Ecobank Drives Digital Strategy, Merges 74 Branches

Ecobank Nigeria limited has entered an advanced stage of its digital transformation agenda which is aimed at enabling its customers depend more on its digital platforms to do their daily banking activities, thereby reducing the need to go to branches. By this development, the bank will deliver enhanced services leveraging more on its digital channels.

The Managing Director of the Bank, Charles Kie says the move is part of the bank’s transformation agenda which is meant to create a fundamental shift of its banking activities to digital channels, as well as improve customers’ experience, while also reducing the cost of serving them. This also supports the bank’s financial inclusion strategy and the cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Mr. Kie says as part of this strategy, the bank has enhanced its Retail Internet Banking platform with much speed and flexibility while also strengthening the Ecobank Mobile App that enables customers do instant payments, open accounts as well as do instant transfers across 33 countries in Africa.  The Ecobank App, the first of its kind in Africa, has an innovative payment solution, theEcobank Masterpass that allows customers the convenience to pay for goods at merchant locations by simply scanning a QR code on their phones.

 He says the bank has also decided to merge some of its branches across the country. According to  Mr. Kie, “after a detailed analysis of the physical network of branches needed to serve our customers, the decision was made by the Ecobank Nigeria Board, and approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria, to optimize 74 out of its 479 branches. With the merger, Ecobank now boasts of 405 branches across the country supported with top of the range technology application”.

He stated that most of the staff in the affected branches will be moved to other projects. In his words “We are deploying staff and other resources from the merged branches to other ongoing projects, while also strengthening the existing branches to make them more resourceful and up to speed in their daily activities”. He reiterated that this is a well thought through decision expected to fundamentally shape Ecobank’s business for better performance.

Nigeria At Crossroads, Atiku Insists… Calls For The Restructuring

Speech delivered by Atiku Abubakar, GCON, former Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, at the formal public presentation of the Daily Stream newspaper, at the Banquet Hall, Nigeria Airforce Conference Centre, Kado, Abuja on Thursday 27 April, 2017

The three key issues that constitute the topic of this presentation – Unity, Diversity and National Development – are among Nigeria’s greatest challenges. Unity has been a scarce commodity among our country’s diverse peoples and communities, as a consequence of the way and manner the country was put together by British colonial authorities and our collective failure as a people to create a true and viable nation out of the union. This has become a major source of disquiet, anxiety and frustration and a veritable obstacle to national development.

Disagreements and controversies over the best political structure to be adopted, size and responsibility of government, the nature of relationship between and among component units, the type and system of government, as well as how resources available in and accruing to the country should be allocated have continued unabated. Those controversies have sometimes threatened the very existence of the country. A huge pall of pessimism hangs over a section of the citizenry, and the ranks of those who harbour real doubt about the future of the country swell by the day.

The country is truly at a crossroads, and things are made worse by the cocktail of economic, social, political and problems which we have had to contend with, and which add to the abysmally low estimation of our country even by its own citizens.

However, I am not here just to lament over the sad and unenviable state of affairs in Nigeria. I firmly believe in the viability of the Nigerian Project, I remain unshaken and completely persuaded that we can eventually change the story of Nigeria for good by collectively making Nigeria a productive, prosperous, peaceful and united nation whose people are happy and contented and one that is able to really lead Africa and assume a pride of place in the comity of nations.

But to achieve that, we must elevate and steer conversation away from empty rhetoric and platitudes. We must instigate and see to the full and faithful implementation of profound changes in the political structure, organization, functions and performance of state, and a radical re-organization of government, its organs and personnel.

British colonialism created a country where over 350 ethnic and language groups compete for space and attempt to coexist, in spite of obvious differences in culture, aptitudes and level of development. But then, we were not entirely alien to one another: there are documented evidences that, prior to the coming of the Europeans, our ancestors had interacted with one another through trade and commerce, wars, inter-marriages, religion, etc. Yes, we are diverse, plural and complex, but we are not so different from one another that we cannot live together. Whatever we may think of the creation of the country, we are one now and should do the needful to make our unity work for us and also endure.

Our challenge of lack of unity has been part and parcel of our chequered history. Yes, our First Republic national political leaders, at some point found it easy to mobilize, capture and consolidate power as regional and ethnic champions. However, by the second general elections after independence, in 1965, alliances and coalition politics had produced national parties, groupings and cleavages whose structure, reach and membership transcended regions and ethnicity. Despite the tragic events leading to the collapse of the First Republic, the civil war and even l3 years of military rule that followed there did emerge a national – rather than ethnic or regional – elite class, as evidenced by the politics of the Second Republic and thereafter. Successive governments have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to address the problem of lack of unity and the tendency toward primordial attachments through deliberate policies and programmes. However, the problem has persisted partly because we have failed to consistently provide good governance; failed to take full advantage of the very many pluses in our diversity – to use it as a source of strength rather than weakness and, consequently, it remains easy to manipulate the people by appealing to their base sentiments.

There are several reasons why we have failed to be welded into one nation after over a hundred years since we became one country. I would like to talk about the nature of the country’s structure as one factor. We purport to operate a federal structure, but over the years our federalism has experienced fundamental distortion to the extent that there is now a huge, acrimonious debate as to the true nature and character of our brand of federalism. I call it unitary federalism because while we still have a formal federal system, the centre has become too powerful relative to the increasingly unviable federating units.

As regions, the different levels of government were fairly viable, notwithstanding their modest financial standing, and were largely administered according to established rules and procedures. Accountability, probity and relatively prudent management of resources were evident. The citizens were happy and substantially felt part of the governance process – at least they recognized the existence of government, paid their taxes and could point at tangible deliverables from government.

Then came rising crude oil revenues, military rule and the excessive centralization of power and concentration of resources at the federal level at the expense of the federating states. The Federal government came to assume too many responsibilities to the extent that our current constitution has 87 items in the Exclusive Legislative List while only 15 items are in the Concurrent List, which the federal government can also dominate.

Now as “indigenes” of states, the citizens are largely disgruntled and unhappy. And although most of them don’t pay taxes directly to the government coffers, they often feel short-changed and complain of abject neglect. They hardly feel that they are part of the governance process, and they often hold their leaders in contempt – or at least they are more likely to blame than praise their leaders. Some have emotionally, and for all intents and purposes, completely de-linked themselves from the Nigerian state and now inhabit a surreal world where they believe in all sorts of strange ideas.

We purport to operate a federal structure, but over the years our federalism has experienced fundamental distortion to the extent that there is now a huge, acrimonious debate as to the true nature and character of our brand of federalism.

What went wrong? We have 36 states and the FCT that are almost totally dependent on proceeds from the federation account to even fund their overheads. Thus they have hardly focused on inventing avenues of diversifying revenue collection from internal sources states such as Lagos has been doing in recent years. So we are shouldering the burden of nearly 36 dependent bureaucracies, most of which commit at least 75 percent of their annual budget to recurrent expenditure. We therefore have an almighty federal government that has assumed so much powers and responsibilities that it does virtually everything either alone or in tandem with the other federating units. In the end, very little gets done at both the federal and state levels. The people get disillusioned, and in frustration they embrace and imbibe all sorts of views, beliefs and ideas including ones that suggest that people from the other ethnic, religious or regional group is responsible for their woes.

To be sure, good leaders do make a difference in the fortunes of countries. However, leaders operate within structural constraints imposed by constitutions, laws and regulations and the local and world economy.

But the most germane question we need to ask ourselves is: must we really continue to live together as one country amidst such pervasive climate of disunity, which is impeding our development? My prompt answer to this is yes, we should remain together, because it is the best option, and because we will be stronger, greater, and better in one piece than in pieces. In the global scheme of things our economy is too small to be broken into several pieces. We can always discuss the basis and terms of our unity with a view to finding ways to make it stronger, our development more rapid, even and fair, and our politics more stable. We simply have to find ways solidify and strengthen our union and making it conducive for development. And that includes re-examining the terms of our union and, where necessary, affirm or adjust some or all the terms, particularly in relation to the structure and functions of the Nigerian state and its component parts.


Some people have talked about the federal system of government as if it has universal features and all federal working systems have similar characteristics. But that is not the case. A careful look at different societies that operate the federal arrangement shows that they differ from one another in remarkable ways. There isn’t no “true federalism,” so to speak. A people always decide on the nature, shape and content of their preferred federal system based on specific histories, peculiarities and needs. The problem with our federalism is that over the years it has become so skewed in favour of the centre that it impedes our economic development, distorts our politics, weakens our people’s commitment to the country and threatens our existence as a united country.

It is, therefore, necessary to discuss and agree on the kind of federal structure we desire. Reverting to the regions of the past seem untenable because those minority groups which feel that they have been liberated from their bigger, dominant neighbours, are unlikely to accept a return to that older order. We may consider using the existing the geo-political zones as federating units because they will be more viable economically and address some of the minorities’ concerns? If we prefer to keep the current state structure, could we consider introducing a means-test such that a state that is unable to raise a specified percentage of its revenues from internal sources would have to be collapsed into another state?

Our beloved country has been in the throes of severe and debilitating social and economic problems. Virtually all the development indices have not been favourable: massive and pervasive poverty, double-digit inflation, unemployment, dwindling foreign exchange receipts, poor GDP growth rates, high infant and maternal mortality, high levels of illiteracy, and millions of school-age children out of school.

My take is that we will likely continue to grapple with such problems unless we get the structures of our federalism and governance right. Our current system, which is characterized by a focus on sharing rather than production, is clearly not conducive to development. For Nigeria to develop – or even make any appreciable progress – we must re-structure Nigeria’s political, administrative and political architecture. That way we can free resources that would otherwise go to unviable ventures and projects, then commit same to areas that directly cater for and benefit the people. Restructuring will facilitate the emergence of a leaner bureaucracy, enhance efficiency, block wastages and promote more prudent management. It will make for happier constituent units more committed to the progress and unity of the country and the emergence of a sense of nationhood.

How do we do that? We should, first, dispassionately and painstakingly re-visit our 36-state structure vis-a-vis the idea of overly dominant federal government. Second, we should devolve power from the centre to the federating units: many of the items in the Exclusive List should be devolved to the states or any other agreed federating units. Third, that devolution of powers must include an end to federal intrusion in local government administration. The so-called States/Local Governments joint account has virtually absolved state governments of responsibilities to fund local governments while they virtually confiscate the funds allocated by the federal government to the local government. To have the federal government create local governments and directly fund them makes nonsense of the word “local.” Those powers should be vested in the state governments. And it should include an end to federal ownership of interstate roads, schools, hospitals and the uniformity in remunerations across the country. Fourth, we must sit down, discuss, and agree on the nature of our fiscal federalism – how to share our resources. I am on record as having advocated for the control of rents by the federating units from which they are derived while the federal government retains its powers to levy taxes. That will make us all productive again and our federating units to engage in healthy rivalries and competition, which will only result in more progress.

There is no doubt in my mind that that structure of our federation and governance constitute an impediment to our economic development, political stability and social harmony. Changing them would help to place our country on a path to phenomenal and unhindered development. To persist in what we are doing now is to do injustice to ourselves and jeopardize our future. We should endeavour to effect the needed changes by talking among ourselves and across our various divides – engaging in meaningful dialogue. We should take full advantage of the democratic spaces and institutions to instigate positive conversations in that regard. Given the right environment, there is hardly a limit to what a people can do for themselves by themselves.

I thank the Daily Stream newspaper for the opportunity to share my thoughts on these issues. And I wish you many years of excellent, fearless, responsible and accountable journalism.
Thank you very much for your attention.

Party Primaries: Option A4 Most Transparent Method – Dogara

For primaries of political parties to be transparent and truly democratic, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has called for the adoption of direct voting method where all card carrying members of parties are allowed to vote to choose candidates who will represent their parties in elections.
The Speaker said this while responding to a request from a delegation from the Conference of Female Parliamentarians of State Houses of Assembly, led by its chairperson, Hon Elizabeth Ativie, at the National Assembly, that Option A4 should be included in the Electoral Act.
He argued that direct primaries is more effective in choosing the true candidate of the people because it takes away the option of manipulation of a few delegates by interested parties who have more financial or political influence.
Speaking on the merits of Option A4, he said, “it is there in most of the Constitution of our political parties where primaries are supposed to be by direct or indirect means. But in most cases, most political parties, if not all, have always opted for the indirect primaries. To be more candid, direct primaries can help even in general elections because once a candidate emerges under those conditions, you will know that he is generally accepted by the people.
“When it comes to the delegate, it has always been very easy for political actors to manipulate the process. In some cases, someone will house the entire delegates. If he happens to have a lot of money, he will house them in hotels, prevent all other candidates from having access to them and is under that process that the candidate emerges.
The Speaker maintained that in most cases, the people who  have the capacity, “either the political will, the financial muscle to do this, dictate who are the actual representatives from the people.”
“Unfortunately too, our laws do not help matters since we do not have independent candidacy. The only requirement is that you must have a political party platform before you are elected into any office. It therefore means that something has to be done in order to free the process. In order to ensure that this process is truly transparent and democratic and the only way is to let all card carrying members of a political party participate in the election of their candidate. So to this suggestion, you already have a convert in me.”
Assuring them that the House will pass the Gender Equality Bill, he urged the state legislators to engage with their federal counterparts to ensure that a consensus is reached on the issues raised.
“We are aware of the Gender Equality Bill. It is before the National Assembly and it is before the relevant committees of the House. I believe that this House that has the responsibility of representing men and women will do justice to the Bill. Something will come out of the Bill, it may not be 100 percent in line with our expectations but it is going to be a compromise bill that will have the effect of balancing, not overpowering one gender against the other.
“We support  equality but in a situation where one gender will be overloaded against the other, I think we are all people of justice. And they say justice is indivisible, so justice to a woman must include justice to a man and justice to a man too, must include justice to a woman. So that it is the difficult part that we are seeking to achieve,” he added.
Dogara also informed them that other areas of concern, including indigeneship for married women and citizenship for spouses of Nigerian women, will be addressed in the Constitution Amendment exercise whose report will soon be presented to the House.
The Speaker also noted that the House has been gender friendly, with every female member being either a chairperson or deputy chairperson of a committee of the House, except for one, Hon Talatu Yohanna who came in following a court verdict after all the leadership of the  committees had been composed.
He also urged them to support local government autonomy, independence of state legislature and separation of powers in all tiers of government for transparency and accountability.
Earlier, leader of the delegation, who is also the deputy speaker of Edo State House of Assembly,  Hon Elizabeth Ativie, urged the Speaker to support women in politics by advocating for amendment of the Electoral Act to provide for use of Option A4 in party primaries, quota system in political parties and appointments for women (35 percent affirmative action), provide legislation for automatic citizenship for spouses of Nigerian woman and indigene status for women married to men from other states in Nigeria.

War Over Alleged N2bn Abuja Land Fraud As EFCC Quizzes SAN, MD Winning Clause Estate, Okwubanego

By Mayowa Okekale, Abuja

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has quizzed an Abuja based Estate Developer and the promoter of Winning Clause Limited, Mrs. Obiageli Okwubanego, and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN), Barrister P. I. N. Ikwueto over an alleged inappropriate land deals running into billions of naira.

A senior operative of the anti-graft agency told journalists in Abuja, on Thursday, that their invitation and interrogation stemmed from a petition by over 300 house owners on the platform of Winning Clause Estate Residents Association at Plot 67, Kafe District, Gwarinpa Extension, Abuja, alleging how Mrs. Okwubanego collected over N2 billion from them under false pretence.

“While Barrister Ikwueto was interrogated last week, Mrs. Obiageli Okwubanego too was quizzed for over six hours on Tuesday. Although the SAN was not directly involved in the alleged dirty land deals, he acted as a legal representative to Mrs. Okwubanego and Winning Clause Limited in the transaction,” the source stated.

“The woman (Okwubanego) was invited to the EFCC, based on the petition against her. She was interrogated over unjustly collection of huge funds, running into billions of naira from house owners in Winning Clause Estate. We have also interrogated several banks she used for the transactions and we have found strong evidence against her and the investigation is on-going.

“The suspect has been given administrative bail; and she is expected to return here(EFCC office) for further interrogation in another day. The matter is further compounded because another woman had come forward claiming ownership of Winning Clause Limited,’’ the source further said.

In the petition addressed to the Acting Chairman of the anti-graft commission, Ibrahim Magu, signed by Mike Arowosegbe and Taiwo Adisa, Chairman and General Secretary of the Association respectively, and acknowledged by EFCC on February 20, 2017, the house owners had requested for thorough investigation of the activities of Winning Clause Limited and its promoter, Obiageli Okwubanego, a land speculator, and recovery of the “monies” collected from them “under false pretence”.

According to the petitioners, “We are representatives of the residents and home owners’ association of the above-named estate located at Plot 67, Kafe District, Gwarinpa Extension, Abuja.

“Between 2009 and 2011, most of us subscribed to an Estate located at Plot 67, Kafe District, Gwarinpa Extension, Abuja, then known as Saraha City Estate and which belonged to Saraha/Proform Limited at the time.

“By 2012, when many had completed their buildings and actually started living in the houses, another Developer named Winning Clause Limited entered into the fray and claimed it was the rightful owner of the Plot.

“A court action was instituted by the claimants and after some pushing and shoving, the parties resolved to enter into a Consent Judgement in October 2013 and the judgement was delivered by the Abuja High Court number 24 on November 28, 2013.”

The house owners said with that judgement, the said Plot 67, Kafe District was transferred to Winning Clause Limited and their members elected to work with the company in accordance with the Consent Judgement, saying that to their utmost shock and dismay, another claimant to Winning Clause Limited surfaced in January 2017.

The residents further added that while they were all along trying to cope with “highhandedness” of Okwubanego all the while, the house owners were taken aback by the emergence of another claimant to the company, which was awarded the right to Plot 67, Kafe District by the Court.

Attaching a letter by a counsel to one Halimat Abdulazeez, which has effectively placed a caveat on the said Company, the petitioners said contrary to the judgement of the court, the said Okwubanego had imposed series of levies and fees on their members under false pretence and forced them to pay “humongous” amounts under threats to life and property.

The house owners said: “She had effectively deployed agents of the FCT administration during the tenure of Senator Bala Mohammed, who allocated the plot to her company in March 2011. Right now, the said Mrs. Okwubanego and Winning Clause had through various accounts, in at least four banks, collected about N1 billion (One billion Naira only) from our members.

“Our members have also paid at least N70 million (seventy million Naira) as Infrastructure fees for which the company has refused to give account after failing to undertake the infrastructural development”.

Nigerian Troops Neutralize 15 Terrorists, Capture Cache of Weapons in Sambisa

….as soldiers capture large quantity of terrorists weapons

The Acting General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Victor  Ezugwu has commended troops of 21 Brigade  of the Division for delivering a devastating deep punch to Boko Haram terrorists leading to the capture of large quantities of terrorists’ equipment.

The commendation came on the heels of troops display of bravery that led to successful and decisive  repelling Boko Haram terrorists attempted incursion  into their location in Sambisa forest, Borno State early morning today, Thursday, 27th April 2017.

The troops resilence paid off with heavy  battering of Boko Haram terrorists leading to the terrorist sustaining huge casualties in fighters and equipment. The terrorists paid dearly as the troops neutralized 15 of them and wounded several others.

In addition, the gallant troops  made heavy seizures with the destruction of 1 vehicle bound Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) belonging to the terrorists and  capture of 1 Buffalo Gun truck mounted with Long Barrel Shilka Gun, 2  General Purpose Machine Gun,  1 PKM Gun, mortar tubes, 3 AK-47 rifles,  2 FN rifles, 1 G3 rifle. Others are 5 pieces of 60mm mortar  Bombs, various GSM handsets, 36 Hand Grenade, 12 rifle magazines, Shilka fill tray, 750 rounds of 7.62mm (NATO) ammunition, 106 rounds of 32mm ammunition, a 12 volt battery, 3 Automatic Grenade Launcher bombs and 5 mortar charges, among others.

The GOC enjoined  troops to remain resolute in the fight against the Boko Haram terrorists and insurgents in the North East in order to ensure total compliance with the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai’s  directive that remnants of  Boko Haram terrorists are flushed out of Nigerian territory.

Access Bank declares N26b Profit In First Quarter Of 2017

Access Bank Plc on Thursday reported unaudited financial results for the first quarter (Q1) ended March 31, 2017, indicating an increase of 38% in Profit before Tax, “which rose to N31.2 billion when compared to ?22.6 billion in Q1 2016. Profit after Tax (PAT) grew by 34% to ?26.0 billion in Q1 2017 from ?19.4 billion in Q1 2016”.

 Gross earnings for the period grew by 44% to ?116.0 billion as against ?80.3 billion recorded in the corresponding period of March 2016, with interest income and non-interest income contributing 68% and 31% respectively.

 Shares in the Bank, which have gained 12.1% per cent Year to Date (YTD), rose 2.8% to N6.58 on Thursday at the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

 Access Bank’s Balance Sheet remained strong with a 2% growth in Total Assets as the Bank closed the quarter ended March 2017 with Total Assets of ?3.54 trillion from ?3.48 trillion in December 2016. The Group‘s capital and liquidity ratios of 21.0% and 46.3% respectively, remained in excess of the minimum regulatory requirement and would support the business adequately.

 Commenting on the Bank’s performance during the period, Group Managing Director/CEO, Herbert Wigwe said that 2017 marks the end of our third five-year transformation journey and in the coming months, we will focus our priorities on the delivery of our strategic objectives.”

He added: “We will continue to improve on profitability and shareholder value by maintaining our capital and liquidity positions, assiduously implementing our cost management strategy, and exploiting retail business opportunities using our digital platforms and deepening market share of the wholesale business.

Edo Govt. To Make Housing Affordable

Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, yesterday, disclosed that his administration is set to build affordable houses in the state to address the over 300,000 housing deficit in the state.

This was during a 2-day workshop on housing themed: “Quest for Adequate and Sustainable Real Estate for Edo People” organized by the state government.

Governor Obaseki, represented by his deputy, Hon. Philip Shuaibu, said the nation is faced with over 17 million housing deficit and Edo State is contributing over 300,000, but he assured the people that his administration would upturn the deficit.

Challenging the participants of the workshop to come up with affordable models for the masses, Obaseki added that the workshop was to make Edo a model to other states in terms of housing.

He said: “This workshop is a real business to turn the state into a hub, utilising its geographical location”.

He expressed his administration’s keenness to avoid failure, hence the workshops to develop the state and make it the envy of other states in the nation.

Meanwhile, the governor revealed that a bill would be sent to the House of Assembly to give legal backing to building plans in the state and address the housing deficit in the end.

For his part, Alhaji Ali Magashi, the workshop’s Chairman, praised Governor Obaseki for the well-thought-out workshop on housing, saying that it revealed that when educated people were at the helm of affairs in the political scene, the value of economy would be maximised.

In an address titled “Affordable Housing Finance in a developing Economy”, he said that it was regrettable that there was no appreciable success in the crusade for affordable housing development in the country.

He therefore tasked the participants to see the workshop as an opportunity and a way of proffering solution to the housing challenges in not only the state but also the country at large.

He suggested that the governor should form an advisory and monitoring committee that would monitor and give feedback on the implementation of its housing policies.

The two-day workshop, which commenced on Thursday, had stakeholders in real estate, and financial institutions from across the country in attendance.

FG Signs Mortgage Refinancing MoU With Stakeholders On Workers’ Housing

The Federal Government on Tuesday stepped up its desire to deliver decent and affordable houses for Federal Civil Servants by signing a Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with major stakeholders in the housing programme.
The mortgage refinance agreement was signed at the 2017 FISH Housing Summit which was held at the International Conference Centre (ICC)  Abuja, with the theme: “Innovative Strategies for Affordable Housing”, organized by the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation between Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board (FGSHLB) and Nigeria Mortgage Refinancing Company, while the second Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was entered between Family Homes Funds which is another government institution to provide affordable housing and the Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) Programme.
The Chairman FISH implementation committee and Permanent Secretary Common Services Office in the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation Mr. Yemi Adelakun in his welcome address at the summit had earlier said: “We will be witnessing during the course of this summit signing of MOU between FISH Programme and Family Homes Funds which is another government institution established to provide