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How FirstBank Employees are Making a Difference in their Immediate Environments Through the SPARK Initiative

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Every other day, social media brings us a picture or video of a dilapidated school somewhere in Nigeria or shares images of a distraught widow, a struggling roadside trader or street hawker, or some other hapless victims of the extremely harsh realities of living in Nigeria. Immediately, as if on cue or automated, viewers launch into stinging attacks of government, public officials, the privileged class and even Nigeria itself. The attacking mob wastes no time in calling for the government’s head or the heads of public officials with responsibilities in the jurisdiction or sector where the unfortunate sights surfaced from.

 

 

The online mob seems unconcerned that while its eyes and ears, aided and locked in by the binoculars and headsets of social media, are completely focused on distressing situations it may not be able to help other than rant about, countless situations that it can help are calling for attention in its immediate neighbourhood every single day. Focusing on things so far away while ignoring or pretending not to see the things in one’s immediate vicinity is a human tendency which is well recognised. Journalists even have a term for a similar or related behaviour among their own. “Afghanistanism” is the tendency of the media to focus on news and happenings in remote places and other parts of the world to the exclusion or neglect of covering happenings and problems in the local environment of the media. It is like the psychological or emotional equivalent of the eye defect medical practitioners refer to as hyperopia or farsightedness. Sufferers can see objects that are far away but have difficulty focusing on objects that are up close.

 

 

By focusing on faraway objects people do not have to offer to give a helping hand but can offer their finger to point at others and their tongue to criticise and pontificate. Everyone can criticise and pontificate online or become an “e-warrior”, like Nigerians like to call it, fighting government and whoever and whatever in society they are unhappy with from the comfort and safety of their bedroom and behind their keyboard. It is the easiest of things to do but not the noblest or kindest. It is the well-trodden path but should never be confused with taking the high road in reaching out with compassion to people around whose lives and circumstances could do with some kindness.

 

 

Taking the high road rather than practising Afghanistanism or psychological hyperopia is the approach adopted by First Bank of Nigeria Limited, the premier bank in West Africa with its impact woven into the fabric of society. This approach has played an important role in sustaining FirstBank’s development-oriented services for over 127 years as the region’s foremost financial inclusion services provider. It has been a driving motivation for how the bank operates. FirstBank always considers the impact of all its operations and actions on customers and other stakeholders, including the environment, to ensure it is making a net positive difference in the end. And this orientation has attracted to the bank people who share a similar outlook – whether as employees, partners or other stakeholders. They look forward every year to an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the bank and make a net positive difference in their own immediate environments. These men and women do not pretend that they can solve or intervene in all the challenging situations confronting people in their immediate environments but they do not refrain whenever they can lend a helping hand and make a difference.

 

 

Through an Employee Giving and Volunteering programme employees of FirstBank find a ready platform to fully identify with the compassionate disposition of the bank, which further has a number of initiatives that enable employees to give expression to this identification. The Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness (SPARK) Initiative is but one such initiative. Aimed at expanding and deepening FirstBank’s involvement within the communities of its various stakeholders, SPARK seeks to do so by integrating and institutionalising random acts of kindness in society. Among employees SPARK has inspired and encouraged kindness and empathy as well as consideration for others. It has also contributed to employee bonding and teamwork, which have been critical to enhancing work performance.

 

 

This year’s implementation of the SPARK Initiative has seen employees under the banner of their various departments make choices regarding the specific nature of intervention they would want to undertake and the specific group of people or institutions within their immediate communities that they would want to extend the milk of human kindness to. Employees and their departments could choose any one of the four areas that constitute FirstBank’s corporate responsibility and sustainability (CR&S) pillars: Education, entrepreneurship, health and welfare, and environment. Under education, they have had a choice to make between support for infrastructural facilities in schools, such as renovation of dilapidated buildings, painting of school buildings, and provision of laptops and desktops; or donation of items such as classroom chairs and tables, books and stationaries; or provision of scholarships for best students, feeding of school students per day or week, funding of a school initiative such as JETS club, bootcamp, space club, etc. If employees and their departments were interested in supporting entrepreneurship, then they had the chance to empower through entrepreneurship programmes of their choosing such as sponsoring youth and women to acquire skills like fashion designing, baking, hairstyling, make-up artistry, electrical repairs, event decoration and planning, catering, etc., or enabling entrepreneurs with tools and equipment to work or supporting SMEs and start-ups.

 

 

Where the health and welfare area was their preferred area of intervention, employees and their departments could choose from: donations to orphanages (selected from an approved list of orphanages); support to a good cause, for example lending a helping hand to the Down Syndrome Foundation; support to widows; support to people with health-related issues; and off-setting medical bills. And if employees and their departments were to decide to go for the environment, then they could choose from: support to environmental issues, such as support to Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) initiatives; donation of garbage cans to a community; partnership with a recycling firm to recycle waste; support to LAWMA such as donating cleaning tools (brooms, dustbin parkers), etc.

 

 

While several departments in FirstBank did things worth showcasing so the good citizens of Nigeria (individual and corporate) can emulate, this piece has just enough space to accommodate the activities of only three departments: Human Capital Management and Development (HCMD), Compliance, and Marketing and Corporate Communications (M&CC) departments. The employees in these departments seemed involved in efforts to outdo each other in acts of kindness, which made more sense and would leave a real difference on the ground as against criticising and pontificating online on faraway issues.

 

 

The Human Capital Management and Development department decided that reaching out to one of the most vulnerable groups in Nigeria – underprivileged widows and their underfed children – was the best way they could stay true to the “Human” in their name. And employees in the department moved beyond their Marina location to the nearest environment where some of the most vulnerable widows are to be found to go show kindness. The Makoko community situated in Lagos Mainland and which CNN once described in a report as “Nigeria’s floating slum” was overwhelmed to receive the august visitors from HCMD bearing so much food stuff to benefit their widows and children. What they did not realise was the overwhelming sense of gratitude felt by their benefactors for the opportunity to be able to give back.

 

 

Tagged “Feed a Widow Initiative”, the undertaking was HCMD employees’ way of putting a smile back on the faces of widows in impoverished communities and they got more than they could ever have imagined. Their hosts received them with the broadest of smiles and said goodbye to them with the grandest of gratitude; and they left with very broad smiles on their own faces. The jury is still out on who between the hosts and their guests ended up with the broadest of smiles on the day. And given the “fierce contest” to outdo the other in smiling, one is again forced to wonder why people labelled e-warriors would choose to forfeit this kind of real joy for the joyless world they have locked themselves in by clinging on to Afghanistanism and psychological hyperopia.

 

 

Not so for employees in the Compliance department. Not to be outdone and, in fact, as though going up the hierarchy of human needs, Compliance employees decided that they would focus on the education need of their beneficiary community. HCMD had done an excellent job of providing the basic “stomach infrastructure” without which it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get any of the beneficiaries interested in any talk about more sublime matters like education and mental development. So, employees of Compliance department, in order to encourage pupils to continue their pursuit of education, procured Mathematics and English Language textbooks for 617 pupils who would be in senior secondary (SS) 1 and 2 classes of Gbara Community Secondary School in Jakande, Ajah in the next academic session. The visit to the school and book donation were undertaken when the pupils were in the third term preceding the new academic session.

 

 

The gesture was Compliance employees’ own way of giving back in such a manner as to relieve the pupils of this public school, particularly those from indigent homes, and their parents or guardians of the financial burden involved in providing textbooks for the two core subjects. It was also, in an uncanny way, an attempt by the employees to ensure the pupils were in full compliance with the requirements for taking on the two most important subjects in the secondary school curriculum, putting the pupils at a vantage position to excel in these two essential subjects. There were other benefits of the engagement that the employees noted. They observed that their presence in the school inspired the children, giving them “hope that a better life was within reach and could be achieved.” The employees thus expressed optimism that the engagement boosted the children’s interest in succeeding in life through the pursuit of education.

 

 

For employees of the Marketing and Corporate Communications department (M&CC), entrepreneurship was the area they decided to focus on, to make a difference in their own immediate environment. Every day they came to their office on Broad Street or the bank’s head office in Marina, they passed by a number of roadside traders around the various office buildings in the locations. They observed that some of these traders were exposed to the elements or having difficulties in their business and struggling to make ends meet, and decided that they would do something about it. And true to their word, they did something about it that made so much difference in the businesses and circumstances of the traders. They provided the traders the following: branded umbrella to offer shade from both sun and rain, improving the conditions under which they operated and their quality of life; branded chairs and tables to accommodate more customers in their corner as well as grants to boost their business capital.

 

 

Anyone who has met with employees in the corporate communications department of any major bank in Nigeria would readily admit that these professionals have among them some of the most skilful digital marketers around. So, it is not for lack of skills to be e-warriors that M&CC employees chose to extend the milk of human kindness flowing in them to roadside traders around their office rather than practise Afghanistanism. They could have chosen to concentrate all their time and resources on attacking the government online and blaming public officials for all the challenges in the economy and the spate of insecurity all over the nation and whatever else would make M&CC employees true champions of Afghanistanism and psychological hyperopia. But would that make any difference to the lot of the roadside traders around them and lessen their burden? So, M&CC employees chose the road less travelled but one that could deliver the desired impact, and it did.

 

 

There are so many lessons to draw and feelings to take away from the examples demonstrated by employees of these three departments in Nigeria’s foremost lender. Besides committing their time and resources to their chosen humanitarian initiatives using the platform of the SPARK Initiative that places FirstBank at the forefront of the social impact space through employee advocacy, the employees have shown that they have the milk of human kindness flowing through their veins. They have demonstrated that they would rather consider how they could extend kindness to people around them and make a difference than pretend not to see the situations affecting those around them while playing Afghanistanism and psychological hyperopia online.

 

 

For the rest of us who are not FirstBank employees, the message could not be clearer: The next time we feel like we must share on social media distressing images to provoke government-bashing or we feel constrained to make stinging comments on such images that are shared to criticise Nigeria, we should first pause and look around us. We should look to see if we can identify situations where we, not government or Nigeria, can make a difference. Then we should take our fingers off the keyboard and go out there or make that call that will make a difference in some other person’s life and circumstances. We should be like FirstBank and its employees. We should follow their example of trying to outdo themselves in showing kindness to others. We should start where we are with what we have, to make a difference right now – yes, this very minute and not some future time.

Opinion

Qualities We Must Celebrate in Apostle Johnson Suleman, by Prophetess Rose Kevin

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It is obviously true that God receives more honour from us when we praise somebody other than God, in the same way that the heavens are declaring the glory of God. Yet, it is rare to find us praising fellow men for sharing kindness, especially if such men are from within the same field or family as we are. One woman, a prophetess, Rose Kelvin, is standing out in this regard. She is proclaiming the qualities of Apostle Johnson Suleman, a fellow but senior prophet of God in a manner that leaves tongues wagging even beyond their Christian community. 

 

Dissecting the context of Prophetess Kevin’s submission about Apostle Suleman’s activeness in the Christianity fold, “if indeed anything is commendable, we should take delight in commending it”. It implies that “as true Christians, we are commanded to esteem our leaders very highly because of their works in the Lord.”

 

Apostle Johnson Suleman is listed among top five Nigerian televangelists with impressive charity works. While Nigerians have been lamenting how leaders get richer and ordinary citizens remain below the poverty line, even in the Church, leading figures like Johnson Suleman and the likes have been changing the narrative by giving generously with their divine gifts and from their material possessions. Amazingly, Apostle Suleman does not just assist individuals with cash and material gifts, he does help the government too in providing succour to communities. He once personally sponsored the renovation of some federal roads in his native Edo State!

 

It is on that note that Prophetess Kevin praised Suleman by urging him not to relent in exploiting the rare opportunity he enjoys as a leader that cares to continue to increase lives, notwithstanding the criticism. “No matter what people do or say, they can’t stop whom God has destined to go far. People don’t really talk about the good works a servant of God does. But God Himself is exhibiting Apostle Suleman for the people he helps at all time, the schools and roads he builds, and the lives he has touched and still touches,” posits Prophetess Kevin, adding that “people who don’t glorify God for people’s good works are depriving themselves of the points of Christ Jesus’ teaching.”

 

While commending Apostle Suleman “for being Christlike”, Prophetess Keving encourages Christians to imbibe the teaching of Jesus “that people should always see the good in others’ good works because God is at work in them.”

 

Prophetess Rose Kelvin is happily married to Dr Kelvin Nwafor the Presiding Bishop Of Shekhinah Glory Ministries worldwide and their union is blessed with five children.

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Opinion

HAVING A FIRSTBANK SALARY ACCOUNT CAN EASE YOUR MONEY PROBLEMS, FIND OUT HOW…

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“There is always a lot to spend money on, and sometimes the bills can’t wait for the salary to be paid” Tope complained when his wife informed him that they had run out of cooking gas and had to refill. He had just moved to a new location with his family and the bills seemed to be coming at such speed that he could hardly keep up. Barely three weeks in the new apartment, the electricity bill had arrived.  The new apartment was bigger than the last and their two double-seater cushions left too much space vacant in the seating room. They needed to get a couple more pieces of furniture to fill the space. His wife had not stopped reminding him of the car he promised to get, in order to ease mobility for the family. 

Everyone has been a Tope at some point in time, and that is why everyone needs a financial partner like FirstBank, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial services brand. FirstBank offers a variety of loan products that can help you ease off the pressure as you work towards meeting pressing and urgent needs, as well as medium-term goals. 

FirstAdvance is a digital product tailored for Salary Account holders, who have an urgent cash need and would want to access salary advances from the bank.  If you have held a salary account with FirstBank for up to two months, you can access 50% of your monthly net salary and as much as half a million naira (N500,000). 

A physical visit to the bank branch is not required as you can access it via the FirstMobile (FirstBank’s Mobile banking app) and USSD channels. To access the service via USSD, dial *894*11# from the phone number linked with your FirstBank account. This has proved to be the solution for many people while emergencies arise before payday. There is no point in waiting for month-end before you can take on those pressing financial obligations. 

FirstCredit is another digital product designed to cater for non-salaried individuals. All that is required is for your account to have been active and transacting in FirstBank for six months or more to access FirstCredit. It provides customers with quick and easy access to loans to fund urgent transactions. You do not need a smartphone or a physical visit to the bank to get this done as well. This credit facility can be accessed using a mobile phone and the USSD banking code, *894*11#. You can access as much as N300,000 to be repaid within 30 days. 

No physical documentation or collateral is required, neither do you need a physical visit to the bank to access both loans.  Imagine the confidence that comes with sorting out your bills within minutes and without having to wait till month-end. 

Salary accounts should do more than receive your monthly payments from your employer. It should be instrumental in making your day-to-day living easier, and this is what having your salary account with FirstBank can achieve for you. You can get a Personal Loan Against Salary (PLAS) if you have a longer-term project at hand or investments to make. It may be paying school fees for your kids, acquiring assets or renovating your properties, paying rent, taking professional examinations. Customers who qualify can access Up to N50 million based on their net monthly income and rates are competitive while offering long-term and flexible repayments up to 48 months tenor.  

Despite all these benefits and ease in access to loans, it literarily costs nothing to open a FirstBank Salary Account.  Zero opening balance, Zero minimum daily operating balance, Zero account maintenance charge, plus you even get your first debit card issued for free. 

Truly, it is always “YOU FIRST” from FirstBank. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Culled from Nairametrics

 

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Opinion

KWAM 1’s Wife Emmanuella Ajike Morounropo Should be Arrested For Stealing………

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BY: OLADAPO SOFOWORA

 

 

Ever since her romance with the King of Fuji Music; Wasiu Ayinde Marshall broke, it has generated mixed reactions from all sundry. Emmanuella Morounropo has remained unperturbed and unflinching staying through to her man not minding the unnecessary controversies the news generated. Her name was on the lips of many like she was the one who allowed the cost of foodstuff to skyrocket. She received heavy bashing from acclaimed relationship freedom fighters and those close to her. In spite of all the noise-making tactics many thought would sweep her off balance, she remains dogged, unruffled, turning deaf ears to all unnecessary discussion cutting off toxic relationships around her.

 

Some averred that; with the controversies trailing K1 as regards his marital status, why would a promising beautiful lady like Emmanuella insist on settling with such a person but with the strong mind and will to always succeed in everything she ventures into, the Otun Iyalode of Igbehin has promised herself that regardless anything negative comment from people, her nuptial to K1 will flourish and succeed against all odds of those who are predicting a fall out after 2 years.

Emmanuella Ropo

For the want of a better description, Nuella is a misunderstood person, but one thing that remains constant in every conversation about her is having children from her previous marriages. In the real sense, that an individual does not get it right in the first 4 attempts does not mean the individual will not get it right trying again. Life is not about competition, everybody is not destined to get things right on the first attempt. Her past does not define who she is or be a determinant for her success in her new union. With so much experience, she came prepared for the worst and will paddle her loveship with her husband the way he wants it. But one thing remains a reoccurring decimal; it’s the love and affection they both have for each other. They never failed to display it at every given opportunity both online and offline.

 

Sources averred that; Nuella is a very caring and loving lady a feature that might have captivated her husband’s heart. Those close to K1 can also agree that; the Fuji maestro is a very caring individual who always stands by his own people. When both Husband and Wife have something in common, it’s a matter of loving each other unconditionally. On the wedding day, looking at K1’s countenance it’s glaring that he is drunk in Emmanuella’s love and Emmanuella is super excited to have married the Fuji Czar with all her heart.

K1 and Emmanuella Ropo in a passionate kiss

Making reference to the book of John 8:7, which said; “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Like 2Face said in one of his music; ‘Nobody Holy Pass’; those making disparaging comments about her are worst if their past shrouded in secrecy is unraveled. For someone of K1’s age, with his street orientation, settling for a woman who would respect him, care for him and give him peace of mind is a big deal. All these are what Nuella did to further sweep K1 off his feet. What K1 might have seen in Nuella if we all climb the highest iroko tree, we might not be privileged to see it. People find love and fall in love for many reasons. in K1’s case. he caught the love bug in a different way for him to have decided to wife the Egba woman. Love is a beautiful thing and the happiness of K1, who put smiles on the faces of many should be considered. Someone of his nature who is salt to many events needs to be happy. If settling for Nuella will make him happy, he deserves our prayers and nothing more. For those casting aspersions about the bride, if she had rest of mind and fulfillment in her previous relationships, she would not have had any cause to leave. If she has found solace and love in KWAM 1, then let us pray and also support her to succeed in her nuptial union.

 

A close source disclosed that; those who are raising eyebrows are envious of the fact that K1 settled for her. They are jealous of the fact that, after trying to catch the Fuji lord’s attention, he settled for Nuella. “Don’t mind those naysayers most especially, the ladies talking gibberish online and offline. They are just jealous and envious. They are both married so the case is closed. No matter anything anyone says, it does not change the fact that she is married to him. They both understand each other and will never let any negative vibes come closer to their love. Women are supposed to be supporting their fellow women but what we see here is women beefing the success of their fellow women. Do they think K1 will leave Emanuella for them? The union is ordained from God nothing any human can do about it. They should focus more on healing from their bad belle.”

 

On a lighter note, Emmanuella should be arrested for stealing the heart of a global icon’s like K. She should be questioned thoroughly how she was able to achieve such a herculean task and later confined in a place with him without access to leave so we can have that beautiful baby bump to consummate their union. May they both witness peace and tranquility as they spend the rest of their lives together in good health and wealth.

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