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Give small, medium business owners loans – NITDA DG tell banks

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Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, has called on financial institutions in Nigeria to increase lending access for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

He made the call at a Webinar organised by a Financial Technology Association of Nigeria with the theme: “COVID-19: Enabling Speedy Business and Economic Recovery Through Regulations.”

Abdullahi observed that traditional banks’ lending processes have long been a barrier to assessing finance for businesses in Nigeria, noting that this was adversely affecting the SMEs operations.

He said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted SMEs around the world, Nigeria inclusive. Our interventions are to help lead the tech startups from crisis to recovery as well as support them to navigate today’s challenging business landscape.”

Reiterating the promise of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to make lives better for Nigerians, Abdullahi revealed that immediately the government pronounced the lockdown, NITDA constituted a 10-man committee named Tech4Covid.

The objectives include identification of innovative solutions to address the pandemic; provision of enabling policies and incentives to cushion the impact; and building of massive digital skills to reskill the region to leverage technology in different sectors.

NITDA DG further recalled that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ali Ibrahim Pantami, directed all parastatals under the supervision of the ministry to set up an Innovation Research Fund for the startups.

Abdullahi listed government policies formulated to assist the startups as: National Outsourcing Strategic Policy, Nigeria Data Protection Regulation, Reviewing of Framework and Guideline for the Use of Digital Platform by Federal Public Institutions, and the National Cyber Security Policy

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Banks to debit debtors accounts directly

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has released guidelines on Global Standing Instruction (GSI) that would enable banks to debit the account of loan defaulters without recourse to the account holders.

The CBN released the guidelines in Abuja on Monday.

According to the guidelines, the GSI will “serve as a last resort by a Creditor bank, without recourse to the Borrower, to recover past-due obligations.

The GSI will specifically target Principal and Accrued Interest only while “excluding any Penal Charges from a defaulting Borrower through a direct set-off from deposits/investments held in the Borrower’s qualifying bank accounts with participating financial institutions.”

The objectives of GSI, the CBN said, include facilitating an improved credit repayment culture; reducing Non-Performing Loans (NPLs) in the banking industry; and watch-listing consistent loan defaulters.

The types of accounts that qualify for GSI are Individual Savings Accounts; Individual Current Accounts; Individual Domiciliary Accounts; Investment/Deposit Accounts (Naira and Foreign Currency); and Electronic Wallets.

Henceforth, bank debtors are expected to execute a GSI mandate in hard copy or digital form; ensure that the terms and conditions of the mandate are clearly understood before execution; and ensure that all qualifying accounts are linked to his/her BVN.

According to the CBN: “In the event that a borrower’s qualifying account is not linked to his/her BVN, such BVN shall be Watch-Listed.”

The Creditor Bank, on its part, will ensure that borrowers are properly educated about the GSI mandate and its implications; and enshrine same in their loan application process.

Also, the banks are expected to “review and validate the GSI mandate instrument prior to loan disbursement.”

The banks are to indemnify Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS) and other Participating Financial Institutions (PFI) from all liabilities that may arise from inappropriate use of the GSI infrastructure.

They are to also “retain copies of physical or digital version of the executed GSI mandate and to provide same when required. The banks are to ensure that the GSI Trigger Amount is only for outstanding Principal Amount and Accrued Interest (excluding ANY Penal Charges).”

The banks were ordered to comply with CBN’s Prudential Guidelines as it applies to the classification of loans; and as a risk management tool, the MD/CEO of each PFI “shall routinely update the Board of Directors on the GSI process as it relates to the frequency of use and amounts recovered or released.”

The guidelines note that PFI’s MD/CEO are not absolved of the overall responsibility over activities of the bank.

“Any loan for forbearance review must show evidence of GSI trigger otherwise full provisioning would be required (except where there are CBN permitted waivers),” the guidelines stated.

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Ecobank extends agric loan to 70,000 farmers

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Ecobank Nigeria has restated its commitment to the agricultural sector and is supporting over 70,000 farmers with special loans to increase their capacity and yields during this planting season.

This is one of the bank’s initiatives to promote entrepreneurship in the sector and is in support of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers programmes for the 2020 wet season with the Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (MAGPAMAN)

Head, Agribusiness, Ecobank Nigeria, Mojisola Oguntoyinbo, announced this in Lagos while responding to media enquiries on the participation of the bank in the CBN scheme.

According to her, the initiative spreads across the 36 states and is one of the several concerted efforts on the part of the bank to support the government to create an ecosystem that gives smallholder farmers access to funding and the required support to increase food production in the country.

She noted that the scheme is designed to connect smallholder farmers with processors and off-takers within the agriculture value chain.

“We are creating opportunities in the agric sector that will help many smallholder farmers expand their business and become worthy employers of labour by adopting modern farming techniques for the betterment of our economy.

We are in strategic partnership with NIRSAL and some other developmental institutions to achieve our purpose.  We are also partnering the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in all its intervention schemes and programmes aimed at developing the sector.

Our relationships are generating positive activities across the entire agric value chain,” she said.

Ecobank has been actively leveraging entrepreneurship as a strategy to tackle poverty and growing unemployment, through the creation of relevant platforms.

One of such platforms is the Ecobank Xpress Point, the bank’s agency banking proposition which enables agents to carry out financial transactions on behalf of Ecobank and earn commission on transactions processed.

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Bitcoin ATM machine unveiled in Lagos

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A Bitcoin ATM that will curb money laundering via Cryptocurrency has been unveiled in Lagos.

Mr Adekunle Daniel, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Blockstale, made this known on Friday, at a news conference in Lagos tagged: “The Impacts of CryptoCurrency (BITCOIN) on Traders and The Global Economy During this Pandemic Season and Thereafter.”

Blockstale is a principal developer and distributor of intuitive blockchain software and hardware components in Nigeria.

Through Blockstale, Nigeria’s first Bitcoin ATM was deployed on Jan. 12, and there are five now in Nigeria to be installed at Ajah, Lekki, Trade Fair and in Ogun.

The company’s mission is to distribute, facilitate and enhance Bitcoin ATM industry in Africa, by providing seamless and creative solutions, taking the industry beyond the usual trading (buy/sell/exchange) by offering creativities and providing additional income streams to their partners.

Daniel said: “Bitcoin is a digital currency that operates independently across national boundaries and sectors, which could be used as a form of trade, investment, payment and settlement.

“If anyone wants to send one thousand dollars to someone in the U.S, it would take three to five days for a wire transfer to come through, and it would attract around 50.00 dollars charges.

“Now with Bitcoin, one can send money instantly, and it would cost pennies.”

He said that with a remarkable number of different currencies, Bitcoin had eliminated the multiple charges and could save a lot of resources and cut unnecessary spending.

Daniel said that with the emergence of this innovation, Nigeria ranks the eighth country to experience the evolution of the Bitcoin ATM.

“This had brought global recognition to the country and continent at large,” he said.

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