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Buhari mandates banks, others to protect Nigerians’ identities online

By Idowu Abdullahi

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed banks and other financial institutions to work assiduously in eliminating inherent risks associated with online transactions by adequately protecting Nigerians data being used for internet banking, saying that such security breach could erode the gains already recorded in the government’s drive to implement cashless policy across the country.

Aside from protecting Nigerians from online fraudsters breaching internet security architecture, the president also implored financial institutions to play stronger role in making sure the Nigerian Small and Medium Enterprises were fit for purpose, with support in full implementation of “Agreement”.

According to him, financial intermediary could not be any more relevant than at a time like this. We need you, the banks to drive value creation by developing new technologies, scaling payment infrastructure to serve the diversified economies expected to benefit from this agreement.

Buhari, who spoke virtually at the opening ceremony of the 14th Annual Banking and Finance Conference of Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria on Tuesday, said that technological innovation was also important in the modern business terrain, noting that most transactions now take place online given the advent of the “Internet of Things”.

“As we continue to progress towards the next frontiers of digitization, we must harness all opportunities while being mindful of the inherent risks. For example, the protection of data is now of utmost importance to provide users with more secure access to the online space,’’ he told the bankers and financial operators.

Buhari said that the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything in the world, from interaction, work, communication to general lifestyle, noting that the epidemic also triggered new opportunities which helped to reshape the economy in the areas of digital transformation, trans-African trade, financial inclusion, security, workforce of the future, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, processing, supply, and logistics.

“As we look beyond the effects of the pandemic to the future, there are bountiful opportunities ahead of us. As you all may know, the African Continental Free Trade Area, of which Nigeria is subscribed, is not only an opportunity for the growth of trade but also the growth of Pan African businesses.

“It portends opportunities for our teeming youth population, the women, the creative industry, the digital economy, the financial services sector, agricultural value chain, commerce, industry, education and indeed every aspect of the economy as Nigerians will have unfettered access to the over 1.3billion consumer market,’’ he said.

The president commended Central Bank of Nigeria, working in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, for providing single-digit financing to young Nigerians in the fields of fashion, film, music and Information Technology through establishment of the Creative Industry Financing Initiative.

Furthermore, Buhari affirmed that the theme of the conference, “Economic Recovery, Inclusion, and Transformation: The Role of Banking and Finance’’ was most appropriate, following the global shocks from Covid-19.

He commended the institute and the entire banking and finance industry for the commitment towards charting a practical path for economic recovery and transformation of our country, Nigeria, and by extension Africa as epitomized by the conference’s theme.

“I commend the financial services industry for its interventions and contributions towards the promotion of financial inclusion and literacy in our country. And more importantly, the roles played by the banks in fostering economic growth of the country.

“I am confident that the speakers that have been carefully selected to contribute to conference will share insights that will help individuals, businesses and governments at all levels make necessary adjustments and take the right steps towards our collective resolve to position Nigeria as one of the top economies in the world,’’ he added.

On his part, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said that the regulatory body had been working with the Bankers Committee to scale the challenges posed by Covid-19, which include reduction of interest rates on loans, increasing the moratorium for payments, and injecting N3 trillion loans in the private sector.

“We do expect that the pace of inflation will moderate as we approach the harvest season,’’ he added, assuring that banks remain strong, resilient and healthy.

He said that the N15 trillion infrastructure fund would be launched in October, 2021, while innovations like the Nigeria/International Financial would provide a gateway for capital and investments, and digital currency, e-naira, would enhance inclusion.

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