By Kenneth Afor
First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s oldest commercial bank, says it now has 27,000 agents in its Firstmonie Agent Network spread across 774 local government areas in the country.
The agents form part of the push for financial inclusion in the country that is being spearheaded by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). They have been set up to stretch financial services to the last mile customers in rural and semi-urban centres where conventional services are not available.
The Firstmonie network is First Bank’s own initiative to drive financial inclusion, which it began about three years ago. Adesola Adeduntan, the bank’s chief executive officer, about two years ago during a meeting with the press, said the initiative would form a key strategy for driving its activities and reach in the country.
The Firstmonie agent services cover areas such as account opening, cash-in, cash-out, funds transfer, airtime top-up and bill payments to customers in the country.
Bashir Muhammad Rimin-Gado, one of its agents in Rimin-Gado, Kano State said of his experience: “I have been with Firstmonie since they started and I can say that it has been a life changing experience, I have been able to build trust of the communities around me as many workers in my area have forgotten the last time they visited any bank branch for basic banking services. I am a proud employer of labour and as a result, my staff are well paid and comfortable”.
Ephraim Obinachi of Jozzy Netcomputer Services Nigeria Limited in Abia State, another Firstmonie agent, in sharing his excitement said: “First Bank’s Firstmonie has created an enabling opportunity for dwellers of my immediate community and neighbouring towns to carry out banking transactions with less time, money, resources and risks as people don’t have to waste time embarking on long journeys to the city, added to the dangers of being robbed on the highway”.
The bank also disclosed that it has formed a partnership with the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) for its services to be made available in motor parks to ease the stress of persons who want to carry out commercial activities and trying to locate bank branches.
According to the bank, it is also extending its services to low-income individuals in rural communities and institutions in partnership with Azuri Technologies Limited, an off-grid power distribution company, to provide seamless services to off-grid power suppliers.
Adeduntan, speaking about the agent service network said: “Our Firstmonie Agent Banking network, spread across the nook and cranny of the country, is a demonstration of our resolve to promoting financial inclusion and business in the country. This indeed has been achieved with the concerted effort and commitment of our partners and registered Firstmonie Agents to taking banking to Nigerians regardless of where they are. With them, we are committed to leaving no stone unturned at bolstering the economic involvement of many more Nigerians, especially through our robust electronic services like *894# USSD banking, Firstmobile, Firstonline and ChatBanking on WhatsApp”.