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Banks raise N5.65bn to kick start private sector contributions to the fight against Covid-19 pandemic  

Recently, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), announced that the CBN, on behalf of the Bankers’ Committee, and in partnership with the private sector have come together to form the Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19.

Under the plan, it was agreed that banks would contribute monies at 4 levels. UBA, First Bank, Zenith Bank, Access Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank would each donate N500 million whilst banks such as Fidelity Bank, Ecobank, FCMB, Sterling Bank, Union Bank and Stanbic Bank were expected to donate N250 million each. Those in the category of banks to donate N100 million each include Citibank Nigeria, Standard Chartered Bank, Unity Bank, Wema Bank, Heritage Bank, keystone Bank, Polaris, Providus, SunTrust, Jaiz, Coronation, Nova, FBNQuest, FSDH Merchant Bank and Rand Merchant Bank. In the category of N50m are the newly licensed banks such as Globus Bank, TAJBANK and Titan Trust Bank.

By this arrangement, members of the banks would have donated an approximate N5.65 billion war chest, towards efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. This whopping amount excludes contributions from the CBN and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC).

Commenting on the development, Mr. Adebayo Adeleke, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Lancelot Ventures Limited and Director, BOC Gases Nigeria Plc said, “It is a good measure. All should do whatever is necessary to combat the pandemic. Our collective survival is under threat.” An analyst, who craved for anonymity, commended the initiative by the CBN and the banks. According to him, this a major corporate social responsibility that every responsible company operating in the country should be involved in at this time when there is an obvious threat to the collective existence of every citizen, adding that all hands must be on desk to arrest the situation.

Whilst many have applauded the move, others differ in opinion. Mr. Gbenga Idowu, National Coordinator of United Shareholders Front (USF) and Nornah Awoh, an activist shareholder said the private sector operators should have been allowed to do something on their own like Guaranty Trust Bank Plc which donated a 110-bed capacity hospital to the Lagos State Government to tackle the challenge.

However, providing clarifications, Emefiele said, “the coalition was created out of the urgent need to combat the unfolding COVID-19 crisis in the country in view of the rate at which the virus was spreading. Although the Federal Government has made giant strides in the fight, it is clear that the private sector needs to step in and support efforts already made”.

According to him, the objectives of the coalition are to: mobilise private sector thought leadership and resources, increase general public awareness, education and buy-in, provide direct support to private and public healthcare providers’ ability to respond to the crisis and support government effort.

Consequently, the coalition has set up four major committees comprising of a steering committee to provide leadership and steer the coalition and committees in procuring all needed funding, equipment and materials for the battle against the pandemic.

The committee will be chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who currently chairs the Federal Government Committee on Covid-19. Other members of the committee are expected to be announced later.

The funding committee will be responsible for the initial funding of the effort and its membership include the CBN Governor, Aliko Dangote, Herbert Wigwe, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Segun Agbaje, Abdulsamad Rabiu and Femi Otedola with each member of the committee and their respective institutions expected to contribute at least N1 billion each to the effort.

The operational committee will be responsible for project management, logistics, communication and advocacy and it comprises of the CBN Governor, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Access Bank, Zenith Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Ecobank, Fidelity Bank, Unity Bank.

The technical committee is responsible for gathering data about the equipment and materials needed nationwide as well as responsible for intellectual leadership around testing issues, treatment protocols and isolation centres, among others. The membership comprised of NCDC, WHO, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Federal Ministry of Health and select members of the operational and funding committees.

The coalition will be working with reputable institutions and consultants, including the Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Akin Abayomi, Christian Happi and Phillip Onyebujo.

Whilst the contributions have been catalysed by the banks, there are strong indications that to procure all needed equipment, materials and all infrastructure needed to fight the pandemic, more than N120 billion will be needed.

Consequently, the Bankers’ Committee and other important stakeholders are engaging other major stakeholders within and outside the country, including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other players in the oil and gas industry to raise more funds.

Banks are often vilified for being profit oriented and all but these humanitarian gesture is quite noteworthy and we must commend the banks and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele for this and enjoin other corporate organisations to emulate them so that Nigeria will be able to halt the rampaging Covid-19 and restore normalcy to the nation again.

 

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