CBN, NIBSS, Bankers Committee Launch National Domestic Card Scheme

*Set to establish collective cyber-security centre 

*RT200 FX records $1.2bn repatriation 

*Customs CG: Nigeria’s border security moves yielding positive results 

*Doubts possibility of agency meeting N3trn annual revenue target 

*Says N2.143trn so far generated in 2022

 Deji Elumoye, James Emejo in Abuja and Nume Ekeghe in Abuja

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in collaboration with the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) and the Bankers Committee yesterday disclosed plan to implement a National Domestic Card Scheme effective January 16, 2023.

Also, it was revealed that the central bank’s RT200 FX  policy which aims to raise $200 billion from foreign exchange (FX) earnings from non-oil proceeds over the next three to five years, has continued to yield dividends as it has recorded $1.2 billion in repatriation, $870 million sold through the Investors and Exporters’ (I&E) window and N42 billion paid as rebate.

These were disclosed during a virtual press briefing at the end of a Bankers’ Committee meeting.
Also yesterday, the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd), declared that the federal government’s move to ensure that the nation’s borders were secured was yielding positive results.

Speaking on the plan to launch a national domestic card scheme, the Chief Executive Officer, NIBSS, Mr. Premier Oiwoh, stated that the new initiative being birthed by the CBN, NIBSS and Bankers’ Committee would enhance financial inclusion and create solutions to improve card ecosystem innovation in Nigeria.  
Oiwoh said: “The domestic card scheme is a scheme that has been the brainwork of the CBN and it is being deployed to improve the payments landscape across Nigeria.

“So, part of the proposition that this domestic card scheme will be creating is that it drives acceptance and efficiency, reduce operating costs of a card operation in the country and also the provision of unique, reliable services because other features or other products will be layered on this card. Uniquely, this card will be configured to address the unique ecosystem issues that we have to help improve payments across the nation.

“We also expect the card to provide affordable pricing, the charges will certainly be lower because it is expected to be charged for in naira as against foreign currency. We also expect more local contents; contents uniquely for the Nigerian landscape which will support micropayments and credits, e-government, identity management, transportation, the health sector and agriculture in terms of payments.

“We expect this to reduce the dependency on cash across the landscape and help promote the cashless initiative by the central bank.”
He added that the operational effectiveness of this card was expected to be robust and should drive a lot of innovation and validation, end-to-end visibility to improve fraud management, and a better dispute resolution process around the current card operating system.
 He added: “it would improve sovereignty and security of our data and operations which would be locally based. It will also help and drive financial inclusion across the federation.

“These cards as I said with the platform and then lots of products will be layered across ranging from debit cards, virtual cards, debit cards, non-interest cards which will specifically address the needs of the Muslim segment of the country, then identity card. Any form of card scheme can be layered on top.”
Also, announcing the progress made on the RT200, the Managing Director of CitiBank Nigeria, Ms. Ireti Samuel- Ogbu said: “In terms of RT200, as we know this scheme was introduced by the central bank in February, to generate $200 billion in foreign exchange earnings and the whole idea behind this initiative was to diversify sources of FX away from the dominance of oil and to increase the contribution of non-oil exports, to increase availability and to support export-oriented companies to expand their operations and capabilities.

“We were very pleased to observe that this initiative is really beginning to bear fruit and show success. And at the end of the third quarter, September, the total amount repatriated was $1.2 billion for the quarter, and out of that the total amount sold into the I&E window was $870 million, which ended up in terms of rebates paid by the central bank and you may be familiar that rebates are paid N65 naira to a dollar, so N42 billion rebates have been paid in the third quarter.”
Speaking on the planned national cyber-security centre, Samuel-Ogbu said: “Cyber security is a very challenging subject and one of the unintended consequences of automation and digitisation and our vision as the banking industry is to actually come up with counter-measures in order to mitigate that risk.

“So, to prevent cyber-attacks to deter them, to predict and even pre-empt threats, cybersecurity centre has been a vision and it’s been built and assembled to be able to do this. And we believe that by having this collective approach as an industry, it will really help to mitigate the vulnerability of risk of cyberattacks.”
She added that this centre currently housed in the CBN would provide information-sharing across the industry and if there was a large scale cyber-attack, having coordinated efforts would mean minimising damage and enhancing recovery time.

She added: “This cyber security centre is very much in line with best practice. In fact, it’s something which are fitting we have seen work very well around the world when we bring professionals from information security investigation services, and technology infrastructure, to do strategic intelligence and analysis and share that information industry-wide.

“So it’s very pleasing to see that we are taking this kind of action, and this action is very much in line with international best practice.”
Also briefing journalists, the Managing Director and Chief Executive of Lotus Bank, Mrs. Kafilat Araoye, said that measures taken by the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to rein in inflation by increasing MPR rate as well as the cash reserve ratio (CRR) were well accepted by the banks with the expectation that it would rein in inflation.

She said: “The meeting held today discussed the last outcome of the MPC meeting, and it’s clear that you have to do some very strong measures to ensure that we rein in inflation.

“The two major decisions were the increase in the monetary policy rates by 150 basis points and the increase in the CRR from 27.5 per cent to 32.5 per cent.
“We also support that as banks because this will help to mop up excess deposits out there and excess money in the system and reduce pressure even on FX.
“So, it is a very good move in ensuring that all the efforts made in the past to curb inflation come to fruition. As banks, we support and will believe everybody within the country should understand the move beyond the decisions that have been taken.”

Customs CG: Nigeria’s Border Security Moves Yielding Positive Results

Meanwhile, Ali yesterday declared that the federal government’s move to ensure that the nation’s borders were secured was yielding positive results.
The Customs CG who while appearing on the weekly Ministerial Press Briefing at the State House, Abuja, also raised the alarm that the revenue generating agency may find it difficult to meet the N3 million revenue target set for it by the federal government in 2022 fiscal year.

According to him, the establishment of the joint border patrol team as well as increasing the arsenal of the agency with regards to capability to be able to fight smuggling and monitor the Nigerian borders, have been yielding the desired results.

Ali, who said smugglers were becoming more sophisticated, added that the agency was modifying its operations to respond to the threats.
He emphasised that while the agency has a mandate to generate revenue and facilitate trade, it was also ensuring the protection of the Nigerian borders through its modernisation process, known as the e-Customs Project, using technology.

“The issue of border security, if you have been following the story of how we are working to make sure that we secure the borders, first, you remember in 2019 we closed the borders, that was done to ensure that illicit items are not brought into this country.

“Two, to ensure that rice, which is one of the areas we want to make sure that we block, is not also brought into this country.
“Also, to ensure that, between us and our neighbouring countries, we uphold the sanctity of the ECOWAS protocol because those were being breached by our own brothers across the borders and we felt the only way we can send this message to ensure that they align themselves with the protocol is to close our borders and agree.

“And we did that; after about three months of forth and back, we agreed on the constitution of what we call the Joint Border Patrol Team. Today, we have a conglomeration of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and all other security agencies, that have come together under one roof, to ensure the security of our borders. That is being done.”

He added: “Then secondly, we’re trying to increase our arsenal, with regards to capability to be able to fight smuggling and ensure we monitor our border. For the customs, the modernisation process that we have has an inbuilt system for border monitoring, which will be both linked to the IT system, and then today we are jointly working with the Air Force in the geospatial process to make sure that we monitor our borders and ensure effective control.

“We intend to get as more aircrafts as possible. We are talking with the army, we will soon be training our own officers to learn to pilot-drop so that when we are able to pick, not only being able to pick electronically the activities around the border, we should be able to also drop our officers at every point to be able to intercept and interdict the actions of smugglers.

“As at today, I believe that what we have put in place is working. It may not be as at the level where we want it. But I assure you that as responsive agencies, we’re doing the best way we can to make sure that our borders are protected”, he said.
Commenting on revenue generation and Customs’ projected target of N3.019 trillion for 2022, the Customs CG said despite challenges including the inability to collect the telecoms tax, the agency has so far generated 2.143 trillion in 2022 for the federal government.

According to him, the protracted controversies around the agency to collect the telecommunication tariff, which was recently resolved in the NCS’ favour would affect the target.
He explained that the projection as at the time the N3.019 target was set was based on the assumption that the service would start the collection from the beginning of the year.

The suspension of the telecoms tariff until recently when it was resolved, he said, would pose a great challenge to meeting the target, adding that the delay in the collection of carbonated drinks’ tax may also pose another challenge.
He disclosed that the Service only recently commenced the collection of the tax which he noted was also part of the assumption as at the time the 2022 revenue target was set.
“Yes, I thought I mentioned it that we were given the target of N3.019 trillion for the year 2022 and I told you that so far we have collected N2.143 trillion. So we’re working towards making sure that we get to the target.

“I’ve also talked about our challenges that some of the key areas that were factored into the N3.019 trillion was the collection of the telecommunication tax, which up to now we have not started, also, the collection of the carbonated drink tax, which we started just in June or July.
“So we did not start at the time we were supposed to start and those were factored, those figures ought to have added to the N3.019 trillion.
“But despite that, we’re working very assiduously to make sure that we plug other chances and see if we can, by the end of December, report to Nigerians that we have been able to make the N3.019 trillion,” he said.

Ali also disclosed that the Service would make about $17.6 billion for the country at the completion of its automation.
He projected that the Customs would need $3.5 billion to fully automate its operations and limit human interactions.
Asked what he had been able to do to rid the agency of corrupt officials, Ali disclosed that over 2,000 officers had been dismissed for one form of misconduct and complicity or the other since he took over as the head of the Service.

On fears in certain quarters that his successor may dismantle his structures and reverse reforms in the Customs, Ali explained that he would not be held liable if such happens.

He, however, assured that with his efforts to deploy technology in the operation of the Service, such reversal would be difficult assuring that his successors would only build on his achievements.
Commenting on the role of the Customs in oil theft, Ali explained that the responsibility of enforcing maritime laws and sea security lie with the Navy and NIMASA (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency).

Asked to explain the increase in tariff on imported vehicles and seizures of same on highways by his men, the Customs boss said the cost of clearing cars rose because the Service has deployed technology to determine the year and make of imported cars to avoid under-valuation.

According to him, imported cars are now being appropriately valued and requisite duties collected from importers.

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