the nation. Through this medium, FirstBank is leading the effort at supporting the Federal government objectives to deepen access to financial services.

Summing it up, FirstBank’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Asesola Adeduntan noted “the unwavering efforts and remarkable contributions by our Firstmonie Agents at promoting financial inclusion in Nigeria, and indeed very much appreciated. Within the past two years, we have been able to create not only 40, 000 access points, but over 150, 000 indirect jobs. We remain committed to doing more, strengthening business activities, driving economic growth and development thereby reducing poverty.”

The CEO is of the opinion that FirstBank will never rest on its laurels as every individual’s contribution to national growth and development is important to the bank, and so will spiritedly continue to support the growth of SMEs.

Over the years, FirstBank has develop customer loyalty through development of a clear value proposition and strategy to partner with their SME customers, and offer them a broad range of solutions to run, control and grow their businesses. The following are some of the ways

  • Helping SMEs connect with an ecosystem of suppliers, distributors and other SMEs
  • Using their expertise across industries, channels and regions, to offer growth opportunities and insights
  • Supporting business productivity by offering solutions, such as cash flow management, HR, talent and tax; and keeping their businesses safe through education on regulatory compliance.

With all these, FirstBank has got the basics right, and it is therefore not surprising that the bank has become a synonym for growth of SMEs in Nigeria.

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