The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of First Bank Nigeria Limited, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, in this interview with THISDAY reviewed the performance of the global economy in 2022 and advised businesses and their bankers to approach 2023 with a partnership mindset to ensure that a win-win outcome is achieved despite the anticipated macroeconomic challenges. Excerpts:
What are your forecasts and anticipations for the global economy in 2023?
I would like to start by noting that 2022 was indeed a turbulent year for the global economy. In 2022, the global economy witnessed record high inflation rates with the attendant high cost of living across several economies. The elevated inflationary rates were attributed to the aftereffects of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the Russian-Ukraine crisis. In its last World Economic Outlook report, the IMF projected a 2.7 per cent global growth rate in 2023, lower than the 3.2 per cent in 2022. The 2023 projection will be the weakest global growth profile since 2001 except for the global financial crisis year and the acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. In my view, in 2023, we will likely witness slower growth across several global economies due to lingering trade tensions as the impact of the Russia-Ukraine crisis will still weigh heavily on global trade flows. However, we may witness a decline in commodity prices as more import-dependent countries explore alternative sourcing options for these commodities. Inflationary pressures will however reduce as the impact of rising monetary policy rates continues to yield expected outcomes. The removal of COVID-19 restrictions in China should lead to a boost in global economic output. Oil prices are expected to remain largely elevated as tensions between Russia and Ukraine lingers, so energy prices will remain high. The transition to other sustainable forms of energy may also be accelerated by the prolonged crisis.
Given the tepid growth associated with the global economy in 2022, developing countries have been having difficulties in refinancing their foreign debt, do you see a gloomy impact on the economies of the developing countries in 2023 as a result?
With slowing growth and elevated inflation rates, the sustainability of foreign debts, especially for developing nations, is likely to call for a re-evaluation by lenders given the increased likelihood of default. When this is juxtaposed with the higher interest rate environment at which these debts are likely to be refinanced, you will observe a scenario where further strain is exerted on the debt repayment capacity of these economies. However, this situation does not necessarily translate to an automatic economic doom for developing nations. The actual impact on each developing economy will depend on the economy’s level of fiscal discipline and revenue generating capacity. Developing nations who are able, in the short term, to increase revenues either from taxes or sale/refinancing of idle/sub-optimal assets will be able to negotiate reasonable refinancing terms from lenders and prevent further economic turmoil. Nonetheless, all concerned nations need to take the issue of debt sustainability more seriously by limiting fiscal wastages, reducing inefficiencies, growing revenues, and aggressively working down unsustainable debt-to-GDP levels that may worsen the impacts of external shocks.
Do you think that the corporate default and NPL would increase in 2023 due to the current economic headwinds?
Expectedly, rising cost of debt and contracting demand will exacerbate the challenges that businesses will face in 2023, particularly for players operating in small-margins sectors of the economy. Locally, the surging inflation rate is sure to reduce disposable income of most consumers and demand for non-essential goods and services may dip. To prevent rising non-performing loans (NPLs), businesses and their bankers will have to collaborate more and ensure timely flow of information to prevent surprises. Banks on their part will have to improve monitoring of their loan portfolio to quickly identify early warning signals for attention before a full-scale loan deterioration. Overall, businesses and their bankers must approach 2023 with a partnership mindset to ensure that a win-win outcome is achieved despite the anticipated macroeconomic challenges.
With the tightening financial conditions which has partly led to slow global economic growth, what opportunities do you think exist in 2023 for players in the financial services industry?
Despite the expected macroeconomic challenges in 2023, there are also emerging business and revenue opportunities that can be exploited by discerning players in the financial services industry. Specifically, the following areas will provide significant opportunity to players in the financial services industry:
Payments: The Central Bank of Nigeria’s renewed drive on cashless policy has provided an opportunity for players in the financial services industry to enhance existing digital product offerings and create more attractive product offerings that will further reduce frictions in the payment process. This will help to reduce the financial exclusion gap, increase fees and commissions revenues, and improve overall viability and stability of the financial system.
Digital Security: Increasing adoption of digital payments platforms will necessitate increased requirement for the security of payment channels. Thus, opportunities exist for players in the financial services industry to leverage robotics and artificial intelligence to improve security protocols on digital payment channels.
M & A Opportunities: with the anticipated pressures on earnings, opportunities exist for big and liquid players to gain additional scale and market share through outright acquisition of fringe players with the right strategic fit. There is also an opportunity for two or more small and/or medium size players to merge their operations/businesses to obtain scale advantage.
Partnerships across Segments: The growing number of Fintechs and licensed Payment Service Banks also presents an opportunity for improved partnerships across various categories of players in the financial services industry for both mutual and industry-wide benefits.
Consumer Lending: Tightening financial conditions of the average household will create opportunities for consumer loans in several variants such as buy-now-pay-later (BNPL), salary advance, consumer asset finance, etc. The industry is already witnessing a rising trend in the creation of digital consumer loan product offerings. This is likely to intensify in 2023.
What are the key events that will shape 2023 domestic economic outlook and how strategically positioned is FirstBank to manage the challenges and opportunities?
Three key events will shape the 2023 macroeconomic outlook of Nigeria: The outcome of the 2023 general elections and peaceful political power transition; government’s ability to curb crude oil theft and increase production to meet OPEC quota; and successful removal of petrol subsidy. For us at FirstBank, we are strategically positioned to take advantage of and harness the opportunities that the three key events will bring as well as successfully ride the waves of any challenges that may arise. For over 128 years, FirstBank has built the capabilities and competencies required to succeed and thrive in any macroeconomic situation. As a Bank, our belief and commitment to the domestic economy is unwavering – FirstBank is truly woven into the fabric of the society.
How will you define the trends we saw in the banking sector landscape in 2022?
2022 was quite an eventful year and some visible trends emerged. I would like to classify the trends as follows:
Financial System Trends: The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) raised the monetary policy rate and the cash reserve ratio, cumulatively, by 500 basis points to 16.5 per cent and 32.5 per cent, respectively as a way of enforcing liquidity tightening measures to curb rising inflation. In the same vein, the interest rate on savings accounts was restored to the pre-pandemic levels of 30% of MPR within the year thereby increasing the interest expense profile of banks. In addition, the paucity of foreign exchange exerted considerable pressure on banks’ foreign currency (FCY) trade lines in the course of the year, forcing banks to explore alternative ways to meet customers’ foreign currency needs, including deliberate focus on supporting and promoting non-oil export businesses and transactions.
Technological Trends: The banking sector witnessed an increase in technological innovations, as the industry strived to meet the ever-evolving customer needs. In Nigeria, FirstBank was at the forefront of the technological trend, as we successfully launched a Digital Experience Center, a fully automated branch to meet our customer needs, while providing a unique and wholesome experience. FirstBank also launched robotics process automation initiative, FirstRobotics, that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to handle high volume transactions The industry also witnessed increasing collaboration of banks and fintechs in 2022; enhanced digital product offerings, especially the rise in digital loans and advances; and an overall increase in acceptance of digital product offerings by banks and other financial services players.
Customer Trends: In 2022, we witnessed an increasing shift in emphasis from consumer banking to lifestyle banking in a bid to capture more of the customers’ journey. This shift has been hugely supported by technology as customer trends can now be easily identified, and new product offerings developed to meet customer needs. The emigration trend witnessed in the past year also led to a boost in the industry’s diaspora customer base, leading to increased focus on meeting the needs of this peculiar customer segment.
Employee Trends: The banking industry, probably like any other industry in Nigeria, has seen significant attrition in the number of employees due to increased relocation to other countries (popularly known as Japa) in 2022. This has impacted the industry’s skill base and execution capabilities especially in critical areas of the industry. While this may be a national challenge, more creative ways must be explored to retain scarce talents for national development.
The Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Government have set a target of 95 per cent financial inclusion by 2024, how realistic is this target and what role will First Bank be playing to support the government achieve this target?
Financial inclusion is usually seen as the gateway to economic prosperity as it signals the first step in the journey to financial freedom. In 2012, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had unveiled its National Financial Inclusion Strategy with the principal goal of reducing the nation’s financial exclusion rate to 20 per cent of the adult population by 2020. Although this goal was not achieved (as financial exclusion rate stood at 35.9 per cent at the end of that period), the nation had nonetheless made giant strides in raising financial inclusion levels from that take-off point. As such, while the CBN’s revised target of 95 per cent financial inclusion rate by 2024 may be audacious, it is achievable given the level of financial awareness that has already been created in previous years which has raised financial literacy among the average citizenry. In addition, in view of the additional investments and infrastructural base that is available in the country, more mileage can be made now than ever before. It should also be noted that the Central Bank of Nigeria has been deliberate in pursuing its financial inclusion agenda through the licensing of several players/operators in the financial services industry, including fintechs, mobile money operators, Payment Service Banks (PSBs), Microfinance Banks/institutions, new deposit money banks (DMBs), etc. As such, several players are making various attempts at solving the same problem which will significantly increase the likelihood of success. As the foremost financial institution in Nigeria, FirstBank has always collaborated with the Central Bank and the Nigerian government to push several national initiatives, particularly as it relates to the financial services industry. Specifically, FirstBank’s Firstmonie Agent Network is fully aligned with improving financial inclusion in Nigeria. With over 196,000 agents spread across 772 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Nigeria and many of the agents operating from 512 LGAs without a FirstBank branch, the Bank has been a clear partner to the Central Bank of Nigeria in improving financial inclusion in the country. FirstBank’s USSD (*894#) product, which is demographically positioned for the unbanked, has over 14 million users with more than 261 million unique transactions, worth over NGN1.1 trillion processed on the platform. FirstBank has been at the forefront of increasing financial inclusion in Nigeria and will continue to play its part until every adult in Nigeria is adequately banked.
What is your take on two recent policies of the CBN – the naira redesign and the cash withdrawal limits?
The CBN as the apex regulator of the financial services industry has overall responsibility to ensure the soundness of the nation’s financial systems. In discharging this responsibility, it develops policies that are meant to strengthen the monetary environment and stimulate further economic development of the country – the recent naira redesign and cash withdrawal limits policies are part of its core mandate. As noted by the CBN, the naira redesign will improve both the integrity of the local legal tender and the efficiency of its supply, thus addressing a situation where 80 per cent of currency in circulation is outside the banking system. To aid its implementation, the CBN has also suspended charges on cash deposits to encourage everyone to deposit old naira notes in the Banks. The new N200, N500 & N1000 notes which came into circulation on 15th December 2022 will co-exist with the old notes until 31st January 2023 when the old notes will cease to be legal tender in Nigeria.
Similarly, the cash withdrawal policy which will limit weekly cash withdrawals by individuals and companies to N500,000.00 and N5,000,000.00 respectively, is expected to accelerate Nigeria’s transition to a digital economy. The policy which comes into effect from January 9, 2023, will present the added advantage of bringing more people into the banking system thus improving financial inclusion. At FirstBank, we view both policies as business enablers with bright prospects and we are poised to take maximum advantage of the opportunities they bring to improve our service offerings and the overall experience of our customers.
FirstBank has a lot of Firstmonie agents scattered around the country, how will the cash withdrawal limit affect their operations?
As at November 2022, FirstBank has over 196,000 Firstmonie agents spread across 772 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Nigeria. These agents have also processed over 1.16 billion transactions valued at N26.52 trillion. About 45 per cent of our Firstmonie Agent network are in rural areas, 18 per cent located in semi-urban areas and only 37 per cent are in urban areas. Beyond Cash-in-Cash-Out (CICO) transactions, these agents also render other services such as account opening, airtime purchase, bill payment, government-revenue collection, transfer and disbursement, mobile-money (wallet creations, deposits, withdrawals), bank verification number (BVN) enrollment and other non-bank ecosystem value-added support services, in line with CBN’s guideline for Mobile Money and Agent Banking businesses. These services have helped to bring banking services closer to local communities thereby empowering them and facilitating their economic development. Through Firstmonie, FirstBank provides convenient low-cost financial access for millions of Nigerians in rural areas. Therefore, given the spread of our agent banking network and the scope of services they offer, the cash withdrawal limit is not likely to have an adverse effect on their operations. In reality, we see it as an enabler that will bring more people into the banking system. The new cash withdrawal limit will help to drive the penetration and uptake of digital/mobile wallet offerings in the industry.
FBN Holdings doubled its Q3 2022 profit to N105 billion and the performance by the bank was the major contributor, can you take us through the drivers of the impressive Q3 result?
FirstBank’s Q3 2022 results reflect the robustness of our business model and go-to market approach even in a challenging business and operating environment. The impressive profitability performance was driven by the resilient execution of our strategy and transformation program. Specifically, FirstBank delivered a 42.4 per cent year-on-year (yoy) increase in interest income on the back of yield optimisation on existing assets and addition of about N700 billion to the risk asset portfolio. Also, the bank recorded a decent 6.8 per cent growth in fees and commission within the period driven by significant improvements in LC commissions, account maintenance charges etc. The bank also recorded over 47 per cent y-o-y increase in other operating income within the same period. Overall, I would say that the results are a clear outcome of the collective efforts and resilience of the entire staff and the Board of Directors of the FirstBank Group in deliberately executing on our transformation agenda. We remain confident that our growth trajectory is sustainable, and we are focused on delivering on our 2020 – 2024 strategic ambition of accelerated growth in profitability through customer-led innovation and disciplined execution.
What is the level of non-performing loans and what has the bank been doing to reduce it?
FirstBank Group has achieved great strides in reducing its NPL from double-digit in 2016 to below regulatory benchmark of five per cent in Q3 2022, which attest to the fact that the bank is strong and resilient. FirstBank has, in the recent years, built an enduring risk culture and governance systems, as well as strengthened its risk management infrastructure through technology, process automation and specialised training.
Few years ago, FirstBank embarked on a business expansion drive within the continent, can you take us through the performance of your subsidiaries in the continent?
FirstBank embarked on its African expansion in 2011. Today, the Bank is present in six other African markets namely: Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Guinea. As part the 2020 – 2024 strategic plan, FirstBank refreshed its vision to be “Africa’s Bank of First Choice” to serve as an anchor for its renewed African expansion drive. As such, the Bank is exploring entry into additional high-impact African markets. While the growth journey of each African subsidiary is different, we are extremely proud of the investments that we have made in these markets and the positive contributions we are beginning to see from each subsidiary. Overall, I would like to note that all our African subsidiaries are making positive contributions to the Group in terms of profitability.
How is the bank positioning to take advantage of the AfCFTA?
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement has created the largest free trade area in the world (measured by the number of participating countries) as it involves most of the 55-member countries of the African Union with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion and connects 1.3 billion people across the continent. According to the World Bank, the AfCFTA has the potentials to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty and raise the incomes of 68 million others who live on less than $5.50 per day. It also has the potentials to drive $292 billion in income gains for participating members. FirstBank is already actively playing in seven African countries with plans to enter additional high-impact African markets in the short to medium term. The bank has also institutionalised a collaboration framework across all operating jurisdictions to ensure clients operating in multiple African jurisdictions can be effectively served across the network. The bank has developed special products (known as First Global Transfer) to facilitate regional payments for our pan-African clients in addition to our online and digital platforms. On the part of the customers, FirstBank has conducted several non-oil export seminars to raise awareness levels on the opportunities presented by AfCFTA and equip our clients with the right knowledge to exploit these opportunities. As a bank, we view AfCFTA as an enabler of our corporate vision and we will continue to ensure the right investments are made to capture the opportunities it presents.
Your UK subsidiary recently marked its 40th anniversary, what was the journey like in that 40 years and looking ahead, what should customers be expecting from FirstBank in UK?
FirstBank’s foray into the United Kingdom (UK) forty years ago is a clear demonstration of uncommon foresight by the leadership of the Bank. Given the burgeoning trade relations between Nigeria and the then European Union (which included the UK) and the growing status of London as a leading global financial center, the decision to establish a subsidiary of FirstBank in the UK could not have been better made. Since commencement of operations in the UK, FBNBank UK has provided a bridge for Nigerian firms with interests in the UK to achieve their financial goals and meet their banking needs. FBNBank UK has provided trade and correspondent banking relationships that have facilitated the achievements of several Nigerian and indeed other African entities’ trade objectives. This is in addition to offering other services such as advisory, mortgage and investment products to its clientele base. FBNBank UK has also provided access to foreign capital markets to African firms and countries to raise much-needed capital that have contributed to the economic transformation of the African continent. As we look to the future, customers of FBNBank UK can be assured of the same excellent services they have become accustomed to with more innovative products that will help them solve their emerging needs.
We saw the licencing of a few banks in 2022 and the industry becoming more competitive, why should your customers continue to bank with FirstBank?
Indeed, the industry has changed and will continue to evolve at a faster pace with the competitive landscape becoming more challenging because of the inter-play of several actors – new banks, fintechs, etc. However, customers will continue to gravitate towards institutions that provide the best digital banking services that address their changing needs for convenience, speed, and security. With over 128 years’ experience in this market, we believe that FirstBank is well positioned to continue to delivery excellent customer experience and thrive. Our customers can bank on our commitment to continuously re-invent our processes and products to meet both their present and future financial needs. The bank will intensify ongoing efforts to simplify banking for every customer segment leveraging cutting-edge digital capabilities and platforms that make banking more seamless. Combining our deep local knowledge of this market with our unmatched physical presence, FirstBank customers will always have an edge over their competitors. Our rich bouquet of products and service offerings also guarantees there will always be the right product for every customer, with each customer interaction constantly made better through data-driven insights. Our “You First” brand promise to our customers is a commitment that will always keep us on our toes until every customer’s financial needs are excellently satisfied. Overall, to the customers, we commit to provide the best value proposition and deliver exceptional customer experience.
FirstBank has made good progress in positively impacting the communities where it operates. Can you speak about some of these?
At FirstBank, we are committed to nation-building and have been driving sustainable social, economic and environmental growth for over 128 years of our existence. Our community development initiatives are anchored on our strategic Education, Health and Welfare pillars. Our engagement in sustainable business practices is based on our promise of enhancing social and economic development as well as contributing to environmental sustainability for the present and future generation.
Our key programmes include Infrastructure Development programme; Endowment programme; Future First (Financial Literacy, Entrepreneurship and Career Counseling); E-Learning Initiative; SPARK (Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness) and CRS Week. First Bank Infrastructural Development programme is aimed at promoting infrastructure development under its identified areas of support. This includes providing infrastructure facilities in schools, hospitals and environmental infrastructure projects. This is in recognition of the importance of these facilities in improving the quality of life. We have built over 16 infrastructure projects which include universities and secondary and primary schools. The FutureFirst programme in partnership with Junior Achievement Nigeria has impacted Over 1,000,000 people across the regions of the country including Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja with knowledge of financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Over 175,000 students have benefitted from the E-learning initiative thus far. This include 20,000 indigent students that have received free low-end devices preloaded with accredited content. SPARK which was introduced in the maiden edition of the Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability (CR&S) week in 2017 espouses reigniting our values which appear to be eroding fast.
The initiative focuses on creating and reinforcing an attitude of going beyond just meeting the material needs of people who are unable to help themselves to showing compassion, empathy, affection. In 2022, over 8 million people were impacted including students underprivileged including widows in 8 countries including United Kingdom, Ghana, DRC, Guinea, Sierra Lone, Senegal & Nigeria. We had partnerships with over 100 Charities / NGOs including LEAP Africa; International Women Society; UNGC; UN Women; Junior Achievement Nigeria. In addition, one of our long-term approaches to sustainability includes minimising the bank’s direct and indirect impact on the environment. So, beyond our education and health interventions, the bank has been employing international best practices tools to manage risks in the lending process in accordance with our subsisting Environmental Social and Governance Management System. Over N6.2 trillion worth of transactions were screened for ESG risks. We are partnering at the moment with the National Conservation Foundation on the Green Recovery Nigeria (GRN), as part of the Bank’s climate initiative which includes driving afforestation and reforestation.
‘Yoruba Nation Agitator, Chief Sunday Adeyemo Igboho Has No Power’-Prophet Ezekiel Odedoyin
Prophet Ezekiel Odedoyin is the general overseer of Christ for All Souls Ministry. Ever since he accepted the calling, God has used him to set the captive free, make the blind see and also to become a blessing to the needy. In this interview, he revealed his life experience, how he was called and some of the challenges.
As the brain behind Christ for All Soul Ministry, can you briefly tell us about you and how the ministry started?
I want to give grace and honour unto the name of the Lord. I am not the brain behind this ministry. I want to give honour to the Almighty God, the owner of this ministry. He is the owner. I want to appreciate him for choosing a mere servant like me. I was just a mere man I never thought of being a Pastor. I never in my life thought of becoming a Pastor. There was a day I had a dream and I met an old man that told me that he wanted to send me an errand, and he said those people, the so-called Pastors have disappointed him. They have honoured themselves instead of him. He said that I should go and preach about his own name. As He was following me, I was speedily moving but he was moving on the air, he wasn’t using his feet to run, he was moving on the air and I laid down, he stretches his hand forth and the fire from the heaven come upon me and ever since then I began to speak in tongues, I began to perform signs and wonders. When the power came and before then I had a revelation where I saw an angel that said he wanted to take me to a place, he said he wanted to show me something. There was a gathering of Pastors, there were many. I saw a beast, when I saw the beast, it was coming one on one and they were killing the beast, the Pastors were killing the beast and I was giving kudos to them. The angel told me to be silent and I remained silent. Later I saw them in multitude, they were many, and when they were coming out, they were tearing them (the Pastors) apart, they were killing all the Pastors and I was baffled and I asked, what is happening? They were killing the pastors, I said God can you save them and he told me that look at them, look at the so-called Pastors they don’t have power. He said you will now go back to the world, go and tell the world that these people don’t have power, they should go and ask for the power to overcome the devil. Power that scatters the gathering of the devil because many of my servants are turning back, they did not look for me. He gave me such a revelation, he now told me that I will send you an errand. You will have to kick against false revelations, false doctrine, you have to tell them to preach about me, to speak about me, and I woke up, I never thought of becoming a Pastor, ever since then when I lay hands upon someone they will begin to speak in tongues, the blind will gain their sight, and the dead will receive the spirit of the living, so many things.
Can you share some of your experience in the cause of ministry?
Let me talk about a few of it. There was a day they brought someone to us on the mountain, she couldn’t walk, they have put incision on his body, they have taken her to several places and when they brought her the Lord told me that look at her, I have healed her and I told her mother, do you believe that God has healed your daughter? I also ask, can you give your life to Jesus? Because the one that called me said the power I gave to you, you have to preach about my name, whenever you want to deliver the people tell them that I am a God of white calling. That was how he appeared to me, as a God of white calling. He said I am the one that created everything and I sent Christ Jesus, you don’t have any other way except through Jesus Christ. He appeared to me on several occasions, and I said in the name of Jesus Christ your daughter stood up and started walking, as I lifted her up, she started walking and people were amazed. He told me that I have just started, on another occasion they brought someone from Ile-Oluji side, he is a young guy of age 30 upward, immediately he graduated and he was about to be deployed to NYSC camp, he ran mad. He has been suffering from chronic madness for more than eight years. They have taken him to several places. When they brought him, they said there was a particular Pastor in our area who had been collecting money without any improvement. I pray for him and I said in the name of Jesus Christ let the spirit of madness leave. Immediately he gained his senses. When they got home, they said whenever he wanted to eat before he could eat a pot of food he would still be demanding for more, and he would not talk but after the deliverance he regained his senses and he could not eat anymore, he started eating small portions of food. I said there was a spirit that was eating through him. Also, there was an occasion where we went for a crusade in Ido Ibadan. There is a popular woman called Bose, she ran mad, it will be 25years of madness, when we were inviting people for the crusade, we met her. She sat beside a big church, a popular one, the Lord told me to look at her, I have healed her, and I moved close to her and I said in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord said He has healed you. You, the spirit of insanity leave. I prayed for her and she said where am I? We are praying for her; she is still in Modakeke now with our area Pastor. On another occasion, a situation happens. One of our members has a son and the son died. They brought him to the mountain dead, he became black, when he died the body changed, when they brought him, the Lord said to me that this work that I have done, then I said in the name of Jesus Christ let the spirit of living enter him. He woke up, the same thing applicable to someone called Bola, I was going to the mountain when I met a corpse, they covered her eyes with a cloth, when I got there, I discovered that she has been dead, they were crying and I asked why, and a prophecy came out, the Lord said ask them whether they believe I can do it. I directed the question to them, the Lord said do you believe that I can do it. And they said if the Lord does it, we will be able to worship him, and I said bring her, when they brought her, I started praying, it is on our page, you will see part of it. I said in the name of Jesus Christ let the spirit of the living come upon her, and it came. Let me talk about two or three, there was someone that had breast cancer, she was rejected from the hospital, the hospital said they should be treating her that she is going to die. I said we normally use the blood of Jesus Christ and I prayed over the water, I said I turn this water to the blood of Jesus Christ. After praying over it I poured the water on her and then the cancer disappeared. We cannot talk about those who have been waiting for the fruit of the womb for long, other miracles such as the kidney transplant, those that their heart has spoilt.
When God called you, did you answer immediately or you faced some challenges before accepting God’s calling?
Let me start by saying this, actually I have been seeing traces that the Lord wants to use me but I am a kind of person who doesn’t like Pastor’s work.
What were you doing before you were called?
I am a graduate of two schools but I don’t like to mention them. I like to talk about Christ, I read Economics during my university days in OAU. I wanted to travel; I was like an agent who processed traveling for people. I do it for people and I have an office where I am doing this. I have secretaries etc.
Are you from Osun state?
I am from Jerusalem because I belong to everybody now. I am from Jerusalem, raised in Nigeria, Yoruba to be precise.
You don’t want people to know your place of birth?
I can only say my parents come from Modakeke (the parents that born me from the flesh).
Before you answer the call, what are the challenges you face?
There was a day when I was in Osogbo, I just discovered that I had a blurred eye, I could not see anything and I do not know what happened. When I started praying, I had a revelation. The Lord told me that I should go to some places. On getting there, I found out it was a teaching hospital, I met a group of people who identified themselves as Corper (NYSC Corp Member). I couldn’t see and they recommended a drug for me. I returned, bought the drug, used it and went back to the Doctor. I couldn’t find the person, the hospital said they couldn’t see the traces of him. I regained my sight later on. I normally see Jesus Christ appear to me in the dream. There was a day I was sleeping when I saw someone come, I could hear people calling Rabbi, Master and he was calling them Peter, Andrew, Matthew. I didn’t know the meaning of Rabbi because I am less concerned about that, I was praying that I want to travel out and you are revealing a revelation about Rabbi or what’s the name. I said I am not interested in that, I slept in my room and the spirit woke me up that I should go outside. I went and sat on a chair, when someone we have stayed together with before came with a cutlass, he wanted to behead me. He had checked me in my room and he couldn’t find me there and he met me outside. As he was about to use the cutlass to behead me, I held the cutlass, it cut my hand and the blood was gushing out. I was rushed to the hospital and I was rejected when we got there. Later one of the hospitals admitted me. They did everything but my hands were not working, when I discovered that I could not use it for anything I was contemplating surgery. I went back to seven days Adventist, they said they would have to work on it but they told me that it is 50-50, that they are not sure, because they have not done such a thing before. I said no problem and Jesus Christ appeared to me that I need not to be worried that the operation would be successful. And then I said let me try OAU teaching hospital, as a federal hospital they should be able to have the required equipment. When I got there, when they saw it, they carried out some tests at their teaching hospital, I told them I could not bend my hands. They also said it is a 50-50 chance, I was asked if I still want them to go ahead with it. I said there is no problem, Christ appeared to me, He said I should not worry, He urged me to go ahead, and I went for that surgery. When I went for it, it lasted for 7 hours, it started by 7, it was around six o clock before they could complete the surgery. Later on, after I woke up, I went to them, they later told me that you have to do amendment surgery because we were unable to finish it, and we only worked on one part, we were unable to finish it, so they put some certain things inside and I was like you said you would finish it why would you put something in my hand. I later realized they said they have never done it before, they want to use me for practice, I carried out the surgery, after three months, I went back they did it, I was able to still bend it but during that time, it was then I started to know that it was God that was calling me. He has been revealing more revelations to me, I started reading the Bible, and in my office, everything started burning, at that time. I processed my Canada Visa, I wanted to travel out, I was also processing for someone as well, they gave him the confirmation letter, he traveled, I was expecting mine since I processed it together, and I had a revelation that you are going nowhere because you have to work for me. They rejected it, I even tried USA because I have someone there. He invited me and I said I will go there, I had an interview by 12pm, I got there around 2 o clock, it was a busy schedule, an incident happened before the interview that I cannot be explaining, I had a revelation also and I saw an old man that came to me, he said look at this Moron, I looked at him and he said this is the person that will reject you, the person will nullify your applications because I don’t want you to go. When I woke up, I started praying, I started canceling the vision, praying against it. When I got there, they interviewed me, I saw the woman and he said this is the woman I showed to you. I saw that she is one of the white women in the Lagos Embassy. I saw the same people I saw in my dream, funny enough, I implicated people after me because they rejected every one of them. She directed a question to me; can we meet you? I introduced myself, she asked, what do you do for a living, I responded, what do you want to do over there? I asked her to repeat herself. And she repeated it, as I answered the question, he just gave me a rejection letter. And I was like cursing her, I was like I will curse, and then the spirit came to me, he said don’t curse her, I used her. I felt somehow. I felt dejected and I returned home. While going home I faced some challenges, my cloth got torn, I was going back to Osun state, I needed to sleep in Ibadan, when I got home I went to the mountain to pray continuously, seeking for God’s face, it was there the man appeared to me that I have been calling you I want to send you an errand, and he revealed a revelation to me, many revelations, sent me to the people, later I now discovered that he sent me to several people, several Prophets, and I said if I had travel to USA I could have been an unprofitable child of God because of many revelations given to me.
You’re known as a travel agent who has had a sports view center, and suddenly they started seeing you as pastor, how was the reaction of people and family members?
Actually, I face a few challenges but I don’t refer to them as challenges. It is just a way to succeed. Before I had certain gifts in me, even right from my secondary days, I used to dream, see revelations etc. Then I didn’t value it. Before then those people knew me as someone who opened a betting center, there were many people that knew me, they knew me as a teacher because I worked as an Educationist, when the incident happened the power came naturally, the power was there but I didn’t know how to use it. But when the power came, I was singing, clapping when the spirit of the Lord came upon me, I began to speak in tongues, prophesy, when I lay hands on people they began to prophesy, they receive healing, the leper was healed and other notable miracles took place. I delivered messages for people, some people kicked against it that this cannot be the power of the Lord but when the spirit came upon me, he said I should go out and challenge every other power, that was how I moved to the market, kicked against their power saying that there is no power in the world, if you have power shoot arrow, we went to the market places, idol places, shrines etc, I challenged their power, preached against the doctrine. Many revelations were revealed to me about top pastors like Orimolade, past leaders, present leaders etc. I received many revelations. There was a problem, they ganged up against us, they used Police money but the Lord was on my side before we got to the Police station the Lord would have been there. They paid DPO, the Lord would hijack the mind of DPO for us, and then in the family, my father is an elder in one church. He is a spirit-filled man but not as filled as I expected because he was like someone who is afraid. When the Lord gave me a message, I used to share it with him for ideas but I received no knowledge from anybody. I normally see some strange creatures like Angel, like the old man I spoke about, the man with white-gray hair, you can hardly see his face, he will be talking to me, he will be telling me what to do, if you are explaining something to me about dream, he will take me to your dream, and I will know the dream you are having, I will see everything, when I reveal a revelation to my father, he said this revelation is strong, please don’t curse people, because then if there would be rain and I said Lord there won’t be rain the rain will stop. There was a time we went for a crusade in Ile-Ife and there was a certain set of people who referred to themselves as Ogboni confraternity, and they said we are kicking against them, there is no Ogboni confraternity, there is no witches, there is no devil, in fact there is no fetish, if you have anything challenge me, if you have listened to our interview you could have seen it, when I came to LTV, I said it that if there is anyone who has power he/she should shoot an arrow, that I present my body to the whole world let them shoot an arrow because my Master the one who owns the calling told me that there is no power in heaven and earth except the power of God. That was why I challenged them. My father didn’t instantly accept it, he was like I should be bending it a little bit so that I should not deliver the message. I should let God send those people, and I narrated a scenario to him. I told him that you are my father in this world, if you send me an errand and I tell you to send another person, how would you feel? Not to talk about the creator, the one who owns me before you, so I faced little challenges there, but people quickly come back when they see the natural power of God. We preached the true gospel. We challenged the Obas, I delivered many messages to the Obas. To the traditional rulers, to the Pastors, we touch every ramification of life, because the God of white calling has perfected His work already.
Thank God you said the God of white calling, we have Orthodox, Pentecostal, where do you belong?
I belong to God the creator, the one that created heaven and the earth, when we say God of white calling, He is God without blemish, that is God that created everything. When you talk about Pentecostal, nowadays they are different, we deliver messages to them. Many of them now focus on worldly things. They want to achieve many things; they want to be where God does not put them. They have gone astray. The creator of heaven and earth came to me and said you are going to go against false doctrine. He said they are proclaiming themselves; they do not proclaim me (God). He said kick against anybody, we should not use any other name except the name of Jesus as it has been written in the book of Philippian chapter 2 vs 9, that we all shall exhaust him, and that as we mention the name of the Lord every knee shall bow. When he told me he said look at those people, we are different from Celestial, this white garment only Pastor wears in our church, you can see the way we sew it. It is very different, we have our own doctrine, he gave us the commandment, in our church. There are some certain things you should not do, there are certain things you must do. Soul winning is the work he gave to us, he said when you deliver them, introduce me to them, any member of this calling is assigned some certain gifts by the Lord, you can heal, you can pray for the people, you can challenge witches, it is for every member once you join the ministry. When I say we have our own doctrine, in this calling you should not commit adultery, if you commit adultery the angel of God will come to you and suspend you, and you will be punished, that’s all. No matter how big you are, we have some certain Pastors in our church before you have been seeing them as a Pastor but they have been suspended. When you see Pastors that leave our church they have been suspended because they cannot go with the law given to us by Christ himself which states that you should not lie, when you refer to yourself as a Pastor and you are committing adultery. Recently, a case happened, a Pastor slept with a church member, we suspended him, and he left the church, immediately you are suspended the angel of the Lord will appear to you and withdraw the gifts given to you, in our church you should not speak when the Lord is not speaking, we center on the voice of the Lord, if the Lord call me home now, the church doesn’t belong to me, my family will not inherit anything from the church. I am a Pastor but I didn’t collect a kobo from the church but we have those who are collecting money, we have many of us who work part-time, it is the Lord that is paying me, and I am paying my tithe but the Lord has a way of doing it for me, you should not speak when the Lord is not speaking, and when the Lord sends you an errand you must be able to know that the Lord of white calling is with you. He will always go after you, that is the difference between us, we can go to the market, we can challenge witches, the devil, go anywhere and say there is no other power except the power of the Lord.
How would you describe your life before the calling and after the calling?
What I can only say is that the one you know before has died for a long. When I became a Pastor, many of my friends ran away because I will introduce Christ to you. I was wayward then, I was a rapist, I was a fornicator before, right from childhood I detest drinking, it was when I got to higher institution before I started womanizing. I didn’t like it before, I was involved in examination malpractices because I will write exams for people. I do such a thing before to make ends meet, but when I met Christ, I became another thing. The difference is clear, I could not challenge the witches then, I cannot speak anything about Christ, I cannot even speak to you, I was a cool-headed guy then but now I have become another thing, I have become what Christ want me to become, then I like ladies before, I used to womanize, I need money then but now God is doing everything for me. I focus on Christ only. You are my friend if you give your life to Jesus Christ, that is the only friend I have, even though there are some certain sets of people when we started this ministry I delivered a message about Moses Orimolade, the message didn’t go well with them, they ganged up, prayed against me that the Lord should kill me, they were 100 Prophets then because one of them came out to confess. When they were praying against me an old man appeared to them, he scattered them and one of them came to confess. When we were in Modakeke then there was a Chief hunter called Oluode by name, he wanted to establish a church there, and we rented an apartment with the intention of launching a church there, we never knew that they were worshiping devil there, I mean gods of iron, they will pour oil. he will face the church and be shooting gun there, I went there to meet the Pastor, when I met them, he was saying he will reveal to us that he is an herbalist. I told him that the God of white calling is more powerful, and I said let the god of white calling appear to him, and he will prove to you that he is the God of white calling. And the Lord cleared both of them within a few times. So many people like that calling my name and the Lord will appear to them, then I do not have such a power, no one confronted me before, I have a new life now I preach to the people. I became a father to people, even to my colleague, to the elders. I became a father to them because I have someone who is dwelling in me. Let me share a revelation of how the Lord appeared to me. I slept and I dreamt that there were shouting and there was a messenger from heaven that appeared. I saw some ministers, and I was like how could the messenger of the Lord appear without informing me. I was saying it in the dream that I am a President, they were supposed to have informed me, and I was running to the place, when I got there, I met millions of Pastors, I couldn’t count them, I looked up to see a giant man. If they merge every one of us who are there together compared to the man, we cannot reach half of the man. I looked at him and said are you the one they referred to as a messenger of God? He didn’t answer, I said if truly you are the messenger of God sent to this world and I didn’t know you showed up, tell me what is happening in heavenly kingdom? He didn’t answer me, and he stood up, and came down, what baffled me was that when he stepped on the ground everywhere was shaking, it looked as if there was going to be an earthquake because he will be digging the ground, as he was coming, he was using his back hand to shake the so-called Pastors. Many of them were using the back hand to shake themselves. I was like what is this type of greeting, I said this is occult greeting, and I wanted to leave the place when I saw him, he was giving them herbs, teaching them how to use it, I said you are not an angel of God, and I was going when two people that were like angel although not too tall, both stood before me and didn’t allow me to go, I said let me go, they said I will not go, I said what is the matter? What have I done? They said I have offended their master, and I asked, who is your master? They said I should look back, when I looked back, I saw the former one that I saw before. I looked at him and asked, in what way have I offended you? He said I am giving the glory meant for him to another person, I asked who are you? Are you Jesus Christ of Nazareth? Were you the one killed on the cross? He said he will prove it to me, then I said Jesus, they said stop, don’t mention that name here, they were closing their ears, they didn’t want to hear the name. I said allow me to go, as I called the presence of the creators, fire came down and they disappeared, and the Lord told me that’s how many people got their power. The angels of darkness appeared to be the angels of God. They gave me revelations that made me different, before something happens the Lord will show me. He will reveal many things to me. I hear from the Lord through my ears, see through my eyes, and I used various channels to connect to God.
God’s work also needs funding, how do you source funds?
I want to thank God. Out of the doctrine given to us there is a particular one that says we should not do fundraising. We should not force people and in the church if you want to contribute there is a box for you to drop money, you should not show-off, if you are doing something, you are doing it for God not me. It is God that has been backing us. God is so merciful, let me share a scenario with you. Before I answered the question properly, when I got to the ministry there was nothing, everything was scattered, I went to the mountain and I was praying that Lord I want to eat and there is nothing to eat, and he said he will provide for me. There was a time someone called me, he is very close to me, then I received authority, I didn’t know how to use it, when you call me, I say Lord declare money into his account, that was what I used to do until the Lord revealed some certain revelations to me. Someone called me from Ilorin, many do call like that and I will say the Lord should declare money into their accounts and it will be so. I was just using the power anyhow. The man called and I said I am a student, and I said may the Lord surprise you, money should go into your account, a lot of people were giving me money, a day comes when someone called me, he said Pastor please pray for me that the Lord will increase my work, he said he needed money, and I said father in Jesus name, Lord declare, and immediately the Lord opened my eyes, I saw him using black soap to bath, I asked him what do you do for a living, he said yahoo yahoo (internet fraud), I said you are doing yahoo and you have the guts to call me, and I said your life will spoil, he said that’s how Pastors used to do. They call them, and they get prayers, I said I am different, there are many things you can do and God will enrich you. He enriched those doing legit business, emulated them, when the ministry began the Lord started to bless certain people and they started coming in. Those that the Lord ministers to show up to bless the church voluntarily. Nobody forces them. recall the creator said we should not collect a kobo, if I pray for you now and you want to give me something I will not collect it. You can only do it when the Lord blesses you. And after he ministers to you to go and bless me. The Lord has been increasing us, people come from different places to enrich the purse of the church, we also have those working among us.
Everybody is complaining about Nigeria, the President, do you foresee anything good for Nigeria especially in 2023. Did God tell you anything about the state of the nation?
I want to say this we have released so many revelations because part of this ministry is based on prophecy, if you have been following us you will see that we release messages, prophecies etc. Nigeria is a great country, to be precise, God knows about that but the forefathers of this country had a covenant with the devil, majority of those who have been leading seek and collect from the devil and devil need to take something in return. That is what we don’t know. Majority of them came to power by quick win, by shedding blood, they killed many people, and they need to give back to where they took from, before Buhari came to power, I released a message between Buhari and his opponent, God didn’t choose anyone of them, and I said your leaders will choose for you. Irrespective of anyone that wins Nigerians should expect sufferings, that was what the Lord told me, and we released it then, later on we prayed to God and the Lord said, they need to move closer to him, but our leaders don’t know God, if you want God to intervene you call him, Nigeria will be great again, we spoke about this country being divided and I said it is not yet time, many will die in the process of dividing the nation, the Lord said they will use their blood for sacrifice because it is not yet time for this country to be divided, the Lord is still going to avenge the death of many people, many of the Activist would be killed, locked up while some would survived, we have released the prophecy before, many are fight for the cause while some are fighting for their purse, we released the message 2020 which says that there would be calamities, various diseases, sicknesses would showed up, the prophecy is in two phases, first, the Lord said he will bless those who run after him, he is going to reward many, there are lot of calamities in the world, most politicians would be removed throughout the federation.
Will Tinubu be the next President in 2023?
I will answer the question in two phases because of what the Lord reveals to me, talking about the antecedent of Tinubu, the Lord can never choose him. Though the Lord loves him. He is beloved, the Lord wants to use him but he failed God. If Tinubu can amend the Lord can still use him because we cannot predict God, Tinubu has dined and wine with those who are not in line with God but there is still going to be a riot in Tinubu’s camp, it now depends, if he moves to God and surrenders everything to him, and desist from bad plan, Tinubu has an evil agenda, if he can forgo that agenda, God is ready to use him but if still has that in the plan he will not be picked, the Lord has revealed many revelations to me concerning Tinubu. I released part and I kept part, many of those seeking for leadership posts will not see the light of the day. Many will be locked up, many will die, some calamities will happen to some certain set of people. There will still be famine.
Your father is from Modakeke and it was believed that they have charm, even Yoruba activist, Sunday Igboho boasts about it, many will think you also got your power from there?
Sunday Igboho cannot dare go into the market and challenge witches because he got his power from them. Sunday Igboho has no power. I went to some radio stations and I said there is no power in Yoruba land, and if they have power let them challenge me spiritually. There was a time I said many of the so-called Activists would be arrested, that was when they arrested Sunday Igboho. These Activists do not believe in Christ Jesus, they believe in black power. He said he can command a gun, that is not power because there are some certain sets of people who do it for him. I went to Modakeke Palace to deliver the message to them, when the former Oba was there. The Lord sent me there, the Lord said he wanted to kill many people and he is starting from the Palace. I delivered it to them, unfortunately the King said let the Lord kill whosoever he wants to kill. He never knew that the Lord would start from him. I went to the crusade in Modakeke town, we held a crusade and the Lord said I have appointed a new Oba, I declared and said, hearken to this voice, the Lord said I have given you a new Oba in this town, on the second day they brought him out and said he is still alive, before that month ran to an end he died. They invited me to come and swear that I didn’t kill him. I told them you cannot kill an elephant and remove the teeth and afterwards put it on the ground and ask me to swear. I said if an elephant is alive you will be able to remove the teeth, of course not. When you are now talking about Sunday Igboho, you only need to pray for him, if you want to kill him compare him to Christ Jesus, he is just a mere human being. Sunday Igboho is sent by God but he needs to bow down to Christ Jesus, don’t compare him with an anointed man of God even if it is little.
You have not mentioned your mother, tell your relationship with your mother since the calling?
As for my mother, I am not from Modakeke. I am from Jerusalem, Jesus is my creator but my canal parents are from Modakeke. My two parents are still alive.
How is your mother relating to you?
She used to call me the Prophet and a man of God.
What is the relationship between you and your mother?
We have a cordial relationship but not like before. We normally call. As regard to what you said, when the Lord gave me the power, he said I should not prostrate to anyone, it is not that the power will disappear if I do so, I am not myself again, Christ dwells in me, two things might happen if I prostrate to anyone, the person might die, secondly, the person will not prosper again because he or she has seen the glory of God, when I had such revelation I started avoiding my father then, he said he knew that there is no problem with that, when I wanted to marry, I didn’t prostrate to my in-laws. I stood tall, I told them the Lord said I should not prostrate to anyone. We have a cordial relationship.
ADEDUNTAN: FIRSTBANK IS RESILIENT, STABLE AND BUILT FOR THE LONG HAUL
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of First Bank Nigeria Limited, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, last year saw his tenure extended as part of efforts to ensure the stability of the financial institution. In this interview with THISDAY, he speaks about the intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the future of the bank, trends that shaped the economy in 2021, his expectations for 2022 and other pertinent banking sector issues. Excerpts…
What is the level of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s involvement in First Bank?
The central bank’s involvement in FirstBank is essentially about playing the role of the regulator. CBN’s intervention has been in the best interest of the bank’s stakeholders and its performance; aimed at restoring confidence in the bank as well as to reassure the depositors, creditors and other stakeholders of the bank of its commitment to ensuring the stability of the financial system.
Your third quarter results saw a decline in some of the key indicators such as gross earnings, profit before tax and profit after tax, what was responsible for this?
The Commercial Banking reported a resilient performance resulting in a Profit before Tax of N44.3billion for the nine months period ended September 30, 2021. This result was delivered in a sustained low yield environment, which continues to compress margins as the macro-economic environment remained challenging amidst the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
FirstBank’s focus on putting the customers first continues to be a driving force as we keep supporting our customers in meeting their business needs. The evidence of this support is reflected in the 24.1% y-t-d growth in the loan book, underpinned by solid risk management practices and from which sustainable good quality earnings are being delivered as asset quality remains firmly under control. Furthermore, in our concerted efforts at sustaining our dominance in financial inclusion and digital banking, we continue to record growths in our agent banking business, supporting the 17.5 per cent growth in non-interest income.
We remain determined to continue strengthening our capabilities across our footprints, as we are confident that our investment in technology and the strong balance sheet, which the Group has built over the last six years, will provide the solid platform for more impressive results into the future.
The CBN recently introduced the eNaira, what has been the acceptance rate by FirstBank’s customers, and do you think this will positively impact your bank?
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as the regulator of the banking industry continues to lead and drive development in the industry. In the banking industry, digital currency is the future and the CBN is staying ahead of the curve in Africa with the introduction of the eNaira given the several benefits associated with the digital currency, such as safety, speed, and convenience. A review of the events over the course of the past few years has shown that digitalisation in its different forms has been net positive for the financial services industry.
The eNaira is no different; the digitalisation of the naira expands upon Nigeria’s already advanced payment ecosystem; the roadmap for the eNaira over the next couple of months will reveal some exciting use cases that will further grow the ecosystem and encourage even more interaction with this new form of currency. Currently we have a whole segment of digitally curious customers who have started interacting with the eNaira, and as the eNaira ecosystem grows and acceptance increases as a store and exchange of value, so will those numbers.
FirstBank’s channels currently account for about 17 per cent of the total reported eNaira transaction volume. The bank is dependably dynamic and continues to be at the vanguard of innovation in the banking industry. Overall, I am confident that the eNaira will positively impact the bank as our customers continue to transact through the bank’s channels, supporting the digital economy drive. The number of customers will increase as the eNaira will enable the sign-on of excluded people in the financial system, thereby supporting the financial inclusion drive of the CBN. The eNaira will reduce the cost of processing cash for the bank, thereby making it a cheaper, reliable and faster way of exchange and the bank will have access to customers across the continents, simplifying and facilitating cross border payments and trade.
What’s opinion about the CBN’s FX and what long-term impacts will it have on the exchange rate and has your bank been able to meet the demands of customer?
The main objectives of exchange rate policy in Nigeria are to preserve the value of the domestic currency, maintain a favorable external reserves position and ensure external balance without compromising the need for internal balance and the overall goal of macroeconomic stability. The new CBN’s foreign exchange (FX) policy is geared towards harmonising the FX rates across the various markets and increasing the availability of FX to those who genuinely need it and not for those who are speculators or those who deliberately try to distort the market. The current FX policy of the CBN has recorded some successes in improving the availability of FX for transactions and curbing the incessant decline of the naira exchange rate in the parallel markets.
The current policy is expected to strengthen the naira exchange rate, however, there are several other factors that are critical to the movement of the exchange rate, predominantly oil prices and capital inflows. If these factors continue to trend positively, then we can expect a relative stability of naira relative to other international currencies. I believe the long-term impact will be the relative stability of the naira, as the CBN continues to meet all legitimate needs, increasing the confidence of the people and sending the right signaling effect to foreign investors. Typically, FirstBank engages the regulators, providing all the necessary foreign exchange bid documentations and following defined processes to ensure that our customers’ bids are successful, and we get as much allocation as possible for all our needy customers.
How prepared do you think banks are for Basel III?
The Basel III accord was developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) and is built upon the frameworks of the existing Basel II accord, with the aim of strengthening regulation, supervision, and risk management within the banking industry, globally. Due to the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis on banks, it became imperative for the current frameworks under Basel II to be revised to improve the ability of banks to handle shocks from financial stress and to strengthen their transparency and disclosure. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on September 2, 2021, issued a circular to all banks in Nigeria titled Basel III Implementation by all Deposit Money Banks. The circular aims to inform all banks of the issuance of guidelines for the implementation of the Basel III standard which is a voluntary global regulatory framework that addresses banks’ capital adequacy, stress testing, and market liquidity risk.
Basel III standard will prevent banks from taking excessive risks that can negatively impact the players and the economy. Implementation of Basel III will have significant implications for capital requirement – there will be a higher minimum CAR requirement for players in the industry. However, the apex bank has engaged and defined a road map to ensure that operators in the banking industry meet and surpass the higher capital requirements. The Basel III will be implemented in phases and banks have developed their capital plan to ensure they meet and surpass the higher capital and liquidity requirements for the Basel III implementation. Many banks have revamped their operational and credit risk infrastructure to mitigate operational and credit risk losses. The effect is already being seen in the general decline in the industry’s non-performing loan portfolio. The successful implementation of the Basel III frameworks would be beneficial to the banking industry and the economy at large.
Do you think it would spur more mergers and acquisitions in year 2022?
The Basel III standard implementation by the Central Bank of Nigeria is aimed at decreasing the risk of the financial services sector. The main aim of Basel III is to improve financial stability – the standard is set to increase the soundness of Nigeria’s financial services sector and the confidence of the people in the financial system. The implementation is expected to impact banks’ capital adequacy by raising liquidity and lowering bank leverage. Analysts believe that the implementation of Basel III would increase the capital requirement of Systemic Important Banks (SIB) in Nigeria to 17 per cent from 15 per cent but, most banks in Nigeria are well-capitalised and are expected to increase capital buffer that can be drawn upon in periods of stress. However, despite being well-capitalised, the implementation of Basel III would reduce the capital headroom of operators and banks would have to resort to various strategies to strengthen their capital positions to drive credit and business growth. These strategies may include mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as Basel III policy implementation takes effect to strengthen their capital positions as the policy requires higher capital requirements/enhanced capital cushions. Nonetheless, I believe Nigerian banks are well-positioned to withstand regulatory headwinds whilst driving growth.
How would you assess your bank’s performance through the pandemic?
The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted several sectors of the economy, the banking industry was one of the most impacted given the critical role that banks play in the economy and across all sectors. However, FirstBank navigated the pandemic crisis successfully and recorded the best financial performance since 2015 in the 2020 financial year. FirstBank delivered a strong performance both on the financial and non-financial front underpinned by resiliency, digital innovation and customer centricity. On financial performance, despite the pandemic, the bank recorded significant growth in its revenue base, profitability and asset. Revenue and Profitability Performance: In the context of the pandemic, FirstBank Group delivered strong financial results, generating gross revenue of N539 billion for the year ended 31 December 2020. The Group’s non-interest income grew impressively by 24 per cent between 2019 and 2020, closing at N154.5 billion for the year ending 31 December 2020.
The non-interest income growth was propelled by transactional and eBusiness income and credit related fees. In 2020, FirstBank Group delivered its most profitable year since 2015. The Group’s profit before tax increased from N70.8 billion for the year ended 31 December 2019 to N73.6 billion for the year ended 31 December 2020, resulting in a year-on-year profitability growth of 4 percent between 2019 and 2020. Strong Asset Growth and Stable Funding Base: FirstBank Group experienced solid total asset growth of 25.5 per cent to N7.4 trillion as at December 31st, 2020 (2019: N5.9 trillion). The Group continues to maintain a strong liquidity and capital position driven by its high volume of customer deposits held in low-cost current and savings accounts, which amounted to over 75 percent of the Bank’s customer deposit base as at 31 December 2020.
Renewed emphasis by the Group in improving the service performance level in the retail segment, expanding digital touchpoints and repurposing of its branch network have resulted in 20.5 per cent increase in deposits to N4.7 trillion as at December 31st, 2020 (2019: N3.9 trillion); a reflection of our strong franchise value which has come to be associated with safety, stability and innovation. Through the bank’s extensive physical footprint and expanding agent banking network and digital banking capabilities, the Group continues to reach an increasing number of customers, which drives customer deposits in low-cost current and savings accounts that serve as an important funding base. On non-financial performance, the bank’s non-financial performance across disruptive innovation and customer focus lens has been impressive. Some of the milestones achieved during the pandemic was us launching the pioneer FastTrack ATM in Africa offering customers a touchless solution for ATM transactions and enabling customers to pre-order cash on ATMs via the bank’s USSD or mobile banking platforms.
We unveiled FirstBank’s Virtual Payment Card, a digital representation of the naira-denominated plastic debit card, launched the Firstmonie Agent Credit, a digital lending solution designed to provide bridge finance to help our Agents solve liquidity challenges, leveraged technology to promote digital account opening process through the Digital Sales Executive App, ATMs, Firstmonie Agents, *894# USSD banking, FirstMobile and Company website. Also, we upgraded the Bank’s mobile banking application, FirstMobile, with new and improved features to promote a convenient and secured mobile banking experience for customers, rolled out FirstBank Digital Innovation Lab’s proprietary developed Mobile Banking App for our wholly owned subsidiary FBNBank Senegal, Increased customer account base (including wallets) to over 30 million.
Maintained the dominant digital bank rating in Nigeria with over 20 per cent market share of electronic banking transaction volumes, about 16 million users on our digital banking platforms (USSD *894#, FirstMobile and FirstOnline) and over 11 million card users. Expanded the Agent Banking network to over 86,500 agents across 772 out of 774 local governments in Nigeria and paid out over N18 billion as commissions to Firstmonie Agents.Reinforced the Bank’s financial inclusion drive with the disbursement of over N22 billion and N35 billion in loans through FirstAdvance and Agent Credit digital platforms, respectively. Provided free e-learning solutions in partnership with Roducate, IBM and the Lagos State Government, thereby helping to reduce the negative impact of school closure following the COVID-19 pandemic on students in Lagos State. Additionally, the bank, in partnership with Junior Achievement, positively impacted over one million students through its financial literacy, entrepreneurship and career counselling programs and Improved customer ranking in the Wholesale Banking segment by four places in 2020.
What are your expectations and forecast for the economy in 2022?
Globally and in Nigeria, economic recovery was strong in 2021 following improved vaccination exercise, and support from monetary and fiscal authorities for demand. However, I believe 2022 will witness slower pace in economic growth over lingering health crisis (the fourth wave of the covid-19 pandemic with the omicron variant) and rising price levels globally. Also, the boost from base effects and reopening of the economy will decline in 2022. Locally I expect economic growth to improve slightly; however, the following trends are expected in 2022 are disinflationary trend to continue in 2022 but inflation would still bite harder although potential PMS subsidy removal is the most consequential known factor that could push inflation to its worst-case estimates in 2022. Higher taxes may take the center stage as the federal government explores all options to cover for burgeoning budget deficit. Potential improvement in fiscal metrics given the bullish sentiment in the international oil market and savings potential from the PMS subsidy removal.
Capital importation may improve as foreign portfolio investments, diaspora remittances and other sources of inflow witness gradual growth following global economic recovery and increased employment for Nigerians in diaspora. Monetary policy measures may normalise in 2022 with the Central Bank of Nigeria maintaining an accommodative stand. Economic growth in 2022 is projected to be with the range of 2.7 per cent and three per cent. However, the key activities to look out for in 2022 include electioneering, the penultimate year before the next general elections, increase in taxes, buoyant oil market, PMS subsidy removal, and exchange rate policy of the CBN.
With the recent push to increase lending by CBN, don’t you think this would impact or drive up your bank’s NPLs?
The Central Bank of Nigeria had in recent times taken some tough decisions to address the challenges affecting the growth of the real sector and the Nigerian economy. This includes ensuring that banks comply with the minimum 65 per cent loan to deposit ratio (LDR). This increased lending by CBN has proved potent in filling the financing gap as credit to private sector has indeed risen to an appreciable level. Although there is a concern that this push to increase lending by CBN would drive up bank’s non-performing loans (NPLs), a report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) noted that despite the increase in LDR there is an inverse proportionate reduction in non-performing loans. FirstBank has achieved great strides in reducing its NPL from double-digit in 2016 to single digit in 2021 which attest to the fact that the bank is strong and resilient.
I am happy to note that the recent drive to increase lending will not affect the bank’s NPLs negatively as the bank has instituted a robust and automated operational and credit risk management processes and infrastructure. FirstBank has in the recent years built an enduring risk culture and governance system, strengthened the risk infrastructure through specialised training, digitalisation credit processes and imbibe disciplined and active portfolio management approach thereby ensuring strict regulatory compliance. FirstBank will continue to support CBN’s lending initiative to achieving strong economic growth and diversification as the bank is well positioned to maintain good asset quality and profitable credit portfolio.
With the emergence of PSBs and telcos granted licences, how much would that deepen financial inclusion and do you see this competing with banks’ agency banking?
The introduction of Payment Service Banks (PSBs) is another step taken by the CBN in line with its goal of promoting financial inclusion and enhancing access to financial services for the unbanked, underbanked, and underserved segments of the population across all parts of the country. The entrance of the PSBs will certainly deepen financial inclusion. It will impact the financial services landscape to the extent that the Telcos will be able to leverage their extensive infrastructure to offer last-mile delivery of financial solutions to those currently unbanked. Today, we have 70 million Nigerians that have been issued the National Identity Number.
About 20 percent of this number are currently unbanked, and they can more easily be reached. The expected impact will ride on the back of synergy and collaborations across the industry. And this is what we are already seeing. For us at FirstBank, the development is not a threat, we see it more as an opportunity. You will agree that for an institution like ours that has been around and flourishing for over 127 years, our ability to read and effectively respond to market trends has been well proven. What we have done with our agent banking is to build a platform that could be leveraged to enrich customer offerings in diverse ways. We do not just possess spread, we possess depth. So, leveraging technology and open API, we are poised to work with the PSBs to deliver value to the banking public and citizenry.
Still on agency banking, can you give us an update on the expansion of your bank’s agency banking and the impact it had especially during the lockdown?
FirstBank’s agent banking, Firstmonie, has witnessed continuous growth since its launch. The Firstmonie agent network operates in 772 of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria and is the largest bank-led network in Nigeria, and indeed Sub-Saharan Africa, with over 150,000 agents including over 22,000 women agents, enabling the Bank to drive gender inclusive growth within rural communities. The Firstmonie network has processed over N17 trillion ($39.3 billion) in over 817 million transactions between 2018 and December 2021. The Firstmonie initiative has been a very formidable vehicle for job creation and economic development in several communities across the country, as over 150,000 direct jobs and 450,000 indirect jobs have been created, with an agent earning an average monthly commission/income of N85,000. Over 1.5 million individuals have been economically impacted through the jobs created via FirstBank’s Firstmonie agent banking proposition. A significant percentage of Firstmonie’s agents are in the rural areas, contributing significantly to the development of the rural economy in Nigeria.
Overall, FirstBank is supporting the social-economic development of Nigeria in a profitable way. During the peak of the lockdown, the Firstmonie network provided an alternative channel for the Bank’s customers to conduct transactions and meet their basic financial service needs, serving as quasi-physical touchpoints for the bank’s customers. This resulted in the Firstmonie network processing over N6.6 trillion worth of transactions during the period We are not resting on our oars and the growth in 2021 is equally impressive; as at Q3 2021, we had processed more value of transactions than we did in the whole of 2020. The outlook for 2022 and beyond is also quite exciting. We will continue to focus on impacting the lives of the communities we serve and deepening the services we offer through collaborations with partners, the regulatory authorities, other industry players, and our customers.
Your tenure as CEO was last year renewed, can you speak on your achievements and milestones thus far?
I was appointed Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director of this iconic institution – FirstBank of Nigeria Limited in January 2016. The board and management team embarked on a transformation journey with deliberate and focused extraordinary actions to rescue and gradually rebuild the bank. Fast forward, the rebuild effort of the last five-plus years has translated to significant outcomes across key indicators of business momentum and growth. Some of the achievements and milestones include: Grew the bank’s average assets to N8.2 trillion as at Q3, 2021 from N3.9 trillion as at December 2015, increased Group deposits base to N5.1 trillion in Q3, 2021 from N2.9 trillion as at December 2015.
FirstBank grew the Bank’s profit before tax to N52.7 billion in Q3, 2021 from N10.2 billion as at December 2015, reduced the Bank’s NPL ratio from double-digit in 2016 to single digit in 2021 (vintage NPL is <1%). Reduced cost of risk to <2% as at Q3 2021 from double digit in 2016, transformed and repositioned international subsidiaries businesses for improved performance – all are returning positive profitability, upgraded the core banking platform (Finacle Future Ready – FFR) with improved processing capacity and availability + better integration agility. Built an industry leading digital banking (electronic banking) business. Made significant progress in transaction banking – controlling 26 per cent of industry corporate e-bills payment market share. Also, during my tenure, the FastTrack ATM was Launched in Africa offering customers a touchless solution for ATM transactions and enabling customers to pre-order cash on ATMs via the Bank’s USSD or mobile banking platforms.Unveiled the FirstBank Virtual Payment Card, a digital representation of the naira-denominated plastic debit card. Launched the Firstmonie Agent Credit, a digital lending solution designed to provide bridge finance to help our Agents solve liquidity challenges.
Leveraged technology to promote digital account opening process through the ATMs, Firstmonie Agents, *894# USSD banking, FirstMobile and Company website. Upgraded the Bank’s mobile banking application, FirstMobile, with new and improved features to promote a convenient and secured mobile banking experience for customers. Rolled out FirstBank Digital Innovation Lab’s proprietary developed Mobile Banking App LitApp. Others are increased customer account base (including wallets) to over 34 million. Maintained the dominant digital bank rating in Nigeria with over 20% market share of electronic banking transaction volumes, about 16 million users on our digital banking platforms (USSD *894#, FirstMobile and FirstOnline) and over 11 million card users.
Build a ubiquitous and robust Agent Banking network across 772 out of 774 local governments in Nigeria with over 150,000 agents. During my tenure, the Bank’s outstanding services have attracted numerous recognitions and awards. In 2021, FirstBank was named “Best Private Bank in Nigeria” and “Best Consumer Digital Bank in Nigeria” by Global Finance; “Most Innovative Banking Application – Nigeria, 2021” and “Best CSR Bank – Nigeria, 2021” by Global Banking and Finance Awards; “Most Innovative Banking Product 2021” by International Finance Awards; as well as “Treasury and Global Markets Brand of the Year 2021” and “Alternative Delivery Channel of the Year” by BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards 2021.
For six consecutive years, FirstBank was named, “Most Valuable Bank Brand in Nigeria,” by the globally renowned The Banker Magazine of the Financial Times Group and “Best Retail Bank in Nigeria” eight times in a row by The Asian Banker Awards. We are grateful for accolades and achievements which attest to our exceptional commitment to promoting national, regional and global economic growth and development through constructive engagements with the public and private sectors of various economies, and our host communities across the globe.
What should your customers and shareholders expect from your bank in the near future?
The industry has changed and will continue to evolve at a faster pace with new innovative technologies, and the customers will continue to gravitate towards institutions that provide the best digital payments services that address their changing needs for convenience, speed and security.
FirstBank will remain at the cutting edge of innovation and technology in the industry. FirstBank has the right capabilities and competencies to lead and take advantage of the new developments in the digital payment space, and indeed, the banking industry. At FirstBank, we will continue focus on customer-led innovation as we put our customers first in everything we do.
We understand that although the needs of customers may remain the same, the channel of delivery remains dynamic, and we must stay ahead of the curve; Our stakeholders should expect to see a bank that is future-proof and ready to provide best-in-class products and services that will meet and surpass their needs.
FirstBank remains dependably dynamic and will ensure that the needs of all stakeholders are met to the customers, we will provide the best products and deliver exceptional customer experience, to the shareholders, capital appreciation and good dividend payout,to employees, competitive emolument and good career path, to regulators, voluntary compliance to all rules and regulations and to communities, we will be good corporate citizens and give back to the society where we operate.
Tell us about some of the impact of FirstBank on the communities where it operates?
At FirstBank, we are committed to nation-building and have been driving sustainable social, economic and environmental growth for over 127 years of our existence. Our community development initiatives are anchored on our strategic Education, Health and Welfare pillars. Our engagement in sustainable business practices is based on our promise of enhancing economic development and ensuring economic stability for the present and future generation. Our key programmes include Infrastructure Development programme; Endowment programme; Future First (Financial Literacy, Entrepreneurship and Career Counseling); E-Learning Initiative; SPARK (Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness) and CRS Week. I will highlight achievements for a few. First Bank Infrastructural Development programme is aimed at promoting infrastructure development under its identified areas of support.
This includes providing infrastructure facilities in schools, hospitals and environmental infrastructure projects. This is in recognition of the importance of these facilities in improving the quality of life. We have built over 16 infrastructure projects which include universities and secondary and primary schools and recently commissioned a Primary Health Centre in Ijedodo Community in partnership with Lagos State Government. The FutureFirst programme in partnership with Junior Achievement Nigeria has impacted Over 1,000,000 people across the regions of the country including Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja with knowledge of financial literacy and entrepreneurship.
Over 170,000 students have benefitted from the E-learning initiative thus far. This include 20,000 indigent students that have received free low-end devices preloaded with accredited content.
The Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Week (CR&S) Week which started in 2017 is a dedicated week designed to offer opportunities for employees to give their time and resources to defined causes in line with the Bank’s CR&S strategic approach. The Week’s activities are an aspect of the Bank’s Employee Giving & Volunteering Programme, which was instituted with the aim of encouraging employees to give back to the community as well as inculcate in them the integral corporate culture of giving. The main initiative implemented during this week is SPARK.
SPARK is a values-based initiative designed to raise consciousness that we can choose to be kind. SPARK which was introduced in the maiden edition of the Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability (CR&S) week in 2017 espouses reigniting our values which appear to be eroding fast. The initiative focuses on creating and reinforcing an attitude of going beyond just meeting the material needs of people who are unable to help themselves to showing compassion, empathy, affection.
In 2021, the lives impacted include 60 Beneficiary schools; over 18,000 secondary students’ participants in SPARK launch; 20,000 underprivileged including widows lives touched in 8 countries including United Kingdom, Ghana, DRC, Guinea, Sierra Lone, Senegal & Nigeria. We had partnerships with over 100 Charities / NGOs including LEAP Africa; International Women Society; UNGC; UN Women; Junior Achievement Nigeria.
In addition, SPARK Amplification has expanded and deepened staff involvement within our various host communities by integrating and institutionalizing acts of random kindness, which has seen 7 Directorates & Departments in the Bank implement various initiatives including empowering small businesses; infrastructure and books for schools, and providing household items for orphanages. In 2021, staff contributions spent to implement SPARK amplification stands at N13,570,743.10 and a total of 9,706.5 volunteering hours.
When will the Elephant (FirstBank) stand ‘Gidigba’ again?
As I said earlier, the bank is consistently delivering a resilient performance within a challenging macro-economic environment amidst the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. I highlighted some key points as evidence in our commitment to and journey towards reclaiming our top position in the industry. These include firstly, our determined efforts at sustaining our dominance in financial inclusion and digital banking, reflecting growth in our agent banking business, supporting the 17.5 per cent growth in non-interest income. The second thing is our deliberate, planned and consistent efforts in putting the customer first as shown in the 24.1% y-t-d growth in the loan book, fortified by solid risk management practices and from which sustainable good quality earnings are being delivered as asset quality remains firmly under control.
And the confidence that our stakeholders including our customers repose in us is reflective in 10.3% y-t-d growth customers’ deposits. This is in addition to our constant investment in technology. We have always maintained that FirstBank is built to be resilient, stable and for the long-haul. And we remain committed to reinforcing our performance by the continued implementation of the Bank’s strategy, which is designed to deliver accelerated growth in profitability and overcome the possible challenges of the environment.
Culled from THISDAY
“Expect different film genres from me”- Akorede Alli
American trained filmmaker, Akorede Alli has said that his debut film ‘Ran Mi Lowo’ has the capacity to initiate global conversations among filmmakers. According to him, he is sure of this based on the energy and commitment put into the production.
Born to the Akinsemoyin royal family, Akorede Alli is one of Nigeria’s new actors, directors and filmmakers with international affiliations whose production outfit is set to release its debut Yoruba Language film, Ran Mi Lowo.
Read his thoughts on this exclusive interview with him.
Please introduce yourself to us and what you do for a living
Answer: I am Akorede Alli, I’m a film director, an Actor, a Producer, An Executive Producer and a business man.
How did acting start for you?
Acting started for me when I was a boy growing up in Chevron Estate Satellite Town, where they used to hold children acting programs and I was always chosen as the one to play lead.
How challenging has it been sustaining your interest in acting abroad?
It’s never a challenge because I love what I do, I learn a lot and get to meet new people on every set that I have been blessed to work on
Where did you grow up and Which schools did you attend?
I was born and raised in Lagos State Nigeria
I grew up in Chevron Estate Satellite Town.
I attended Kings High School Satellite Town
Pefti Film Institute Nigeria The School of Visual Art in New York City.
Do you have plans for a cinema project any time soon?
Absolutely. I have a couple of scripts I’m reading and am excited about them and when I feel that way about a script, that’s a good sign.
Nollywood has become the second-largest film industry in the world in terms of the number of movies produced. Do you think our industry can someday compete in terms of the quality of films produced?
Nollywood has already started making quality films, to be the largest film industry in the world.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, the people making those films you’re talking about worked their way up there, so for me, nothing is impossible.
Most film industries of the world have built infrastructure to an enviable level, yet Nigeria cannot even boast of a film village. Whose responsibility do you think this is, the government, the practitioners or independent investors?
That’s a good question. I think it’s everyone’s responsibility because at some point those bodies you mentioned benefit from the industry. If the notion of
“I am the only one doing great things” can be replaced with “Let’s come together to do great things” in people’s minds then those infrastructures can come to play.
Nollywood thrives on drama and many times we don’t explore too many diverse genres, can we expect some of these previously ignored genres from you, like fantasy, adventure, action…?
My new movie is a Thriller. So it’s safe to say. You can expect different genres from Akorede Alli.
Movies like Black Widow, No Time To Die suffered COVID-19 related delays and many other films like it took more than a year or two to make, yet we see some Nigerian movies shot, edited and released in the space of weeks. As a producer who has trained outside the shores of Nigeria and now operates in Nigeria, how long do you think it should take for a good movie to be produced?
There are stages to producing a quality film and all stages are very important and have their own time frame. Respect the craft. I’ve found that producers and investors often focus on profit over product and lose both in the process. A few years back, I walked away from investors because of their insistence on a quick turnaround and I patiently waited until I was able to executive produce my own film and could take the time necessary to produce a quality film
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