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I’ll leave legacy of inclusive growth, financial inclusion, Buhari pledges 

By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze and Joseph Chibueze (Abuja)
26 November 2022   |   6:06 am
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed the determination of his administration to leave a legacy of inclusive growth through financial inclusion when his tenure ends on May 29, 2023.

[FILES] Buhari

Unveils New Strategy, As CBN Targets 95% Success Rate By 2024 
• Stop Relying On Foreign Funds For Data Collection, World Bank Charges FG

President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed the determination of his administration to leave a legacy of inclusive growth through financial inclusion when his tenure ends on May 29, 2023.

This was as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has set a new target to achieve 95 per cent financial inclusion by 2024 to ensure that every Nigerian has access to financial services.

Consequently, the Federal Government has launched a revised National Financial Inclusion Strategy that would provide direction for financial inclusion in Nigeria in the coming years. 

Meanwhile, the World Bank has charged the government to prioritise funding of statistical surveys in the country given the importance of data in national development. 

Speaking at the 2022 International Financial Inclusion Conference yesterday in Abuja, the president noted that the government was aware that achieving financial inclusion goals would further boost the economic fortunes of Nigeria, adding that his administration remains committed to providing continuous support to all financial inclusion stakeholders institutions in the public and private sectors. 

Buhari stated that at the onset of his administration, Nigeria developed a blueprint for economic growth and development called the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), adding that the plan was focused on economic recovery in the short-term and sustained growth and development in the long-term.

The President, who was represented by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Musa Bello, said his administration understands the impact of financial inclusion on economic growth and development and as such, has provided the enabling policy environment for financial inclusion initiatives to yield the expected results.

His words: “This administration understands that it would require innovative models to fast-track the attainment of its growth plan and to that effect, the Federal Executive Council, which I chair, approved and re-designated the Federal Ministry of Communications as the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy in October 2019. Furthermore, a National Strategy for Digital Economy was unveiled in November 2019. I launched the eNaira in October 2021, as I believe we should adopt bold measures to enable us to meet our targets.

This launch did not just put us on the global map, but also provided us with the currency for the digital economy.

“Financial inclusion stakeholders have been at the forefront of providing innovative solutions for addressing some of the pressing issues we face as a people. For instance, to increase financial services access points in underserved locations in the country, the Central Bank of Nigeria issued the Payment Service Bank regulatory framework.

Furthermore, through the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF), the number of agent banking locations in the country is now over 1.4 million from 86,000 in 2018. The Open Banking framework and Regulatory Sandbox initiatives are some of the other initiatives that are meant to improve financial inclusion in Nigeria.”

The President urged the stakeholders to consider the conference as an opportunity to address pressing national issues affecting the vulnerable and most excluded segments of our society, and come up with innovative ideas on how to accelerate financial inclusion. 

Earlier, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, noted that financial inclusion was key to economic development and inclusive growth, noting that various up-to-date types of research and painstaking analyses show a positive correlation between the financial inclusion rate of a country and its GDP growth. 

Emefiele observed that financial inclusion was imperative to ensure sustainable development and growth in the Nigerian economy, adding that the Bank was exploring ways to address the high financial exclusion rate in Nigeria. 

According to him, an infrastructural deficit like low broadband penetration, lack of a functional national identity system and high cost of delivering financial services through bank branches to the underserved contributed to Nigeria’s financial exclusion situation. 

Emefiele stated that over 59 policies and initiatives had been implemented by stakeholders to achieve the objective of financial inclusion from 2012 to date, explaining that the policies and initiatives cut across the banking sector, the insurance sector, the capital market, the pension sector and institutions responsible for infrastructural development for financial inclusion.

He said: “From 2015 to date, over four million small-holder farmers cutting across all states in the country were provided concessionary credit facilities. While this has boosted the economic fortunes of these farmers, it also improved national food output, prevented food insecurity and created over two million jobs in the process. All credits to these farmers were disbursed via digital channels, further boosting financial inclusion in rural areas.

“Our focus on leveraging digital innovations to drive financial inclusion was one of the main motivations for the launch of the eNaira, Nigeria’s digital currency. To ensure that the eNaira is enabled for financial inclusion, a USSD channel for eNaira was created. This modification has now made it possible for all generations of mobile devices including old phones, including those feature phones owned by rural dwellers to be compatible with the interface of the air. Accordingly, even the most remote and the most vulnerable households and businesses now have unlimited and uninhibited access to the digital currency, the naira.”

Emefiele noted that the nation’s financial inclusion journey has been successful, disclosing that the CBN was aiming at achieving a bigger target and a set of big priorities.

He urged all stakeholders of financial inclusion in Nigeria to join hands together, work in collaboration and drive implementation to ensure the achievement of the 95 per cent financial inclusion as outlined in the new National Financial Inclusion Strategy.

Speaking during the National Sensitisation Workshop for the Nigeria Labour Force Survey (NLFS) and National Living Standards Survey  (NLSS) 2022/2023 in Abuja, the Country Director, World Bank, Nigeria, Mr. Shubham Chaudhury, underscored the importance of data to national development, urging the government to give it a front line charge in its priority list.

“I would have been happy if the World Bank was not involved in the funding of these surveys have been part of the funding of the 2018/2019 NLSS. Our continued involvement in the funding of surveys such as this gives the impression that the country does not appreciate the value of data to push in more funding to it,” he said.

He said he could not understand why the country was wasting so many resources on fuel subsidy, which does not benefit the ordinary Nigerian while neglecting critical areas such as effective funding of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). 

He praised the NBS for its consistency and for embarking on the surveys, which he said, would paint a clear picture of the level of living standards in Nigeria and the employment status of the citizens.

In his speech, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, said Nigerians should disregard the negative opinions that the present administration has thrown more people into poverty or has not made any effort to mitigate shocks arising from global challenges.

Agba, who was represented by the Director of, Social Development Department in the ministry, Dr Faniran Fanjor, said the gains made by the present administration, especially in education, health and general welfare of the people were being eroded by the global and local shocks caused by global pandemics, the Russian and Ukraine crisis, security challenges as well as climate change, with particular reference to flood disasters in recent times.

He said the government would continue to support NBS in the performance of its statutory duties of churning out the right statistics that would aid policy formulation and tell the government where to focus attention.

In his welcome address, the Statistician General of the Federation and Chief Executive of NBS, Prince Adeyemi Adeniran, said the NLFS is a strategic survey designed to collect and analyse labour market statistics for the country, including the generally understood and widely anticipated headline unemployment and underemployment rates.

He noted that while the unemployment and underemployment rates are very important figures that indicate the number of persons economically engaged, the NLFS contains a lot more equally interesting and important information that offers useful insight into the health of the labour market in Nigeria.

He explained that “this round of the NLSS is a follow-up to the one of 2018/2019, keeping pace with the expected 4–5-year frequency,” adding that the enumerators for the NLFS and NLSS were already in the field working.