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Refund N14.3bn, Senate Orders Minister, NEPZA MD

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The Senate has directed the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelemah; and the acting Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, Terhemba Nongo, to return N14.3bn to the purse of the Federal Government.

It claimed that the money was diverted from the 2017 budget of NEPZA.

The directive was contained in a letter written by the Chairman of Senate Committee on Trade and Investment, Mohammed Sabo.

Sabo, a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress representing Jigawa South-West, in the letter warned the minister and the NEPZA boss to either refund the money immediately or be prepared to face dire consequences.

The senator, while addressing journalists on Monday in Abuja, alleged that the money was transferred from  NEPZA’s account into the account of a private company, the Nigerian Special Economic Zone Company.

He said the money was hurriedly transferred between April 8 and 10, despite an earlier warning not to do so.

Sabo claimed that the money was first lodged in  NEPZA’s account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria  from 2017 budget allocations.

He said the money was thereafter moved into the private firm’s account.

The senator said, “To prevent this fraud, my committee wrote a letter to the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, on April 8, asking him not to release the money.

“But we have confirmed that the money has been released and transfered by NEPZA, in collaboration with the minister, into a private company’s account.

“This is unacceptable to us. Hence, we have directed that money be returned.”

Copies of the Senate committee’s letter, addressed to the minister, were made available to journalists.

The letter dated April 25 was tilted “Re: Transfer of N14.3bn from NEPZA Account to Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company.”

It read, “Pursuant to Section 80(2)(3) and (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and Financial Regulation, sections 313 and 314 and Senate Standing Order 98, 14(a-s) of 2015 as amended, we hereby write to you on the above matter.

“That you should return the N14.3bn that was transferred from NEPZA’s account to the Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company’s account.

“That the transferred money must be returned to the treasury within one week from the date of receipt of this letter.

“The available information shows that the said money is in the account of the Nigerian Special Economic Zone Company unappropriated for.

“That failure to comply with this directive will be visited with appropriate legislative action against your ministry as well as the company.”

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FirstBank Hosts FinTech Summit 4.0, Promotes Growth, Reinvention of Banking Technology in Nigeria 

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s leading financial inclusion services provider, has announced that the 2020 edition of its annual FinTech Summit is scheduled to hold on Thursday, 6 August 2020 by 12.00 noon. The event will be virtually held via Zoom Meetings.

The 2020 edition of the summit, which is the fourth in its series is themed; “How Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence will Disrupt FinTech in Nigeria” and will be discussed by experts, key and leading players, policy influencers and regulatory officials in the Nigerian financial, banking and technological climate. To participate in the event, click the link https://www.firstbanknigeria.com/business-banking/smeconnect/fintech-summit/registration/ to register.

Chinedu Echeruo, founder of HopStop which was sold to Apple for $1bn will be leading the discussion as the Keynote speaker alongside other panelists; Musa Itopa Jimoh, Director, Payments System Management Department and Aminu Maida, Executive Director, Technology & Operations, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS).

Representing FirstBank in the panel of discussants are Callistus Obetta, Group Executive, Technology & Services and Chuma Ezirim, Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products

Speaking on the event, Mr. Gbenga Shobo, Deputy Managing Director, First Bank of Nigeria Limited said; “at FirstBank, we have been at the forefront of employing technology in the delivery of financial services in the country exemplified by our various products and services such as FirstMobile, USSD Banking services, FirstMonie Wallet, FirstMonie Agent Banking, FirstAdvance loans provisions

The 2020 edition of our FINTECH summit will build on the successes achieved in the last three editions. We welcome the panelists as we look forward to the shared knowledge which will be integral to deepening the continued growth of banking technology, especially its impact on the Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria and the continent at large.

Technology continues to play a fundamental role in driving financial inclusion and strengthening the growth of SMEs that contribute significantly to the development of the country.

We encourage members of the public, players in the fintech and financial climate to register, as there is knowledge for everyone,” he concluded.

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FirstBank Offers Support To SMEs in Education Sector Through the Pandemic

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By Chinyere Nwokeoma, NAN

First Bank of Nigeria Limited has offered to give financial support to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Education Sector to cushion the effects of the COVID -19 pandemic. Mr. Bankole Adediran, Head, Transaction Banking Products, FirstBank, made this known at the Bank’s SMEConnect webinar with theme: “Managing Your School through the Pandemic: Engagement and Retention Strategies”.

Adediran said that the Bank was ready to partner with SMEs in the education sector through the period of the novel coronavirus pandemic to sustain their businesses.

“FirstBank, as an institution, is very passionate about education, and will continue to support the sector,” he said.

He said that the Bank would continue to reinforce its leading role at enabling the growth of the educational sector in the country.

Adediran said that the Bank had an array of financial products that could be accessed by SMEs in the educational sector in the period of COVID -19.

He said SMEs in the sector could key into FirstEdu Loan targeted at private nursery, primary and secondary schools to assist the schools in achieving their desired growth in medium and long terms.

According to him, the product provides funding advancement of up to N20 million for schools with a minimum of 100 students with school fees collection domiciled at FirstBank.

Adediran said that, with the product, school owners/proprietors could stay ahead to make learning easy and conducive for students.

He said the Bank had launched various interventions and initiatives to support the sector to navigate through challenges occasioned by COVID -19.

He noted that FirstBank recently launched an e-learning initiative aimed at reaching out to one million students across the country to ensure they would be academically engaged while at home.

Adediran also said that the Bank supported 10 universities and three secondary schools across the country with major infrastructure projects.

He added that the Bank donated 20,000 e-learning devices to the Lagos State Government to promote online learning for students in the public schools.

Adediran urged schools must learn from the COVID -19 pandemic by embracing automation to plug leakages in the sector.

Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, Commissioner for Education, Lagos State, who was a panelist at the webinar, commended the Bank for donating 20,000 devices with six months data, to the state for e-learning.

Adefisayo said the state reached out to many companies for support at the wake of the pandemic and that FirstBank came to its aid.

She disclosed that all the schools were not prepared for the situation, noting that most children in public schools did not have device and data for online learning.

“This pandemic has been a terrible thing, and one lesson from it is that we have not invested enough in solutions we can deplore at a time like this,” Adefisayo said.

She said that the pandemic had forced Nigerians to be more creative and innovative, adding that schooling would no longer be the same again.

Adefisayo called on teachers to change their teaching and learning strategies, saying that COVID -19 had changed learning.

Also, Dr. Yomi Otubela, President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), said the association had responded greatly by interfacing between government and its agencies since the beginning of the pandemic.

Otubela said the Central Bank of Nigeria was working out modalities for palliatives for schools and teachers who had not been receiving salaries since the pandemic started.

He noted that there had been an increase in rape, kidnapping and robbery as a result of COVID -19.

Mr. Wale Abioye, Team Lead, Customer Practice in Management Consulting (KPMG), said the pandemic had impacted negatively on many sectors of the economy, especially education.

Abioye highlighted some of the negative impacts of the pandemic to include financial/economic, structural, social and policy challenges.

He said many SMEs in the educational sector could be out of business due to the pandemic, thereby increasing unemployment rate.

Mr. Babatunde Vaughan, Education Lead, Modern Classroom, Microsoft Nigeria, said the company had introduced a lot of products to make online learning easy and interesting.

“COVID -19 is a very unique period for everyone, change has come and we will continue to experience change.

“We must be more proactive than reactive,” Vaughan urged.

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FirstBank Convenes SMECONNECT Webinar, Promotes Growth of Education Sector

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial inclusion services provider, has announced the convening of a Business Clinic to promote the growth and sustainability of the educational sector, especially in the light of the coronavirus which is having an adverse effect on the operations of schools across the world. The event is scheduled to hold via Zoom platform by 11:00am on Thursday, 23 July 2020.

“Managing Your School through the Pandemic: Engagement and Retention Strategies,” is the topic of the event and will be discussed by experts, leading players, policy influencers and proprietors in business and education management that have carved a niche for themselves at promoting the growth of education and business, towards impacting the national economy. To participate in the event, follow the link https://smeconnect.firstbanknigeria.com/webinar  to register.

The panellists at the event include; Mrs Folasade Adefisayo, Honourable Commissioner of Education, Lagos State; Otunba Yomi Otubela, President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS); Wale Abioye, Team Lead, Customer Practice in Management Consulting (KPMG); Babatunde Vaughan, Education Lead, Modern Classroom Microsoft Nigeria; Tinu Aluko, Proprietor, Busy Bee & West Mills and Bankole Adediran, Head Transaction Banking Products, First Bank of Nigeria Limited.

Speaking on the event, Mr. Gbenga Shobo, Deputy Managing Director, FirstBank said “the education sector remains the bedrock of the growth and development of any nation – without a viable educational system, the human capital would be incapable of driving national growth and development. FirstBank is delighted to convene this event as it reinforces our leading role at enabling the growth of the educational sector in the country, over the years.

A recent example is the current pandemic in which the Bank has spearheaded the continued learning of school children, with a view to moving over 1 million Nigerians to e-learning, an exciting journey that has had over 45,000 active participants on the respective platforms, notably Roducate and IBM.

We appreciate the panellists invited to speak and we look forward to the knowledge and ideas that would be deliberated towards having participants enlightened on essential activities to not just sustain their schools but reinforce its growth against the odds of COVID-19. We implore players, policy influencers, school and business owners as a whole to register and participate in the event because indeed there is knowledge for everyone,” he concluded.

FirstBank has held various SME clinics in the course of the year, including a virtual event to ensure Social Distance is adhered to in this sensitive period of the COVID-19.

These events include the SME Clinics in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja as well as the Virtual SME Clinic, recently held in May.

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