President Goodluck Jonathan (R) welcomes Princess Maxima of the Netherlands to the Presidential Villa, Abuja .
By Muhammad Bello and James Emejo
President Goodluck Jonathan Tuesday emphasised the need to bring more Nigerians into the financial system, stressing that lack of access to finance had been a major limitation to the country’s economic growth.
The President who was speaking to Princess Maxima of the Netherlands, who is the United Nations Special Envoy for Financial Inclusion, at State House, said the citizens of the country must directly feel the impact of growth in the economy, adding that his administration is working towards financial inclusion of all.
The president, who was later represented by the Vice-President Namadi Sambo, at the inauguration of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) in Abuja, said “lack of access to finance has been one of the major factors militating against our economic growth and development.”
A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, quoted the president as saying: “It is important for us to have structures that will enable all Nigerians have access to financial services as well as funds, and we have started programmes targeted at empowering the youth, women and the creative industry.”
The president explained that the financial inclusion strategy midwifed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would enable more Nigerians have access to funds and help reduce poverty, especially in the rural areas.
He said his administration would support the strategy and mobilise the relevant departments of government to implement it for the benefit of Nigerians.
Jonathan said he recognised the importance of small and medium enterprises as the major vehicle to create employment in an increasingly industrial world, and commended the CBN for the new strategy to provide access to funds.
Earlier, Maxima commended the President Jonathan for supporting the financial inclusion strategy, and for the work of the Economic Management Team have been doing towards the effective coordination of relevant ministries and departments.
She said a very good communications network was necessary for adequate support to reach rural agriculture, and commended President Jonathan for providing the impetus required for this to be achieved.
At the Transcorp Hilton inauguration of the NFIS, Sambo stated that the programme would not only facilitate job and wealth creation but would also propel the country into one of the largest economies in the world by the year 2020.
“This administration remains committed to ensuring that the atmosphere is right for Nigerians to find gainful employment, especially the youth and women,” he said.
Sambo stated that to further position the private sector for economic development, government had made considerable inroad in the areas of agriculture, power, transportation, security and access to affordable financing for Small and Medium Enterprises among others.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President on Media and Publicity, Alhaji Sani Umar, said the Federal Government while commending the CBN for the initiative also charged the local banks to “emulate this gesture and develop capacity to participate in supporting the real sector in Nigeria,” stressing that “we must make finance easily accessible to our people. It is a task that must be done.”
In her remarks, Maxima of The Netherlands, who is also a global champion for financial inclusion, stated that the initiative would change the future of millions of Nigerians, adding that Nigeria had joined 16 other countries that have already developed their own Financial Inclusion Strategy.
She used the opportunity to call for dedicated implementation of the Strategy and for the involvement of all stakeholders in the implementation process.
Earlier, the CBN Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had stated that the initiatives was to reduce the number of Nigerians that are financially excluded, which according to him, was about 46.3 per cent of Nigeria’s adult population.
He noted that the strategy provided the roadmap for the activities of all stakeholders in the provision of financial services in the country. He added that the strategy also aims to reduce the exclusion rate to 20.0 per cent by year 2020 as committed to in the Maya Declaration in 2011.
Present at the occasion were the Deputy Governors of Kaduna and Niger States, Alhaji Ramallan Yero and Alhaji Ahmed Musa Ibeto respectively. Others present were the Minister of Women Affairs, Hajiya Zainab Maina and other top government officials.