ALEX Otti, group managing director, Diamond Bank Plc, has emphasized the crucial role of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, SMEs, in the economic growth and development of the country. In view of this role, he said that Diamond Bank had invested several billions of naira in the sub-sector in the last few years. He said that several SMEs financed by the bank had been meeting their financial obligations, except a few who were not business-oriented.
“We think the country cannot develop if we lend to the multinationals only. We have heard of the situation in the United States of America where 96 percent of the industries are in the SMEs sector; and 95 percent of jobs were created in this sector. This is why we are doing what we are doing. Some international development finance institutions and ministries in Nigeria are asking us how we have been doing it, and this is why we are partnering with them, especially the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, to get more things done.
“We will continue to lend to the SMEs sector because the small scale industrialist wants to make money. So, if you lend him money, he will work to pay back. Those who don’t want to pay what they are lent are the few rich people who are ready to even use part of that money to fight you in the court.” According to him, the bank would not relent in boosting the Central Bank of Nigeria’s financial inclusion policies on mobile money,” he said.
Imperatives of CBN Cash-less Policy
THE Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, is committed to the success of its cash-less policy. Accordingly, the bank will continue to drive the policy in the country. Chris Eze, head, customer services, CBN, Ilorin branch, said the number of Point of Sales machines at the inception of the policy in the country has increased from 10,000 to 200,000. They have, so far, been deployed to Lagos, Abia, Anambra, Kano, Ogun, Rivers and Federal Capital Territory.
According to him, the cash-less policy was introduced to drive the development and modernisation of Nigeria’s payment system in line with the country’s Vision 2020. He said it was also introduced to reduce the cost of banking services and drive financial inclusion by providing more efficient transaction options and greater reach.
He recalled that recently, the banks recorded the sum of N153billion through National Electronic Fund Transfer, N37billion through Nigeria Instant Payment, N50million through Point of Sales and N12million from Money Mobile transfers.
Nedbank Weighs Option on Ecobank Stake
NEDBANK Group Limited, a South African lender, controlled by Old Mutual Plc, has said that it would consider governance issues before deciding whether to exercise an option to buy a stake in Ecobank Transnational Incorporated. Nedbank has until the end of November this year, to convert the $285million loan it made to Ecobank in 2011 into an equity holding and then increase the stake to as much as 20 percent.
Ecobank was probed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, after a former head of finance alleged that Thierry Tanoh, chief executive officer and Kolapo Lawson, former chairman of the bank, planned to sell assets below market value. Mike Brown, Nedbank CEO, said Ecobank has some corporate governance challenges which it is dealing with appropriately. He said that Ecobank would, on March 3, hold an extraordinary general meeting where shareholders would vote on whether or not to create an interim board to implement recommendations on corporate governance made by the Nigerian regulator.
“While Nedbank still intends to take up its rights to Ecobank shares, it hasn’t started formal internal processes or approached regulators for approval. Graham Dempster, Nedbank’s chief operations officer, will attend next week’s meeting in Lome, the Togolese capital, and if Nedbank decides not to take up the stake, Ecobank should have more than enough money to repay the loan, Brown said.
Compiled by Chinwe Okafor
— Mar. 10, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT