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Reinventing FirstBank through creativity and innovation



For a financial institution of FirsBank’s pedigree, it is not uncommon for its top managers to be creative and constantly innovative.

Indeed, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, Chief Executive Officer of FirstBank, attributes the bank’s consistent growth in the past 125 years to innovation and reinvention of products and services aimed at satisfying customers’ needs and aspirations.

An elated Adeduntan recently said the bank was driven by the desire to put its customers and stakeholders at the heart of its business.

“For over 125 years of our existence, we have focused on providing excellent financial services to meet the needs of our esteemed customers.

“We continue to improve on our products and also create new ones that suit their specific financial needs.

“The reason why we have been successful is our ability to invent and reinvent ourselves. You can only be successful like that when you put your customer at the centre piece of all your actions. That is the secret of our success,” said Adeduntan.

According to him, the bank leverages information a technology (IT) infrastructure to improve overall service delivery levels across all key infrastructure parameters: speed, performance, availability, security and scalability.

“This will enable us to deliver great customer experiences, take advantage of new digital technologies to reduce costs, improve quality, ensure transparency, and create value. We are building the next-generation digital bank.

“It is in our DNA to continuously transform and project for the future by reinventing ourselves, re-engineering and creating value for our cstomers by rethinking next generation solutions ahead of our peers in the industry.

“We are positioned to always put our customers’ current and future needs at the core of our business,” Adeduntan started emphatically.

He noted that the bank was also transforming the way it communicated and executed its corporate strategy through rethinking the approach to implementing projects, collaborating, measuring the outcomes and realising value from all of its transformation investments.

“The transformation programme is ongoing, and a lot of employees are already fully involved at the various levels, leading and contributing to these transformation initiatives,” Adeduntan added.

He highlighted some of the laudable achievements of the bank to include the first bank to launch the cash deposit ATM in Nigeria in 2011, the second bank in Africa and the first in Nigeria to issue 10 million cards.

Adeduntan said the bank was also recognised by Interswitch as the first financial institution in Nigeria to achieve 100 million sustained monthly transactions in electronic payment in December 2015 and in May 2016, respectively.

He explained that the bank, in line with its financial banking drive, instituted agent banking with 18,000 agencies across the country to reach the unbanked.

According to him, the bank in 2008, was the first Nigerian bank and first quoted company in the country to hit two trillion naira market capitalisation.

Mr Chuma Ezirim, FirstBank Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products, said, during the bank’s launch of Chat Banking on WhatsApp recently, FirstBank would continue to offer endearing services to its customers.

To him, creativity and innovation are not new to FirstBank, and the twin virtue has fueled the bank’s foray abroad.

He said in line with the bank’s innovation drive, it acquired a new subsidiary, Banque International de Credit (BIC), one of the leading banks in the Democratic Republic of Congo in October 2011.

Similarly, in November 2013, it acquired ICB in The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Guinea, and in 2014, the bank added ICB in Senegal to its prized acquisitions.

The bank, which changed its name from BBWA to Bank of West Africa (BWA) in 1957 also adopted the name, Standard Bank of West Africa in 1966, following its merger with Standard Bank, United Kingdom.

Incorporated in 1969 as Standard Bank of Nigeria Limited, the first name change occurred in 1979 and again in 1991 to First Bank of Nigeria Limited and First Bank of Nigeria Plc, respectively.

In 2012, the bank changed its name again to First Bank of Nigeria Limited as part of a restructuring resulting in FBN Holdings Plc, having detached its commercial business from other businesses in the FirstBank Group, in compliance with the new regulation by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

As the global operating environment evolves, FirstBank has kept pace, responding to the dynamic needs of its customers, investors, regulators, host communities, employees and other stakeholders.

Through a balanced approach to plan execution, FirstBank has consolidated its industry leadership by maintaining a trans-generational appeal.

Thus, the Bank has continuously boosted its customer base, which cuts across all segments in terms of size, structure and sectors.

Leveraging experience spanning over a century of dependable and appealing services, FirstBank has continued to build relationships and alliances with key sectors of the economy that have served as strategic building blocks for the well-being, growth and development of the country.




FEATURE: Tackling endemicity of open defecation in Nigerian communities



Tackling endemicity of open defecation in Nigerian communities, By Nana Musa, Nigeria News Agency

Open defecation is still very rampant in Efut Akaietta-Mbutu community, Calabar South Local Government Area of Cross River.

The residents whose main occupation is fishing defecate in the same river, the source of water supply for their domestic use.

“We defecate in the same river we fetch our drinking water, bath and also fish to earn our living because there is no standard place for defection in our community,” Mr. Kufre William, a fisherman said.

“Most times, people in our community go to the river to defecate, due to lack of adequate toilet facilities,” Enobong Ekong, a resident of the community echoed.

William and Ekong spoke during a field trip to the community organized by UNICEF.

William and Ekong attributed the prevalence of open defecation in the area to lack of toilet facilities.

They said that digging of pit latrine was very expensive because of the topography of the area.

William said: “We have appealed several times to the local and state governments to intervene, but we are yet to get help or get positive response from them.

“We know that as long as we use water from this river, it will affect our health, but we don’t have any alternative.

“To worsen the situation, there is no hospital or any medical center within our community; we pay N500 transport to the nearest general hospital.

“Many families do not have toilets; most of them indulge in open defecation when the need arises for them to respond to the call of nature.”

The traditional ruler of the community, His Highness Ndabo Eyamba, who spoke, appealed to the government to come to the assistance of the community.

“ Our people are facing a lot of challenges, the pit toilets we usually dig do not last up to six months before collapsing, because of the swampy nature of the environment.

` The people as a result of poverty cannot afford modern toilets with solid materials and proper sewage disposal facilities.’’

Eyambo lamented the absence of government’s presence in the community, pointing out that there is no public toilet, pipe borne water, good roads and hospitals in the community.

“ We do not have pipe borne water here, the few boreholes we have here are through community efforts and few individuals, making it difficult for many villagers to access potable water, we do not have clinics and hospitals for handling emergency situations when our people fall sick”, he said.

A community leader, Chief Ene Antigha, said that open defecation had impacted negatively on the health conditions of the residents.

He said that drinking water from unhygienic sources had contributed to cases of cholera, diarrhea, ringworm, among others recorded in the area.

According to him, the main challenges facing the community are lack of toilets, potable water, and good roads.

“Adults in the community defecate in the river and gutters; we are begging the government to come and look at how they can stop this, because of the bad water, diseases are rampant here.

“We do not have good source of potable water and as such, many lives are lost due to infection from water borne diseases.”

UNICEF Communication Specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku, says open defecation portrays Nigeria in bad light before the international community.

“Nigeria loses about 1.3% (N455 billion) of GDP annually due to poor sanitation as a result of illness, low productivity, loss of learning opportunities, among others.

“More than 100,000 children under 5 years of age die each year due to diarrhea, of which 90 percent is directly attributable to unsafe water and sanitation.

“Nigeria is the second country with the highest children’s deaths due to diarrhea,” he said.

Mr Ibrahim Conteh, Chief Field Officer, UNICEF, Enugu, who also spoke, said that by 2030, Nigeria was expected to achieve adequate sanitation by paying attention to the needs of women and girls, as they are the most vulnerable to water borne disease infection.

According to him, when that is done, it will reduce the impact of open defecation on child development.

Conteh said: “1 in 4 children less than 5 years of age exhibit severe stunting, while 1 in 10 is wasted due to frequent episodes of diarrhea and other Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) related illnesses.”

According to available records, Nigeria ranks second among countries practicing open defecation globally.

The 2018 WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM) survey showed that 24 percent of the population (47 million), still practice open defecation.

A survey carried out by UNICEF and other partners showed that only 13 out of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria have been certified Open Defecation Free (ODF).

Great effort is needed to ensure that Nigeria becomes Open Defecation Free by 25 and does not take over from India as the number one country practicing open defecation, as India was expected to be open defecation free by 2019.

The State of Emergency in WASH, declared by  President Muhammadu Buhari on November 2018, should be boosted through sustained support and commitment by all stakeholders.

All stakeholders should show commitment to the “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” campaign and enlighten Nigerians on the dangers of open defecation and the need to sustain the universal access to safely managed sanitation in the country.

With sustained enlightenment and massive provision of toilet facilities, Nigeria may realize its ambition of becoming open defecation free by 2025.

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FEATURE:Addressing threat of Emerging Infectious Diseases in Africa



They said that strengthening the institutes would enable the countries mitigate infectious disease outbreaks caused by climate change and biological weapons.

They noted that the continent had continued to experience increased cases of Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs) like Ebola, Lassa Fever , Yellow Fever, Monkey Pox, Cholera, Bird Flu and Meningitis.

There also noted cases of drug-resistance diseases like Malaria, Tuberculosis and Bacterial pneumonias.

Available statistics indicate that infectious diseases are responsible for about one quarter of deaths worldwide, causing at least 10 million deaths annually, mainly in the tropical countries.

Experts say that public health plays a leading role in the areas of preparedness and planning to check outbreak of diseases.

In most situations, the public health system would be the first to detect cases and raise  alarm, it would also be at the front line throughout the response.

Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), echoed the need for African countries to combat emerging infectious diseases, through strong NPHIs.

Ihekweazu, who spoke at the conference with the theme: “Climate Change and Conflict: Implication for Emerging Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity in Africa,’’ stressed that Africa must mitigate the infectious disease outbreaks caused by climate change and biological weapons.

He stressed the need for a strong surveillance and response system managed by skilled public health experts.

Ihekweazu emphasised that African countries must demonstrate high level of preparedness to check disease outbreaks.

“Early detection through a sensitive surveillance system is required to know when and where the outbreak occurs to limit its spread.

“ Most importantly, a coordinated and rapid investigation is required to describe the outbreak and identify interventions,” Ihekweazu said.

Prof. Morenike Ukpong-Folayan, in her contribution, noted that Africa had continued to witness devastating consequences of infectious disease transmission such as the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ukpong-Folayan, who is of the College of Health Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University,  said to understand and respond to infectious disease transmission dynamics, it would require collective efforts and deployment  of technological advances at Africa’s disposal.

She said the transmission patterns were needed for continuous investigation of those complex relationships so that the continent could effectively predict future disease outbreaks.

“The rapid degradation of our environment in the form of deforestation, climate change and accumulation of toxins in water tables and the atmosphere, coupled with rapidly expanding megacities is creating opportunities for EIDs and biosecurity threats in Africa,” she added.

Ukpong-Folayan noted that shrinking natural resources was creating human competition for water and grazing, leading to demographic conflicts.

Akin Abayomi, a Professor of Medicine and Health Science said that “ poor management of waste and unchecked use of chemicals have contributed to the rise of infectious diseases.’’

Abayomi who is the Principal Investigator for Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium, said:

“Whatever we do on the surface of the earth is reflected in the water table that ends up carrying pathogens and heavy metals that are harmful to the body.

“The pressure on water is enormous, when we look at the drying up of the Lake Chad, a source of livelihood for 350 million people in four countries – Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, it has increased tension in the region.

“Wherever you have conflicts and insecurity, there is always the opportunity for biosecurity threats.”

Making reference to why Ebola spread rapidly in three countries– Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, he listed the reasons to include:

“Lack of human resources, economic and financial resources to cope.

“The inaccessibility of remote locations where the disease was on the rise.

“The inexperience of staff to handle the strange disease and the lack of specialised infrastructure for dangerous pathogens.’’

Mr Sunday Ishaku, an environmentalist said that infectious disease was a serious global health problem.

Ishaku said that epidemiological figures have shown that the burden of infectious disease was highest in Africa, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

He said preparedness was a subset of epidemic management, adding that epidemic preparedness constitutes all the activities that have to be undertaken from the national to the health facility levels to be ready to respond effectively to disease outbreaks.

Ishaku noted: “When all the activities are put together in a plan, then we have an epidemic preparedness and response plan.”

Dr Dotun Bobadoye, the Chief Operating Officer, Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium, said the impact of climate change and conflict in some parts of Africa should not be overlooked because of its huge impact on human beings, animals, crops and the environment.

“We should focus on combine impact of climate change and serious conflict that we are having in different parts of Africa on EIDs and biosecurity.

“Climate change is becoming a big challenge to Africa, especially with an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather event.

“We are experiencing drought in parts of the continent ; in Nigeria, desertification is moving southwards with 350 hectares lost to desertification annually.

“Lake Chad, which used to be a source of water supply to about 30 million people, is drying up and we have lost 90 per cent of its water content within the last three decades. “This is having a serious impact on biosecurity.

“With the loss of such huge water volume, we have rebel groups rising up and killing thousands of people.’’

Bobadoye disclosed that the consortium, through the help of the Canadian Government and the Lagos State Government, had begun the construction of a biological laboratory in Lagos, where sensitive biological materials would be kept from getting into the wrong hands.

“We are collaborating with Lagos State Government to build a biosecurity laboratory, where highly pathogenic biological materials will be kept so that they do not get to the wrong hands.

“ It is sited in Lagos State and donated by the Canadian Government, it will start operation soon,” Bobadoye said.

As suggested by experts, African countries should strengthen their public health institutes in order to beef up their  preparedness to check outbreak of diseases. (NANFeatures)



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MFM FC 2019/2020 Season: Before the bubble bursts after exodus of players, coach



It is obvious that things are not taking the right shape with the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church-owned club, as it the looks ahead of the campaign in the coming season.

MFM gained promotion into the elite football league giving Lagos fans something to cheer about after about 15 years wait and desert of professional league absenteeism after the last Lagos-based club, Julius Berger exited in 2000.

It is pertinent to know that Lagos which had previously been the home of football in the past with no state to match its fanaticism when it comes to supporting clubs could be thrown into the obscurity of elite football for that long.

Lagos being a cosmopolitan city stands out in terms of facilities for football clubs to excel, especially its economic and social endowment which could be the reagent for any club to succeed.

Lagos also the commercial hub of the country is officially the most populated state after Kano and it boasts of four readily available stadia with unquantifiable opportunities for clubs.

Such facilities include the newly reconstructed Onikan Stadium, upgraded Agege Stadium, Teslim Balogun Stadium and abandoned National Stadium all in great standard.

In the past, Lagos enjoyed topflight football from elite clubs such as Stationery Stores founded in 1958 and Julius Berger founded in 1970. Both clubs had rich history in football in Nigeria.

For MFM FC, they have a hole to fill in the hearts of Lagos fans and in no distance time, they have already joined the powerhouse of dictators in the league and within their second year, they are already contesting for a continental slot.

MFM struggled and they were almost regulated save the last day miracle against a title chasing Ifeanyi Ubah, a team they had to beat to stay afloat.

It was a tough chase until Jos-based Plateau United needed to win on the last Match Day 38 after about 45 years of wait, thus turning from the last seasons zero to hero.

Besides all these feats, it is no news that MFM in the last two to three years has been selling the team’s regulars without replacing them with competent hands that could fill in their shoes.

Over the past few years, the club has suffered mass exodus of players who left in search of greener pastures, mostly because of what many will term as unfavourable club policy.

In the past years, notable players such as the wonder kid, Stephen Odey, who once rocked the elite league with his eye catching goals for MFM left for FC Zurich, Switzerland.

Odey’s time with MFM, witnessed a deadly combination of the attacking duo of Sikiru Olatunbosun and Chukwuka Onuwa; the attacking trio got the team a continental slot for Nigeria back then.

However, last year’s transfer window saw the former BBC’s “Goal of the Month” recipient, Sikiru Olatunbosun, leave the club for league winners, Plateau United, while the mercurial midfielder, Chukwuka Onuwa ran to the arms of Enyimba International FC of Aba.

The mass exodus continued unabated as regular players such as Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, Ospino Egbe left for Lobi Stars, Tchato Giscard, Jesse Akilla, Monsuru Bahiru, Adebayo Waheed and Wilfred Ammeh all left the club in the wild.

Things also continued in the downward spiral at the current transfer window as MFM’s longest serving captain, Austin Opara, joined the league of transferred players to Enyimba FC of Aba to pair with right full back Stanley Okorom.

Before Opara’s departure, the quartet of striker, Tunde Abisoye, highest goal scorer for last the team, Chijoke Akuneto, wing back, Julius Emiloju, and Jonathan Zikiye had all left for Sunshine Stars FC of Akure.

For Opara who is seen by many as a cult figure in the team, his departure is a misnomer because he was regarded as the Minister of Defence in the team; he is an exceptional leader with rare qualities.

As the purge continued, maybe the final straw that broke the camels back was the decision of the team’s coach Fidelis Ilechukwu to leave the house that he had helped to build and sustain for 13 years.

Ilechukwu was last week Wednesday unveiled as the Technical Adviser of Heartland FC of Owerri on a three-year contract.

Many followers of the Olukoya Boys were stunned with the decision of Ilechukwu to leave the club; albeit they also saw it coming.

It is an open secret that Ilechukwu who earned his name as a “Special One”, a name adopted by the former Manchester United Coach, Jose Mourinho because of his exceptional performance as a coach was the brain behind MFM’s years of unprecedented successes.

Under Ilechukwu, even the big team quivers, whenever they were to face the team, within a short period, the Olukoya Boys had become one of the most feared clubsides.

Ilechukwu nurtured the team right from the foundation 13 years ago from the Nigeria Nationwide League to the professional league.

Without doubt, MFM has been decimated and with the transfer window about to be shut and the club not making any buy from the available players, what fate lies ahead for it in the professional league campaign?

Pundits have argued that MFM lacks a professional football club outlook which is true because the players transfer policy suggests a lopsided one.

For Ilechukwu, he did not mince words in condemning the players transfer policy adopted by the club and often had taken time to take a swipe at them even in the face of the camera.

Ilechukwu, after he got the continental ticket, lambasted his club hierarchy for failing to employ the services of experienced players to play the continental football; the money-spinning CAF Champions League.

The decision of the club not to shore up the squad for CAF Champions League later backfired as the team struggled in the competition by suffering elimination in the preliminary stage.

To make the matter worse, the club was alleged to be selling players at reasonable prices without making any effort at replacing the departed legs.

Some who commented of MFM’s present debacle, however, did not mince word as they came harsh on the club for slipping into dangerous zone leaving them in distraught.

An ardent MFM FC fan, Sunday Agunbiade, told the Nigeria News Agency that things were not looking good for the Church Boys this season, adding that they might be toying with a relegation battle.

“I don’t know how they want to do it after selling most of their active squad members to rival clubs without buying replacements.

“I am sure MFM will struggle when the season starts because I don’t see any miracle ahead that can save the impending danger.

“The club is not run like a professionally at all, it should be run like one.

“This is the problem Nigeria’s football clubs have been facing because they don’t have professional football club outlook, he said.

An analyst and sports writer, Afolabi Oni, said that MFM was guilty of unprofessional conduct in the affairs of its football administration, adding that the club’s transfer policy was not friendly.

“When you have a club that holds such policy administratively, what do you expect? MFM is not run like a football club at all.

“Maybe we should not expect anything from them this season because players are not magicians,” he said.

However, to assuage the tension in the air, the Media Officer of MFM, Olawale Quadri, equally told NAN that the fans should refrain from the panic button.

“The fans should be patient with the team as we are trying to sort things out and we are ready to make our fans happy as usual.

“There is no need to panic yet because the club will engage the services of best hands to manage the team,” he said.

Recently, the Olukoya Boys announced a new gaffer to continue from where the now dubbed “Working One’’ in person of Temitope Bolus, former Coach of Giwa FC of Jos, who is acclaimed to be a grassroots coach.

Bolus was a former assistant to Imama Amakpakabo in Rangers International FC of Enugu, and has been touted to have capacity to carry on with the legacy Ilechukwu left behind.

In all these, the question on the lips of many fans now is “Will MFM FC join the league of great teams that have done Lagos State proud but went into oblivion?

The examples are rife with former great teams such as ECN of Lagos (NEPA), Julius Berger, Stationery Stores and recently Ikorodu United but now almost unseen.

What future lies ahead of MFM, the season opener at the tentative date of Sept. 2 will decide what will happen.

Will it be a doomsday or a glorious one, time will tell.


(Editing by Peter Ejiofor)

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Sports betting: dangerous trend or reward for passion?



Many Nigerian football supporters and enthusiasts have greeted the new football season in major European countries with excitement and anticipation.

In the next eight months, football crazy Nigerians will have the opportunity to watch their favourite clubs challenge for honours in England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France and other countries.

The new season has kicked off in England, where the English Premier League (EPL) – perhaps the most popular football league among Nigerians – has already sparked thrill among fans.

On Sunday, Manchester United thrashed Chelsea 4-0 in what many considered a baptism of fire for Chelsea’s new manager and former club legend, Frank Lampard.

Action in the French Ligue 1 has also lifted football fans’ spirits and the prospect of adding the German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A and Spanish La Liga to the mix further heightens the delight.

However, there is another kind of excitement about the new football season brewing among a totally different class of Nigerians.

For this group of football followers, the new season doesn’t merely offer excitement and rekindle their passion for the beautiful game. It is an avenue to make money through sports betting.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that over the past decade, sports betting has become one of the fasted growing sectors in Nigeria and the proliferation of betting shops is not hard to observe, even by the uninitiated.

Every week, gamblers forecast outcomes of football matches and stake some money on odds with the hope of making a fortune.

Some uniform men were spotted on Sunday at Asokoro Bet9ja centre betting as Chelsea and Man United, others played.

NAN in Abuja, observed that most of the people patronising betting centre were policemen and young adults between the ages of 18 to 25 years.

Whether they are patronising some of the numerous betting shops which dot almost every neighbourhood or playing directly from their mobile phones, many Nigerians have come to embrace the trend of making (or losing) money from sports betting.

A 2018 estimate puts the Nigerian betting industry’s worth at over five billion-naira a-day and it is believed that more than 30 per cent of the entire population is actively involved in it.

An economic expert, Mr Kingsley Kosisochukwu, noted betting has the potential of bringing  substantial economic benefits for the country.

“Increased employment and income, increased tax revenues, enhanced tourism and recreational opportunities are also positive effects of legalised gambling.

“Also, it has the potential of re-distributing wealth. We have some people that have become millionaires overnight through betting.

“These are people that probably would never have become rich if they did not gamble. So healthy gambling is good for the nation’s economy,” he said.

In contrast, a financial analyst, Dr Patricia Auta, said that betting was a bad idea and the biggest was the creation of more addicted gamblers at a younger age.

“If you combine gambling, sports and smartphones, you’re leading sport fans down a very dangerous path to financial ruin.

“The younger generation, that is the generation that doesn’t know a world without smartphones and the internet is showing nearly double the gambling addiction rate of the next-oldest generation.

“The effect is increased crime due to bankruptcy and bad debts.

“As access to money becomes more limited, gamblers often resort to crime in order to pay debts.

“Studies have shown that gamblers are more likely to commit offences as fraud, stealing, embezzlement, forgery, robbery, and blackmail,” she said.

Meanwhile, a reliable source from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) told NAN that the sport betting industry currently does not attract tax of any kind.

The source said that the service had already held series of meetings with the National Lottery Commission and the betting companies operating in the country to see how the industry would start paying its fair share of tax.

“We plan to introduce VAT and possibly withholding tax on betting.

“We currently don’t have a legislation to cover this and that is why we have highlighted this in the reviewed National Tax Policy.

“The policy is ready and once a Minister of Finance is appointed, we will submit the proposal,” the source said.

An agent at a popular sports betting outlet in Nyanya, a suburb of Abuja, simply identified as Mike, told NAN that he could make as much as N85,000 in a week, depending on how the games turned out.

While sports betting is regulated by the National Lottery Regulatory Commission and its contribution to the economy is undeniable, many football enthusiasts worry about its dark side.

John Atime also told NAN at a popular viewing centre in Nyanya, “I sparingly stake bets, most times out of passion and fun, so I don’t worry if I win or not. But there are others who survive on betting.

“Personally, I believe that being involved too much in betting can kill the passion for the game.

“Sometimes you see a fan hoping for his club to concede a goal or lose a match because he has forecast goal-goal,”

However, Adewale Sikiru, a phone vendor at the popular Banex Plaza in Abuja, disagreed with Atime, saying there was nothing wrong with making money from one’s passion.

“Football is a big business and players are earning off their passion so why can’t fans earn money too? In fact, placing a bet enhances your passion because something is at stake at personal level,” he said.

Indeed, football is a big business and sports betting is one of its major drivers.

In addition, at least two divisions of the English league are sponsored by a betting company and here in Nigeria we have seen betting companies sponsor national football leagues.

But should we close our eyes to the realities of addiction, depression and underage betting because of the economic returns it offers?

In 2016, a young man identified as Uchenna was reported to have taken his own life after losing a N22,000 sports bet in Uyo.

In 2018, police in Ilorin confirmed that a 25-year-old man committed suicide after he lost out on a bet over the outcome of a European Champions League match.

The lawful age for betting eligibility in Nigeria is 18, but many sports betting outlets visited by NAN in Abuja glaringly admit underage gamblers.

Football being the most followed sport in Nigeria, betting appears to have become a complementary lifestyle among its supporters and many of those supporters are under the age of 18.

Many adults also expose minors to betting by sending them to betting shops to process already generated forecasts.

Mike told NAN that opting to play online could guard against this, although it would hurt agents like him.

“Gamblers can create their own account and play via the mobile app.  Winnings are credited to their accounts which they can transfer into their bank accounts.

“It is wrong to encourage underage people to get involved,” he said.

With privilege comes responsibility. Thus, betting companies should consider it a social responsibility to invest in enlightenment campaigns.

Mr Magnus Ekechukwu, Assistant Director, Public Affairs, National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC), says the commission is contributing immensely to the socio-economic development of the country

Ekechukwu told NAN in Abuja the NLRC Act is defined in such a way and manner that it includes and covers sport betting activities,

“Lottery and gaming have been used all over the world as a tool of social economic development, wealth distribution, empowerment, poverty alleviation and so forth and so on.

“But beyond that, the proceeds from lottery and gaming, we use to provide what we called good courses in Nigeria which is intervention in the infrastructural development of the country by the government.



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Violence Against Children: Case for Improved Children Protection Services



Violence Against Children: Case for Improved Children Protection Services

A News Analysis By Vivian Ihechu, Nigeria News Agency

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), abuse or violence in all its forms is a daily reality for many Nigerian children and only a fraction ever receive help.

The National Child Welfare Policy of 1989 defines a child in Nigeria as anybody who is 12 years or below; however, a draft decree put into law now sets the age of the child in Nigeria as 18 years or below.

It takes different forms, including physical, psychological and sexual; often times, it also takes the shape of disciplinary measures.

In recent times, children are even used as human bombs and in any combat or non-combat roles in the conflict in north-east Nigeria.

Studies also show that six out of every 10 children experience some form of violence, one in four girls and 10 per cent of boys have been victims of sexual violence.

Often times, the children who reported violence receive little or no form of support.

In all of these, the physical, mental, social and even economic burden of VAC is enormous.

Identifying the huge consequences of VAC, world leaders in 2015 made a commitment to end all forms of violence against children by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the same campaign tagged “End Violence Against Children by 2030,’’ on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016.

This is especially as poverty, discrimination and attitudes, especially cultural and gender which directly or indirectly facilitate violence toward children to continue.

A study by UNICEF, the first of its kind in Nigeria, shows that  about half of Nigerian children reported some form of physical violence by a parent, adult relative, community member or intimate partner prior to attaining the age of 18.

The studies, “A Financial Benchmark for Child Protection, Nigeria Study, Volume 1’’ and “The Economic Burden of Violence Against Children’’ were based on data gathered from 2014 to 2016 and the survey done in 2018.

The study on the Economic burden of VAC, reveals the cumulative loss of earnings as a result of productivity losses across different types of violence against children to be N967 billion ($6.1 billion), accounting for 1.07 per cent  of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

This amplifies the urgency to act on reducing or outright stopping of VAC.

However, achieving this will involve increasing efforts on Child Protection Services; efforts that will include awareness on prevention strategies, the implications of VAC and the consequent penalties as even cheaper options.

Ms Juliane Koenlg of UNICEF, Abuja, tells the Nigeria News Agency that the most important thing is still to increase the awareness on the prevalence of violence against children in Nigeria which is high.

“It is a huge problem, especially on its impact on health and economy in Nigeria; the child needs protection.

“If we look at child protection services, we are looking at preventive.’’

She said: “Studies have shown that the economic violence urges actions ranging from physical, emotional to sexual violence.

“So, we are not only talking about physical consequences alone, but also communicable diseases, including HIV, STI and even death.

“We also should not forget about mental consequences which might arise from sexual or physical violence.

“It also has consequences on the educational attainment which we have seen in economic growth productivity loss due this consequence.

“Nearly N1 billion is lost due to creativity loss, while N1.4 trillion is lost to VAC.’’

Ms Ifeoma Ibe, a child rights advocate, says governments must be committed to reducing VAC in Nigeria.

According to her, at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) First Ladies Forum in October 2017, the 15 members state, of which Nigeria is among, agreed to  adopt a range of measures to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation.

“We must strengthen our National Child Protection Systems to Prevent and respond to violence, abuse and exploitation against children.

“We must do the same here,’’ she said.

Lending her voice, , Rachel Harvey, Regional Adviser of Child Protection, UNICEF, had at the launch of the campaign to end VAC by 2030 in 2016, told NAN that the Federal Government must adopt proactive measures against violence through quality services.

According to her, child protection services must be staffed by trained professionals to help children recover from their experiences.

“Also, perpetrators should be held accountable for their actions by strengthening the capacity of the justice sector.

“Children and the general public must know that violence against children is unacceptable and know where to seek help when they become victims,’’ she said.

“Issue of violence against children is not confined to poor families, or to marginalised children or children living in the shadow of conflict.

“It is a problem that transcends social and economic status; it impacts rich and poor, urban and rural, educated and out of school children.

“Ending violence against children is not just a moral imperative or a legal obligation; failure to prevent and respond to violence leads to a new generation of victims.’’

Shedding more light on the problem, Harvey said: “The Nigeria Violence Against Children Survey found that adults who have suffered violence as children, are much more likely to perpetrate intimate partner violence.

“Failure to end VAC also impacts the country as a whole; it leads to substantial economic losses and constrains development.

“Ending VAC has been linked to sustainable growth not only by the international community, but through the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Violence against children is therefore not somebody else’s problem – it is everyone’s problem and everyone needs to be part of the solution.’’

According to her, it involves religious leaders, NGOs and the media as they have fundamental role in breaking the culture of silence on violence that children suffered.

Aside from the efforts of governments and what the laws stipulate, many stakeholders believe that VAC can be stemmed right from the homes.

This is especially as the National Child Welfare Policy of 1989 specifies that “parents and the society at large, are under an obligation to provide their children with proper education and to protect them from exploitation arising from early marriage, employment and their negative influence that infringe on their rights’’.

Mrs Sharon Oladiji, a child protection specialist with UNICEF, agrees that Nigeria has many laws protecting children in the country, but the laws are not adequately implemented.

She calls for the creation of family courts vested with jurisdiction to hear cases that would help protect the child and prevent trafficking.

“We have good laws, but what we have suffered is implementation; government should also provide the establishment of voluntary homes to take care of children that are suffering,’’ she said.

She tasked parents on their responsibilities of proper upbringing of children in order to reduce rate of child rights violation in Nigeria.

“If a child is well brought up, issues of molestation and abuse will not occur.

“When you raise a child well he goes out to become a good person, when a child has problems in the home he goes out and demonstrates it,’’ she says.

Also, Mrs Eliana Martins, of the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria, Lagos State branch, believes that parents have critical roles in reducing VAC through the proper upbringing of their children and wards.

“Instilling good morals in the upbringing of children will help to mould a child’s personality for a more responsible adulthood.

“If you teach your children good values, definitely they will imbibe these values as they grow up and the women, especially have to rise up to this task.

“Parents are encouraged to work together to bring up children in order to put in place better value systems in our society.

“This will enable people to respect the laws, so that we can appreciate that these laws are to make the society better and not find ways in which we can break them.’’

Martins emphasised that education and good communication are also integral in grooming children and stressed the need for effective administration of the criminal justice system in the country.

“There is also need to ensure that when laws have been breached, the culprits are brought to book for justice to be done.

“It is important because if there is no social justice, there is no way we will have harmony and there will be conflicts everywhere as it will be a lawless society.

“The police, other security who have the right to investigate, arrest and prosecute and the legal system should be effective and efficient in the discharge of their duties,’’  Martins advised.

Mr Denis Onoise, a child Protection specialist, UNICEF, reiterated the need for “Call to Action’’ by governments and stakeholders to add child protection budget line to national chart of accounts.

He said that based on studies, currently, only 14 per cent of child protection expenditure in Nigeria was devoted to critical prevention services.

According to him, there is also need to formalise an End VAC National Act Plan and establish VAC helpline.

“These will improve the delivery of child protection services across the country,’’ Onoise said. (NANFeatures)

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