The Chinwe Bode-Akinwande (CBA) Foundation, a Lagos-based non-governmental organisation on Saturday held its 2020 annual five-kilometre-long walk, tagged: “Walk4Hope” in Lagos.
According to the organisers, the charity walk, which kicked off at the Muri Okunola Park, Victoria Island, was aimed at creating awareness and raising funds for the protection and support of underprivileged widows and their vulnerable children.
From 2015 to date, CBA Foundation has reached out to thousands of underprivileged widows and children through skills acquisition training, health intervention, business start-ups, clothing, nutrition and tuition fees for such children.
Speaking at the well-attended event which was supported by First Bank of Nigeria, the founder of the foundation, Mrs. Chinwe Bode-Akinwande, said: “Two things Walk4Hope sets out to achieve is first, to create awareness for the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) that the federal government has put in place to help protect our widows. It is also to help create awareness for the public to realise that the underprivileged widows and their children in the society need help and we must be deliberate to take action and look out for them, lend them the voice and cater for their needs.
“Secondly, the walk is to raise funds for the foundation. Those who are willing, capable and can afford it donate towards the work of the foundation and the net proceeds are ploughed back into foundation’s five-point agenda, which are: women empowerment/capacity building, health intervention, nutrition, quality basic education and self-employment scheme.
“We believe that every step counts! Every step you take brings us closer to offering hope to underprivileged widows and their children.
“CBA Foundation is dedicated to promoting the protection of widows primarily and their vulnerable children in Nigeria, to promote immediate and lasting hope, confidence and courage in their lives.”
A participant at the event, Bridget Oyefeso-Odusami also lent her voice to helping the underprivileged widows and spoke of her joy seeing the CBA Foundation put smiles on the faces of windows across the country.
“Widows need to have a voice, the hopeless need to be given hope, orphan children need to be given a kind of support in all areas of life and CBA foundation does extremely well in this regards, I am really proud of them. I am also very proud of their consistency, come rain come sunshine this event must hold, I was very tired, but when I saw the reminder I said I must be attend.”
In the financial circle where Heritage Bank operates, cities are like women. While the banks resort to desperate tactics like suitors to win cities perceived to be financially viable, others are left to cling to loneliness and self-help.
For this reason, bankers strain themselves to market their services in seemingly overbanked Abuja, Ibadan, Lagos, Kaduna, Kano, Port Harcourt and to an extent Asaba, Calabar, Onitsha, Owerri and Uyo, while residents in several other Nigerian cities travel several miles to access financial services.
Whereas the challenge resulting from these lopsided-banking services affects states across different parts of the country, it is more acute in the north, a region located several hundreds of miles away from Lagos, the country’s financial hub. The cold attitude of financial service providers to the economies of the affected states is both a cause and effect of the uneven economic development often blamed for the social unrest in the north especially.
Over the years, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has had to rely on moral suasion to encourage the profit-oriented banks to take financial services to the hinterlands as part of its effort to reduce the population of the unbanked. Still, the risk-averse banks have continued their historical scramble for cities that have demonstrated viability (in their books) while shunning the ones with huge but unexplored economic value.
It is also in line with this conventional thinking that the banks have focused on funding oil and gas projects and importation to the detriment of the real sector, a challenge often seen as a romance with the enemies. Indeed, importation, as realised lately, is the country’s frontline enemy in the battle for economic independence and wealth creation while the real sector chief of which is agriculture with allied industry holds the ace to the much desired industrial revolution. Many first and second-generation banks are yet to convince the country that they understand the relevance of this realisation to the country’s economic breakthrough, despite the effort made by the CBN to keep them in line.
A few banks, however, are beginning to blaze the trail for the long-awaited inclusive and developmental banking, taking into cognizance the economic potentials of the far-flung and neglected states. For one, the Heritage Bank Plc, African Export-Import Bank and Zamfara State Government $1billion memorandum of understanding (MoU) aimed at exploring the enormous potential in the state’s mining, agriculture and water resources is a fundamental shift the tradition of Nigerian banking services.
Zamfara is not known for a large ticket financial deal. Perhaps, the $1billion MoU is the largest deal it has entered into. So, it is an audacious initiative, which Heritage, a relatively new but highly innovative and daring bank, is part of. And the MoU is addressing the missing link in making a big deal out of the massive opportunities in the Zamfara mining and agriculture.
A quick review of the mineral deposit and recent mining activities of Zamfara is critical to appreciating this audacity. Gold mining in Zamfara is a source of income not only to residents of the state but also to thousands of individuals from neighbouring states such as Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi and Sokoto.
In the past 10 years, thousands of people have had to rely on the mining sites that dot different parts of the state for illegal gold exploration, using crude weapons.
And this has also fuelled the proliferation of banditry and gun-running activities in the state. In recent times, there have been reports of dozens of people killed, a reminiscence of the conflict in the Nigeria Delta over crude exploration. For many people, to or not to exploit the gold deposit is a major question Zamfara, the Federal Government and other stakeholders must answer going forward as the country cannot stand another resource-related conflict in the magnitude of the Niger Delta militancy.
In the wake of the killings in the gold mining sites, it was discovered that the government’s capacity to harvest the gains of the deposit discovered long before the discovery of oil and gas in Niger Delta was as weak as its ability to enforce compliance. Zamfara State Government, hitherto, could not marshal the needed resources to leverage the opportunities. No one sits on a gold deposit and remains poor. But Zamfara has remained a struggling state its rich gold deposits.
Besides mineral deposits, Zamfara is promising in agriculture, albeit most of the farmers still rely on old practices. The state government has reiterated its determination to provide the needed infrastructural supports to increase revolutionise farming and increase yield. The MoU is a bold step towards the birth of a new Zamfara.
Speaking during the signing of the MoU in Abuja, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo, said the collaboration among the institutions would promote and fast-track activities that would help Zamfara explore its untapped resources for the benefit of its people and the nation’s economy.
The initiative, he added, would help unlock massive opportunities inherent in solid minerals and support efforts on local content promotion, facilitate industrial development and export development. Sekibo, explaining Heritage Bank’s involvement in the partnership, said, “It is a game-changer that will drive formidable economic growth for the state government, serve as a backbone to the economy through job creation, as well a way of cushioning the present economic situation.”
With the MoU signing, Zamfara State Government has taken its destiny into hands in the context of Nigeria’s federal system. The state has shown every sign of a prosperous entity but hitherto lacking the capacity to weather the financial storm, provide the needed infrastructure to support private enterprise and contribute to the growth of the country’s economy.
“Farming is our pride,” says the state’s slogan. Perhaps, the vista will help the citizens extend their love for farming to mining and agro-businesses and convert the waste that has become the lot of the northern agricultural exploit into the wealth of the nation.
Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele said the various policies of the Federal Government will ultimately reduce unemployment in the country.
The apex bank governor who spoke to the press after the tour of the Refinery over weekend said the Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical Plant is expected to increase the number of employees from the present 34,000 to over 70,000 when it becomes operational.
In the same vein, Aliko Dangote, said he is on a mission to aggressively reduce the unemployment rate in the country.
Apart from job creation, the plant will also retain foreign exchange in Nigeria, as the country becomes self-sufficient in petroleum refining. “Besides, we are going to help in terms of not only creating jobs but also in reducing the outflow of foreign exchange not only in petroleum products but also in petrochemicals, and in fertilizers. We would be one of the highest foreign exchange generating company going forward”, Dangote added.
Dangote says its $2 billion Granulated Urea Fertiliser plant located at Ibeju Lekki, Lagos will begin operations in May.
He said the Fertiliser Plant would make Nigeria the only Urea exporting country in Sub-Saharan Africa, and biggest producer of polyethylene, which is capable of generating $2.5 billion annually.
He said: “Nigeria will soon become the biggest and only urea exporter in sub-Saharan Africa for the first time. And we are not only exporting, we would be exporting big time.
“We are also going to have polyethylene which is about 1.3 million tonnes annually. These two products would bring in something like about $2.5 billion annually in terms of foreign exchange. A lot of Forex would now come in and that $2.5 billion is only about 10 per cent of remittances.
Dangote said a pre-testing of the fertiliser plant has already began, adding that the project would be the largest fertiliser plant in the world with its three million tonnes per annum capacity.
According to him, the refinery project which is 48 per cent completed will make Nigeria the largest exporter of petroleum product in Africa.
He said the size of the project necessitated the need for the company to construct a jetty to take care of the over dimensional cargoes. “It is a huge project and that is why we have built a jetty and the pipeline through which we are bringing in the crude”, he said.
He said: ” One of the reasons the CBN is supporting us is that by the time we become operational, we will not only be creating jobs but we will reduce the outflow, of foreign exchange not only in petroleum products but in petrochemicals and fertilisers.
“We will be one of the highest foreign exchange generating companies going forward.
“I must really confess that without the government’s support there is no way we could have done what we have done so far.
“I think we must thank Mr President for his policies. I thank the CBN governor and management for bringing down interest rates to encourage more entrepreneurs to go into mega projects like this.
“We should not wait for foreign investors to come and develop our economy. It will never happen so we have to do it ourselves and the only way to do it is to take advantage of the low interest rates and the banks being forced to loan money out.”
On his part, the CBN governor commended the Dangote Group for its commitment towards bringing the project on stream as planned and expressed satisfaction with the facilities on site.
He said: “The reason that I am here today is to see what is going on on site.
“This time that the economy is going through its own challenges there is need for us to diversify the Nigerian economy from oil to other areas where we have abundant resources. ”
Emefiele said the fertiliser plant would stop importation of fertilisers as about 25 per cent of its products would be used for domestic consumption to boost agriculture in the country.
According to him, the plant will also generate a minimum of $750 million through export annually.
“The 650,000-bpd capacity refinery when operational will not only satisfy local consumption but will also position Nigeria as a major exporter of petroleum products.
“Nigeria is so central and this refinery will serve almost the whole of Africa which will lead to cheap cost of freight.
“This project is so strategically positioned that it will even make the final price of petroleum within Nigeria and even outside Nigeria to be lower than those imported outside the African continent.
“We need to encourage other Nigerians and we will keep saying this. Nigerians must stand tall and be ready to come out and support their country,” the CBN governor said.
He disclosed that apart from the low interest rate regime, the government was also putting other policies in place to rejuvenate industries and create employment opportunities for the citizenry.
“This is the time for other Nigerians who have been making money in services to come out and join Dangote to help us grow the economy because government alone cannot grow the economy
“We will want to support any Nigerian or foreigner who finds Nigeria as a good investment destination. Whatever we need to help you we will do it.
“That is why we are forcing the banks today that they must do what is right by lending to credible persons and act as catalyst to our economic development,” Emefiele said.
Segun Toriola has failed to qualify for an epic eighth participation at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Toriola, who partnered Olufunke Oshonaike in the mixed doubles event, lost to Egypt’s Omar Assar and Dina Meshref in the final of the qualifying event in Tunisia.
The Egyptian pair defeated the Nigerian duo 4-0 (11-6 11-6 11-6 11-2) to claim the only slot for the mixed doubles event.
The result meant Toriola will miss out on an eighth appearance at the Games, since 1992.
The 46-year-old holds the record of the first African to have featured in seven Olympics and was hopeful of an eighth participation in Tokyo.
Asked by ittf.com if he would attempt to qualify for the 2024 Olympics, Toriola answered in the negative.
“No. No. I won’t. That’s it for me, not anymore,” he said.
Meanwhile, Oshonaike and two other Nigerians —- Offiong Edem and Olajide Omotayo —- qualified on Friday for the Games in the singles event.
Oshonaike would be making history as the first African woman to participate in seven editions of the Olympics, while Omotayo would be making his debut at the Games.
Edem is also on the train to the Olympics, but Quadri Aruna could not push through the end of the qualifiers following a re-occurrence of a thigh injury.
Aruna, who is the world number 18-ranked player, is, however, likely to qualify through the rankings.