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Financial Inclusion: Experts highlight gaps in achieving CBN targets

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Experts in the nations financial sector have identified gaps in the set objectives by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to significantly reduce the number and percentage of adult Nigerians who are excluded from the formal financial system.

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Speaking at the inaugural conference of Oriental News Nigeria with theme: “Engaging with critical groups to develop effective financial inclusion initiative”, held on Thursday at the Sheraton Hotel, Lagos, Dr Uju Ogubunka, CEO Bank Customers Association of Nigeria, stated that the financial inclusion policy of the federal government, which commenced in 2012 was geared towards ensuring that no Nigerian is short changed in its financial intermediation policies and economic development plans.

Ogubunka said that at that point roughly half of the adult population were financially excluded and the CBN set a target to narrow the gap to 20 per cent by 2020.

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“The adult population has now increased above 84 percent and the unbanked population has also increased remarkably. If the people are outside the financial system, the economy will not develop” Ogubunka stated.

He explained that financial inclusion commences with opening a bank account, which factors in the account holder towards benefiting from all forms of government’s financial support as the account drives all other transactions of the account holder.

Also, to have insurance policy, investment accounts in the capital market, pension account and all forms of life and business enabling transactions driven only by the nation’s financial system, you need to be financially included, he stressed.

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“As some of us will remember, the CBN initiated the National Financial Inclusion Programme in year 2012 that is, about a decade ago. The programme is kind of a response to the discovery from a study in 2010 that about 39.2 million or 46.3% of the then 84.7 million adult population in the country were excluded from the formal Nigerian financial system.

“That meant that 45.5 million or 53.7% of the 84.7 million were included in the system. It was also noted that of the excluded 39.2 million adult Nigerians, about 21.3 million or 54.4% were females; meaning that about 17.9 million (i.e. 45.6%) were males. So, females accounted for a higher number and percentage of the excluded than males. On the other hand, males accounted for a higher number and percentage of those included in the Nigerian Financial System.” he stated.

Ogubunka, pointed that the above situations were identified to have negative/adverse consequences/implications for the financial system and the economy, especially as almost half of the financial resources in the country were in the hands of people operating outside the formal financial system.

He said, “Consequent on the foregoing, the CBN saw the need to redress it. Thus, it floated the Financial Inclusion programme and supported it with a ”National Financial Inclusion Strategy” that encapsulated, among many other things, the Strategy Objectives, Strategy Stakeholders and their Interests and Key Financial Inclusion Targets. The initiative targeted a reduction of the rate of the excluded from 46.3% to 20% come year 2020. ( i.e. a reduction of 26.3%), meaning that the percentage of the included would rise to 80% from 53.7% within the same period.”

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He commended Stanmeg Communication publishers of Oriental News, Nigeria for providing a platform for stakeholders to brainstorm and contribute towards achieving total inclusion of all eligible adult Nigerians in the Financial System in order to drive and attain higher economic growth and development.

The guest speaker, Mallam Garba Kurfi, Managing Director APT Securities and Funds Limited pointed out that the financial inclusion policy of the government helps to ensure that funds that could have been deployed for entrepreneurial initiatives don’t end up in cupboards at homes.

Managing Director; CEO Arms Securities Limited, Mr Rotimi Edu, representing Kurfi, in his presentation said that the government is recording remarkable progress in the financial inclusion target, adding that more hands need to be on deck to ensure that economic advantage of the country’s large population translates to financial benefits to the people and institutions.

The government, he stated has designed financial support initiatives for rural women, artisans, petty traders, the financially disadvantaged, which can only be extended to only people who operate bank accounts.

He said that funds are aggregated through savings in banks, investments in capital market or taking policies in insurance companies, such funds are further deployed to catalize economic development through lending or for institutional growth.

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Earlier in her opening address, Editor Oriental News Nigeria , Mrs Yemisi Izuora said that the conference was conceived after a pain staking study the progress and prospects of the financial inclusion policy in the country since inception in 2012.

“The conference is being organised given that the past couple of years, the federal government and stakeholders in the financial sector have had to deal with expanding financial services to a large community of underserved population and dealing with the challenges brought about by confluence of events that have taken place”, she said.

Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD) David Anyaele however called on the federal government as well as the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) to expand the nation’s financial inclusion policy to include provisioning for the disabled people in the society.

He bemoaned the sustained lack of considerations for the disabled in the Nigerian financial system through different kinds of neglect and rights denials.

Anyaele stated that audit of bank branches across the country showed the total absence or lack of access and convenience facilities for the disabled.

He admonished prevailing attitudes of the financial systems against the disabled, describing it as major institutional barrier to financial inclusion

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