• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Financial inclusion: Government targets 60m unbanked Nigerians with Aso Accord

Financial inclusion: Government targets 60m unbanked Nigerians with Aso Accord

The federal government, in a bid to strengthen financial inclusion and extend services to about 60 million unbanked Nigerians, on Thursday, signed what it termed the Aso Accord for Economic and Financial Inclusion with state governments and other key stakeholders in the private sector.

The accord which brings all stakeholders together, is expected to assist actualise delivery of financial services at affordable costs to all Nigerians, including those at disadvantaged and low-income segments of society.

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Signing the Aso Accord pact on behalf of the federal government on Thursday during a two-day workshop for Economic and Financial Inclusion at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, were Vice President Kashim Shettima; Wale Edun, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, and Yemi Cardoso, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN.

Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), signed the Accord on behalf of the states, while Abubakar Suleiman, Managing Director/CEO of Sterling Bank PLC, singed on behalf of the private sector.

Vice President Shettima, while declaring the event opened, demanded a renewed commitment from state governors and other key players in the nation’s economic and financial inclusion space to forge a more inclusive and prosperous future for all Nigerians.

According to him, while President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s commitment to inclusive economic growth for sustainable development had been unmistakable, “at the core of Mr. President’s economic recovery strategy lies a multifaceted approach aimed at rescuing the economy through various means.”

The VP who listed the means to include “job creation, ensuring food security, eradicating extreme poverty, and, notably, facilitating access to capital,” pointed out that these “form the foundation upon which our nation’s prosperity rests.

“They also demonstrate our resolve to reinvent a system where economic empowerment is not just a dream but a tangible reality for all,” he added.

VP Shettima noted that the inspiration to engage critical stakeholders in the two-day workshop stemmed from the shared interests that align with the stark reality that Nigeria cannot afford to maintain the status quo, expressing confidence that the depth of expertise within the reach of participants is enough to power their grand ideas for financial inclusion.

The Vice President said, “I stand here today compelled to express my heartfelt commendation to all the esteemed individuals who have been pivotal in advancing the cause of financial inclusion in Nigeria. From the tireless efforts of the present and past Governors of the Central Bank of Nigeria to the unwavering dedication of the Federal Ministry of Finance, each of you has played an indispensable role in championing this noble cause over the years.

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“I am proud to announce that part of our agenda today involves the signing of the Aso Accord for Economic and Financial Inclusion. This accord will symbolize a renewed and active commitment from all leaders in the economic and financial inclusion space, affirming our collective resolve to forge a more inclusive and prosperous future for every Nigerian.”

Earlier, Hassan Hadejia, Deputy Chief of Staff to the President (Office of The Vice President), said expectations are high, as stakeholders are expected to, among other things, interrogate the rising gender gap in financial inclusion.

Noting that the concept must integrate equality and accessibility of financial services to all and sundry, he said President Tinubu’s charge to stakeholders at the forum is to ensure that no one should be left behind as stakeholders adopt new strategies and models of meeting set targets.

In his goodwill message at the event, the 14th Emir of Kano and former CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi, emphasised the need for a review of strategies for enhancing financial inclusion and literacy across the country, noting that it is a continuous work requiring consistent implementation.

He stressed the need for the integration of financial literacy in the educational curriculum of schools in the country, explaining that there is a direct correlation between financial exclusion and the wave of insecurity and poverty levels, among other vices in the country.
Governor of Ondo State, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, advocated the adoption and deployment of technology to boost the digital environment to strengthen access to financial services, even in rural communities.

He outlined some of the efforts made by the Ondo State government to boost financial inclusion in the state, noting the work done by the state Entrepreneurship Agency, especially in the rural areas to expand financial services to small businesses and individuals.

In his remarks, Wale Edun, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, said financial inclusion remains integral element of the Renewed Hope Agenda of the Tinubu administration, especially in ensuring prosperity for all Nigerians by reaching the 100 percent financial inclusion mark.

He commended the support of stakeholders and the critical role played by the CBN in ensuring that the 100 percent target is reached in the shortest possible time, just as he pledged the support of his ministry in ensuring that the targets set by actors are realised.

The representative of the CBN Governor, Clement Buari, who is the bank’s Director of Strategy Management, said the apex bank was doing a lot to accelerate financial inclusion across the country, particularly in underserved communities, insisting that it is a moral and pragmatic obligation for the CBN to take citizens out of the prison of deprivation.

He assured that the CBN will continue to work collaboratively with other stakeholders to accelerate the process of bringing as many individuals and businesses into the fold of financial institutions.

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Yika David -West of the Lagos Business School, while speaking with BusinessDay on the significance of the event, said the federal government brought in Subnational government to help drive the process at the grassroot, since, it will be difficult to drive inclusion by the government at the center acting alone.

David West said the financial inclusion plans will help women who are about 50% of Nigeria’s population, play more vital roles in global economy.
The two day event which ends on Friday, is expected to come up with clear cut strategies that will enhance financial inclusion in Nigeria, a plan that had been on every government program since 2012.