The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), bank operators and other stakeholders in the financial sector have deliberated on ways to ensure financial inclusion of additional 7.6 million Nigerians in 2018.
The CBN Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability, Dr Okwu Nnanna, at the Financial Inclusion State Steering Committee (FISSCO) Regional Capacity Building Programme in Abuja, said all stakeholders were important in achieving the set target.
“The vulnerable segments in our society remain a major concern for financial inclusion as they constitute a large proportion of the excluded population.
“For instance in Nigeria, the proportion of females without access to formal financial services was 46.3 percent in 2016 compared to 36.8 percent of men.
“In addition, a world disability study on people living with disability showed that 25 million Nigerians were living with one form of disability or the other and this acts as a hindrance to accessing basic financial products and services.
“In addition to women and people with disabilities, vulnerable segments can further include youth, rural communities and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and they all should form part of our focus,’’ he said.
Nnanna recommended that to improve access to financial services, affordable savings, credit payment, insurance and pension products should be designed, targeted at the vulnerable groups in the society.
He also urged commercial banks and Micro Finance Banks to increase sensitization to rural areas on the use of Point of Sale (POS), ATMs, and Cashless mobile money services.
Also, the CBN Head, Digital Financial Services, Mr Stephen Ambore, said getting the unbanked people to have access to financial services would contribute to economic development.
Giving a region by region breakdown on financial exclusion rate in the country, he said that the North-West was the most financially excluded zone with an exclusion rate of 70 percent.
He said that the second region with the highest financial exclusion rate was the North-East with a 62 percent exclusion rate.
The North Central, according to him, has a 39 percent exclusion rate, while South-South had a financial exclusion rate of 31 percent, and South-East, 28 percent.
Ambore commended the South West, which he said had the lowest financial exclusion rate, which currently stands at about 18 percent.
He attributed the challenges facing financial inclusion in the country to illiteracy, religious and cultural factors, security challenges and inappropriate financial service products and slow penetration of financial services in rural areas.
Meanwhile, the CBN Abuja Branch Controller, Mrs Elizabeth Agu, said the CBN was targeting to bring in fresh 8.4 million and 8.6 million adult Nigerians into the formal financial sector by 2019 and 2020 respectively.
For the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Agu said that banks operating in the territory had a target to open a minimum of 1,500 new accounts and offer fresh credit facility to at least 1,000 customers before the end of 2018.
Amaka E. Nliam