Nigeria launching ’24/7 financial centre’ to complement New York, London — Emefiele

The Central Bank of Nigeria will set up an international financial centre in the next 12 months, the governor of the bank, Godwin Emefiele, has announced.

The Nigerian International Financial Centre (NIFC), will act as an international gateway for capital and investment, driven by a technology payment system infrastructure. It will enable local banks to become global champions, Mr Emefiele said.

He said this at a 14th Annual hybrid banking and finance conference organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) under the theme: “Economic Recovery, Inclusion and Transformation: The Role of Banking and Finance.”

“The NIFC will be a 24/7 financial centre that will complement London, New York and Singapore financial centres and enable acceleration of our homegrown initiatives such as the infraco Plc, the N15 trillion infrastructural fund, which we hope will be launched in Oct. 2021,” he said.

“The NIFC will also complement our initiatives on the Nigeria Commodity Exchange and the National Arts Theatre creative hub for our youths, as well as our e-naira project, which is also expected to debut in Oct. 2021.

Similarly, ”the NIFC will take advantage of our existing laws, such as the BOFIA 2020, and other Central Bank regulations, to create a fully global and investment financial hub where monies, ideas and technology will move freely without any hindrance,” Mr Emefiele said.

Measures that helped banks stay afloat

Mr Emefiele said measures put in place by the apex bank to prevent economic crisis spilling into a financial crisis at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic had paid off.

According to him, key indicators in the banking sector continued to reflect that the banking sector remained strong, resilient, and healthy.

“To prevent an economic crisis from spilling into a financial crisis the CBN worked to protect the interest of depositors by ensuring that banks made adequate capital provisions to cover for unexpected losses.

”We also enabled banks to restructure their loans granted to individuals and businesses significantly affected by the pandemic.

“Our Banks also demonstrated exceptional resilience by putting in place business continuity plans, alongside deployment of digital channels, which ensured that the provision of financial services to customers was not disrupted by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“We are delighted that these measures have paid -off; indeed key indicators in the banking sector continued to reflect that our banking sector remains strong, resilient and healthy.

“Capital and liquidity ratio in the banking sector has remained above the prudential limit of 15.5 and 41.3 per cent respectively.

“Our non performing ratio in the banking industry in July 2021, stood at 5.4 per cent, reflecting continued improvement from 6 per cent in Sept. 2020,” Mr Emefiele said.

He added that the banking sector remained well-positioned to support the recovery efforts of the monetary and fiscal authorities.

“Clearly, Nigeria’s banks have become not only strong and resilient but have also carved a good niche in the world to consolidate on the growth and resilience of the banks in the last decades,” he added.

The governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said he expected that after the COVID-19 pandemic, the banking industry would play a transformational role such as what was witnessed seven decades ago by more than 40 countries.

“The theme for this conference is very apt just as the world grapples with a very dangerous coronavirus pandemic. The banking industry, no doubt has played a significant role in the economic recovery that we are seeing today

But, let me take us back to about six to seven decades ago, precisely July 1994, when more than 40 countries assembled at the now historic conference in the U.S to establish the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, as financial institutions, to help the world at that time and Europe after a second World War.

“These financial institutions were set up to rebuild and to recover from the devastation of that war. Loans were given to countries in Europe and in other parts to rebuild after that war.

”This is the kind of a transformational role that the Nigerian banking system is expected to play, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Mr Sanwo-Olu added that recent data from the CBN indicated that it had disbursed over N400 billion to over 650, 000 households as soft loans, to help them cope with the impact of the pandemic.

This is apart from the combined hundreds of billions that had been dedicated to various sectors, including manufacturing healthcare, aviation, tourism and other critical sectors of the economy.

He commended the apex bank for taking the lead and setting a good example for the entire country, and President Muhammadu Buhari for also setting up a taskforce that worked with all States and helped to address and attack the pandemic.

Earlier, Bayo Olugbemi, CIBN President, recognised the fact that the banking industry had more work to do to bring the economy back to good shape.

“You will recall that several initiatives have been implemented by the current administration via its various agencies, including the Central Bank of Nigeria, over the past years to guide the economy back unto the path of recovery.

“Year-on-year, we have gone on a contraction of 6 per cent in GDP growth in the Second Quarter of 2020, to a 5 per cent growth in the second Quarter of 2021.

“While this progress is laudable and worthy of celebration, we recognise that there is more work to be done. There are macro-economic issues which threaten to block the road to prosperity, such as high inflation and unemployment rate.

” There is also work to be done to ensure we meet targets regarding financial inclusion, infrastructure development, MSME growth, and female equality, ” Mr Olugbemi said.

NAN also reports that this year’s conference was different from the norm, as a special focus was placed on the youths, the millennials, with the specific aim of delivering solutions that would drive economic recovery, inclusion and transformation of Nigeria’s economy for higher growth.

The two-day conference, an annual event for stakeholders in the banking and finance ecosystem, brought together policymakers, regulators, operators, top government functionaries at all levels, captains of industries, managing directors of banks and other financial institutions, among others.

President Muhammadu Buhari declared open the conference, while President Paul Kagame of the Republic of Rwanda, gave the keynote address. (NAN)

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