Central Bank approves super agents to distribute banking services

Toyin Odesomi, Lagos

The Central bank of Nigeria has approved two super agents to distribute banking services at cheaper prices.

The two super agents to carry out the agency services are electronic payment vendors, Interswitch Nigeria and Innovative services.

The Director, Banking Supervision Department of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mrs. Tokunbo Martins, who made the disclosure at the Bankers Committee meeting in Lagos, said the approval was part of CBN’s agency banking policy.

She said the super agents who would recruit their agents were expected to carry banking services to the nooks and crannies of the country at affordable prices to the citizenry.

She also allayed fears over the non-performing loans in the banking system, stressing that banks have enough capital to absorb risks they are exposed to.

Martins said, “Well, we all know that there have been an economic downturn and things are hard at the moment. We have spoken about the falling oil prices. So, non-performing loans going up is not unexpected, it is normal. If people are finding it difficult to get paid their salaries and are not able to pay their loans, it is not unexpected. If corporations are not doing well as they used to do and they are not able to pay their loans, it is not something unusual to see the NPLs rising. The average figure of five per cent NPL is not out of this world.”

According to her, the CBN has made the banks to increase their Capital Adequacy Ratio over time in anticipation of possible economic shocks.

 “The most important thing is that banks are conscious of it; they are preserving capital; they have enough capital as we speak and they are not distributing as much of their capital as they would have in the past in anticipation of this risk that may crystallise. This is because they know that they need to have enough capital to absorb the risk that may happen”, she said.

Development Programme

Speaking on the youth entrepreneurship development programme that was launched in March, Martins added that the programme has a target of 10,000 youths with focus on sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, ICT and cottage industries.

She noted that beneficiaries of the programme were in three categories, including serving National Youth Corps members and those that had passed out.

She said that the period of the programme should not exceed five years for beneficiaries and artisans.

Import Substitution

On the need for import substitution to boost the economy, the Managing Director, Unity Bank Plc, Mrs. Tomi Somefun, disclosed that the committee discussed extensively on the need to diversify the economy.

Somefun said the committee identified agriculture as a major area to diversify into and she specifically identified the committee’s participation in the Anchor Borrower scheme launched by the apex bank a few months ago.

“The banks have participated in this, we have enrolled 78,000 farmers in the first launch of this initiative in Kebbi State. There, the farmers were given monies to acquire an acre of land each and to farm on the plots of lands with an average of N210,000 disbursed to each farmer. As the rainy season approaches, we intend to launch this scheme in other areas across the six geo-political zones in the country.

The bankers ‘committee comprises the chief executive officers of the 22 banks in the country, the CBN governor and its top officials, and some key government agencies in the financial services sector.

The Bankers’ Committee meets once every two months to discuss developments in the economy and take some key decisions.