Nigeria to establish national micro-finance bank

Nigeria to establish national micro-finance bank

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)


A national micro-finance bank is to be established to promote access to credit finance for small, medium enterprises (SMEs) and other unbanked groups in the country, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said on Thursday.
The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, who announced this in Abuja, said the bank will be established in collaboration with the Bankers Committee, the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST).
Mr Emefiele was represented by the deputy governor, Financial Systems Stability of the CBN, Aishah Ahmad, at the maiden two-day National Financial Literacy Stakeholders’ conference organised by the bank in Abuja.
The CBN governor said the new national MFB which shall be technology driven will leverage on the NIPOST’s presence in 774 local government areas of the country to reach its target beneficiaries.
“The bank will serve as an efficient channel for the disbursement and monitoring of key intervention funds by the CBN, such as the Anchor Borrowers fund, SME fund, etc, to farmers and SMEs at the grassroots level,” Mr Emefiele said.
He said the conference will provide the platform for participants to deliberate on key imperatives for achieving the country’s financial inclusion targets, promoting financial stability and entrenching sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
The theme of the conference, “Implementing Financial Literacy and Consumer Protection to advance Financial Inclusion in Nigeria”, the CBN governor noted, was selected to help focus on the need to redress the challenges limiting financial inclusion in the country.
Building an inclusive financial system, he said, has positively impacted efforts towards poverty reduction and enhancement of economic prosperity.
Following the launch of a National Financial Inclusion Strategy in 2012, Mr Emefiele said the federal government set a target to achieve 20 per cent financial exclusion rate in the country by 2020.
He said the latest access to financial services survey showed about 36.8 per cent of eligible Nigerian adults do not have access to financial services, down from 41.6 per cent in 2016.
Despite the improvement, the CBN governor said more effort was necessary to achieve the overall 20 per cent target exclusion rate by 2020.
The revised National Financial Inclusion Strategy, which was launched at the opening session of the conference, he said, identified consumer protection and consumer education as critical to the attainment of financial inclusion.
He said adequate consumer protection will help sustain the long term viability of the financial sector, while consumer education will thrive on the foundation of financial literacy.
“The benefits of a financially literate population are immense. Consumers are better equipped to make optimal choices in the use of financial products, pose lower credit and default risk, constitute a market for sustainable financial services and products, reinforce competitive pressure on financial institutions for better products and services, and promote financial system stability by increasing market demand and responsible use of financial services,” he said
On the impact of technological advancement on the financial system, he said new digital products and services have emerged, with the internet greatly influencing consumers’ purchasing decisions on e-commerce.
In 2017, he said the banking industry processed about 1.4 billion electronic transactions valued at N97.4 trillion, against 869 million transactions valued at N69.1 trillion in 2016.
Regardless, he said these positive developments in aid of financial inclusion are associated with challenges, namely privacy and security concerns; exposure to new and more inventive fraudulent practices, and multiplicity of information leading to information processing errors.
To provide the framework for financial inclusion in the country, the CBN governor launched four policy documents, namely the Revised National Financial Inclusion Strategy; Consumer Protection Framework as well as National Financial Literacy Framework and National Financial Education Strategy.
While the Consumer Protection Framework will provide policy direction for a robust consumer protection regime in the banking and financial services industry, the National Financial Literacy Framework will provide a roadmap for the implementation of various financial literacy programmes for various target groups in the country.
Earlier, the Director, Consumer Protection Department, CBN

Kofo Salam-Alada, said efforts toward financial inclusion have been limited by the challenge of financial literacy and awareness amongst consumers and a general lack of confidence in dealing with financial institutions.
Mr Salam-Alada said these issues can only be addressed through robust financial literacy and consumer protection programmes.
“If consumers are not adequately protected – if they are constantly having unresolved issues with their financial services providers, they are bound to be apathetic towards the system. This will negatively affect the financial inclusion rate and ultimately the stability of the financial system,” he said.


World Bank Project to Empower 10, 000 Farmers in Kogi, other states


A World Bank assisted project, Agro-Pocessing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Support project in Kogi State (Kogi APPEALS), is to empower 10,000 farmers in the state to enhance their productivity.
The $200 million project is aimed at making life easier for farmers to increase their yield and get maximum benefits from their productivity.
The state Project Coordinator, Dr Abdullahi Ozamata, who gave the indication in Lokoja at a press conference, said the project has five components.
According to him, the first component is production and productivity enhancement; the second is primary processing, value addition, post-harvest management and women and youth empowerment, while the third component is rural support to agriculture business clusters.
The fourth component, he said, is the technical assistant, knowledge and communication while the fifth is the project management and coordination.
Ozamata pointed out that being a World Bank-supported project, it looks forward to working with real beneficiaries, not political farmers.
To start with and get it right from the outset, he said the project embarked on a needs assessment.
The coordinator explained that the $200m grant is for six participating states.
He said the seven-year project was targeting to identify the 10,000 beneficiaries from across the 21 local government areas of the state in batches.

Nigeria targets 80% adult financial inclusion by 2020



The Federal Government targets achievement of 80 per cent financial inclusion of its adult population by 2020, a revised National Financial Inclusion Strategy released on Wednesday by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has shown.

The strategy first adopted in 2012 aims at reducing financially excluded adult Nigerians from 46.3 percent in 2010 to 20 percent in 2020.

Latest figures released by the Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA) department of the CBN showed about 36.6 million Nigerian adults, representing about 36.8 percent of the Nigerian adult population, do not have access to formal financial services.

The overall goal of the strategy, the CBN said, is to promote a financial system accessible to all Nigerian adults at an inclusion rate of 80 percent (formal and informal).

The focus of the strategy will be to promote agency banking, mobile banking/mobile payments, linkage models and client empowerment.

The CBN said on Monday that a two-day national financial inclusion conference is scheduled for Abuja on Thursday and Friday for the launch of key policy documents aimed at facilitating the attainment of the financial inclusion target by 2020.

The CBN said in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES that over 400 delegates are expected at the conference where key policy documents, namely the revised National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS 2.0), the Financial Literacy Framework, the Consumer Protection Framework and the Consumer Education framework, would be unveiled.

The conference also aims at ensuring newcomers into the financial inclusion bracket are adequately protected and educated in line with the provisions of the policy documents.

The conference to be declared open by the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, will update participants on the growing sophistication of the financial market.

The meeting will also talk about the competitive environment the financial services providers operate, and the benefits and value of providing access to financial services among others.

While hoping to enhance consumer confidence and trust in the financial services to facilitate progress towards achieving 80 percent financial inclusion target by 2020, the CBN said it will seek to obtain customers feedback on how best to implement the financial inclusion policies.

UNION BANK DONATES 6,000 CARE BAGS TO UNDERPRIVILEGED

UNION BANK DONATES 6,000 CARE BAGS TO UNDERPRIVILEGED





Union Bank, through its UnionCaresinitiative, provided relief for thousands of the underprivileged by donating over 6,000 care bags containing staple food items. The campaign, now in its third year, is co-funded by Union Bank and its employees. The bags containing nutritional staples included rice, beans, oil, salt and ready-made stews. In various parts of the country, the bank’s employees were seen handing out the bags to people in under-served communities.


The bank also made financial donations to over 30 orphanages, care homes and NGOs including Wesley Schools for the Blind and Hearing impaired as well as Pacelli School for the Blind and Partially sighted children, all under its UnionCares umbrella.

The Head of Corporate Communication and Marketing at Union Bank, Ogochukwu Ekezie-Ekaidem described the initiative as one of the bank’s ways of supporting charitable causes and contributing to the well-being of the needy, particularly during the festive season. She said: “Union Bank will continue to lead the charge for social responsibility and impact. We are firm believers in supporting the communities within which we operate. This outlook drives the initiatives we organise and support under our Corporate Social Responsibility pillars.


We launched the UnionCares initiative to touch as many lives as possible during the festive season and it is fulfilling to see the level of impact the initiative has had.” As part of its year end welfare initiatives, Union Bank also distributed care bags to children at the Makoko Christmas party organised recently by Slum2school.


5 things to be on the look out for in the Nigerian banking sector in 2019






The banking sector saw various activities in Nigeria with the merger and acquisitions plan by Access-Diamond Bank as well as the establishment of a bridge bank, Polaris Bank to take over failed Skye Bank Plc. Two foreign banks, HSBC and UBS, also exited the banking space bringing the number of foreign banks to eight (8) at end-June 2018.

This happened as Nigeria's central bank revealed that 3 commercial banks failed to meet their minimum liquidity ratio of 30%. In the year under review, CBN said,
 “The health of Nigerian banks improved following the sustained recovery in macroeconomic conditions, including declining inflation, stable exchange rate and a gradual upswing in the real economy.”

The year also saw a Unity Bank Plc struggling to get investors' injecting funds into the bank at the first quarter of the year. The case happened between Unity Bank Plc and Milost Trust, a US private equity firm. 

Here are some developments to watch out for in the Nigerian banking sector in 2019

1. Diamond Bank/Access bank merger to create Africa’s largest retail bank by customers
In December 2018, Nigerian lenders, Diamond and Access Bank agreed to merge and create Nigeria and Africa’s largest retail bank by customers.
The proposed merger involved Access Bank acquiring the entire issued share capital of Diamond Bank in exchange for a combination of cash and shares in Access Bank via a Scheme of Merger.
Based on the agreement reached by the Boards of the two financial institutions, Diamond Bank shareholders will receive a consideration of N3.13 per share, comprising of N1.00 per share in cash and the allotment of two (2) New Access Bank ordinary shares for every seven (7) Diamond Bank ordinary shares held as at the Implementation Date.

Nigeria's central bank (CBN) has given go-ahead for the proposed merger and two banks are currently finalising the elegant deal. When completed in the first half of 2019, Diamond Bank Plc will be totally absorbed by the Access Bank.

These activities will shape the banking industry in 2019. The merger will make Access Bank one of Nigeria's largest bank by customers deposit and asset overtaking Guaranty Trust Bank and Zenith Bank.

From its current third position, Access Bank Plc will move to the top spot in the country.

2. Unity Bank Plc to welcome new investors
After the failed $1 billion investment deal with Milost Global Inc., a New York-based private equity firm in the first quarter of 2018, Unity Bank Plc may see a new investment deal in 2019. This will also shape the banking sector despite electioneering activities.

In November 2018, Oluwatomi Somefun, Unity Bank Managing Director, disclosed that the tier-2 financial institution will soon finalise a memorandum of understanding for an anticipated capital injection with a second largest infrastructure institution in Asia.

Without providing details, the deal will see new investors taking place in the ownership of Nigeria's commercial bank.

3. Polaris Bank
In August 2018, Nigeria's central bank revoked the operating licence of Skye Bank Plc as a result of failure to meet their minimum liquidity ratio of 30%.

The apex bank established a bridge bank 'Polaris Bank,' to secure the assets and liabilities of Skye Bank until a buyer can be found for its operations.

Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor had said the bank required urgent recapitalisation and can no longer continue to live on borrowed times with indefinite liquidity support from the CBN.

The government, who acts as the owner of Polaris Bank, injected N786 billion into the new bank for its operations.

In 2019, new investors may come on board to buy the bank's assets and take over its operations.

4. Keystone Bank – politics and election
Keystone Bank Plc, Nigeria's tier-2 bank is currently in the midst of political attention as the 2019 election draws nearer.

This is coming as the former vice president and presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, accused the President Muhammadu Buhari and his close family member of owning shares in the company.
Atiku had earlier requested the anti-graft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate the acquisition and shareholders of the bank.

It was swiftly denied by the presidency and a group of investors in the bank. The political development may affect the Nigerian bank in the long run as investors may be wary of the financial institution.

5. International regulations – Basel 3 and IFRS 9
From January 2019, financial institutions in Nigeria will be reporting with the International Financial Reporting Standard 9 (IFRS 9) and the implementation of Basel 3 to meet with global standards.

This development will shape the activities of Nigerian banks as they will have to raise fresh funds to increase their capital base to meet up with regulatory capital adequacy requirements.

Basel 3 will lead to more capital adequacy ratio. The essence of the Basel 3 is to strengthen the regulation, supervision and risk management of banks.


Keystone Bank introduces first 'Zero Data' mobile banking feature in Nigeria


Customers of Keystone Bank Limited, can now transact banking services at their convenience on the new ‘Keystone Bank Mobile App’ with Zero Data

According to the Group Managing Director/CEO of Keystone Bank Limited, Dr. Obeahon Ohiwerei, the development is in demonstration of the bank’s commitment to deliver superior and innovative banking solutions to its customers.

“In our fast-paced and evolving digital world, service literally has to be at the speed of thought; the rules of engagement are changing so fast that customer expectations are as diverse as our lifestyles and choices,” he said. 


“It is no longer a question of stepping out to the bank but about the convergence of innovative services, digital technology and Omni-channel platforms coming to us at breakneck speed.

“Mobile Banking for one isn’t entirely new in the industry, but there is no end to innovation in delivering customer convenience; at Keystone Bank, that’s what sets us apart and that shall continue to be our strength.
“We are determined to be your preferred bank; dependable, responsive and always within reach.”

The feature which is another first from the Bank and in the Nigerian banking sector, enables customers enjoy banking services on their mobile phones without data.

Notable features of the mobile App are, easy account opening, convenient self- booking and liquidation of fixed deposits, an expanded list of bill-payment options and easy activation of standing instructions & recurrent future payments.

Others include, a 'Switch Card ON/OFF option' which allows users to disable their cards temporarily if missing & re-enable at the click of a button, the 'Hide Balance Feature' which is an additional safeguard against third-party viewing and the 'Meet Your Relationship Manager Option' which allows users to call or email their account officers right within the app.

5 financial goals to get you through 2019




It’s a New Year and many have set resolutions and goals but sometimes forget to set achievable financial goals. Failure to do this often lead to debts and inability to account for finances at the end of the year.
These 5 goals should get you through 2019 financially.

1. Start budgeting

The most important thing to do to achieve your financial goals in the New Year is to budget.
You might make so much money but might still be broke before the end of a month due to bad money management.

This is probably because you don't budget and this should change in 2019. Plan your finance by creating a budget and sticking to it each month. It would definitely help you manage your finances well and control your spending better.


2. Get serious about saving money

This goes beyond merely saying you want to get serious about saving money. You need to work towards it. Saving is another key ingredient if you want to achieve financial success in the 2019.

Cultivate the habit of saving to help you achieve financial goals by being determined to save a substantial amount from your income monthly, probably ten percent out of it.  Saving and excessive spending don't go hand-in-hand. Therefore, it is important to find ways to cut down on your expenses. 


3. Clear your debt

This is also a major factor for attaining your financial goals in 2019. Being in debt restrains you from actualizing your financial goal.  Clear all debts and begin your financial journey on a clean slate.
Earn and save instead of earning and losing to debt repayment through out the year.  Be determined not to incur any debt as that will do damage to your finances. Cut down on spending and repay old debts.


4. Start investing

Apart from saving, you should also begin to invest your money in productive ventures.
Unlike saving which grows your money at a slower rate, investing grow your finance at a much faster rate. Be sure about what you want to invest in and also get advice from experts before doing so.


5. Read and learn about money and finances

In 2019, you should read more about money, finance market and personal finance.
This will help you sharpen and broaden your knowledge about money and finance which will in turn help you manage your finances better. 



Nigeria's central bank pumps $210 million into forex market, assures of Naira stability during 2019 elections




Nigeria's central bank (CBN) has injected the sum of $210 million into the inter-bank segment of the foreign exchange market, the first market intervention for the year 2019.

With less than 7 weeks to the 2019 polls, the CBN assured of stable exchange rates in spite of the anticipated pressures, coupled with election spending.

Isaac Okorafor, CBN Director, Corporate Communications, who made this known on Friday, January 4, 2019, said the wholesale sector of the market received $100 million, while the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) received $55 million.

The CBN also allocated $55 million to customers requiring foreign exchange for business and personal travels, tuition or medical fees.

Okorafor reiterated that the apex bank will continue from where it stopped in 2018 in order to maintain FX stability.

He said the CBN had made a commendable effort in keeping the exchange rates at the current levels, noting that the current capital flow reversals from the emerging markets were expected to bring out pressures on the market rates.

“The CBN is determined to sustain a stable exchange rate as it continues to put in place relevant measures to shore up the country’s reserves". 



7 factors that will shape the Nigerian banking industry - Financial Analyst



Developments in Nigeria’s banking industry in 2019 will be shaped by seven global and domestic factors which will work simultaneously to impact on banks’ profitability, earnings and non-performing loans. They will come with likelihood of staff retrenchment and increased confrontation between shareholders and management of banks. The seven factors and how they will likely impact the industry are presented below.


Crude Oil Price

According to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the oil and gas industry accounts for 30 percent of total loans and 47 percent of nonperforming loans (NPLs) in the banking industry. When crude oil price is high or stable, oil companies do well and by extension banks make more money especially interest income from oil and gas industry. But when the price of crude oil falls, as it happened in 2014 to 2015, oil companies make less money or record losses and by extension, unable to repay their loans, resulting in increased NPLs in banks, and reduction in banks’ profitability.

With the price of crude oil on the downward trend since October, 2018 from peak $86/ barrel to as low as $47.25 earlier this week before a two-day rebound to $56, the risk of banks recording more NPLs in  2019 is becoming real. According to Johnson Chukwu, Managing Director/Chief Executive, Cowry Asset Management Limited, “The greatest downside risk facing the banking industry in 2019 is the price of crude oil. Should the price of crude oil drop to the lower $40s or drop to the lower $30s, the banking industry may see an increase in the level of nonperforming loans (NPLs)".


“Low oil price could also trigger a devaluation of currency of naira, such devaluation may have an impact on level of non-performing loans, as well as make impact on ability of customers to service their debt, which also directly impact on level of NPLs in the banking industry,” he said. 

The reality of this risk, according to analysts at Vetiva Capital Management Limited, will compel banks to reduce lending to oil and gas sector, which in itself can undermine their earnings and also economic growth.

“We expect banks to remain cautious in extending credit to the oil and gas sector given the recent bearish trend in oil price. We identify this as a quagmire for the economy where on one hand, strong credit extension to the private sector is a prerequisite to sustainable and inclusive economic growth while on the other hand banks continue to await a stronger recovery and a less volatile environment before investing their assets”,  they said in their 2019 projections.



International Regulations
The Basel Three and International Financial Reporting Standard 9 are international financial regulations, with the former taking effect last year while the later takes effect from January 1st, 2019. Implementation of the Basel Three leads to higher Capital Adequacy ratio for banks, while that of IFRS 9 raises the criteria for recognition of NPLs resulting to likelihood of higher credit losses for banks.

The net implication of the two regulations is that banks will have to raise fresh funds to increase their capital base in order to comply with regulatory capital adequacy requirements.  Thus in 2019, the banking industry will witness capital raising exercises by banks. “There will be need for additional capital because they are complying with IFRS 9 and with Basel 3, from January.  So capital adequacy ratios are going to be higher”, said Bismarck Rewane, Managing Director/Chief Executive, Financial Derivatives Company Limited.

“We should see banks trying to raise capital to improve their capital base in order to meet Basel 3 requirement. So we should expect some form of recapitalisation either in the form of equity or Tier 2 capital i.e. bonds”, said Johnson Chukwu of Cowry Asset.


2019 Election

The outcome of the 2019 general election especially at the presidential level will greatly impact banking business in 2019. Analysts at Vetiva Capital projected that the slow growth of banks’ lending to the economy witnessed in 2018 will persist in the first half of the year due to election uncertainties. “We expect the conservative approach to credit growth to persist in 2019. Particularly, amid the upcoming election season we believe lenders will remain majorly on the sidelines through the first half of the year as the political scene takes center stage and also given the possibility of policy reversals in the economy should there be a change in leadership”.

Johnson Chukwu of Cowry Asset however noted that a peaceful outcome of the election will impact positively on banks business. He said: “Should election be successful and all the political parties and contestants accept the result, then we should see stable economic environment, and quicker recovery of the economy. But should the result be contested, then it will create some level of political uncertainty, then we should see reversed of economic recovery and economic instability”.


Change in economic policy
Closely related to the outcome of the election is the likelihood of a change in government’s economic policy post May 29th. According to Chukwu of Cowry Asset, “The policies of the new government will also have direct impact on the banking industry. If the current policies persist, the economy will witness slow growth, but should there be a new economic policy by whoever wins the election at the national level, then it should trigger stronger economic growth that will trickle down into customers’ demand for more banking services.”


Monetary Policy
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will likely sustain its tight monetary policy this year with primary aim of achieving exchange rate stability. This will affect banks in two major ways. The CBN will have to offer attractive yields on treasury bills to attract dollars from portfolio investors which is critically needed for external reserve accretion. This will lead to higher yields (interest rate) on treasury bills, and hence increase in banks’ income from these instruments.

But the CBN, in order to implement its tight monetary policy has been conducting liquidity mop up through treasury bills auction. Last week alone the apex bank mopped up N1 trillion from the interbank money market. This according to analysts at Vetiva Capital will produce intense competition for deposits among banks, which may likely increase their cost of funds and thinner net interest margin as they try to outbid each other with higher deposit rate. “We expect the apex bank to maintain this liquidity squeeze going into 2019 given our expectation of sustained currency and price pressure through the year which will also put an upward push on cost of funds as banks scramble for liquidity – a downside for the lower tier banks”, said Vetiva Capital analysts


Competition from Telcos and Fintech
For a long while, mobile telecommunication companies have been angling for opportunity to play in the financial sector but to no avail. This opportunity came last year when  the CBN introduced the Payment Service Banks regime, which allows telcos, fintech companies’  and other non-bank firms to render or operate eight banking related  services  through subsidiaries.  This development according Bismarck Rewane will trigger increased competition in the financial services sector, with telcos and fintechs competing for what have always been banks’ traditional businesses.
He said: “Competitive pressure from the telcos will put them (banks) under additional pressure. So the transaction banking space is going to be cannibalised. “There is going to be struggle for market share, both conventional competitors and non-conventional competitors. You know the vultures come in when people are weak, so the vultures are going to come in, and they are going to have a field day. So the banks have to reinvest themselves owing to the fact that what they call their traditional business is now threatened
“So the bargaining power of the banks will not be as big as what it used to be because it is a highly regulated industry but protected but now that telcos and Fintechs are coming in to compete, you are going to see them cannibalized and the productivity in the banking industry is pretty low.”


Who leads CBN?

The five year tenure of Mr. Godwin Emefiele will expire on June 3rd 2019. His reappointment or appointment of another person to lead the apex bank will impact the banking industry. While the reappointment of Emefiele, who is believed to have performed well, is not expected to lead to radical changes or reforms in the banking industry, a new CBN Governor may likely introduce radical reforms which may shake the banking industry. For example, reforms introduced by Professor Soludo in 2004 led to consolidation in the industry with number of banks reduced from 81 to 25. Similarly, measures introduced by Emefiele’s predecessor, Mallam Lamido Sanusi, led to nationalisation of some banks and acquisitions of former Intercontinental Bank and former Oceanic Bank by Access Bank and Ecobank respectively, leading to further reduction in number of banks. Thus who leads CBN post June 3rd 2019 may lead to another round of measures which may make or mar some of the banks.





Merger - Free ATM Services for Diamond Bank, Access Bank Customers





Customers of Access Bank Plc and Diamond Bank Plc now have free access to 3,100 Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) for seamless banking services.

This revelation was contained in a statement issued by the banks on Monday.
The move followed the planned merger of the banks which is expected to be concluded in the first half of the year.

The banks, in the statement, said the merger will give customers access to the largest ATM network in the country.

Diamond Bank Plc in a follow-up message on Tuesday said all its customers across the world can now use their bank cards on Access Bank Automated Teller Machines without paying the customary N65 per transaction.

"Wishing everyone a happy new year. Now with over 3100 ATMs free to use for all our customers," the bank said via its official Twitter handle.

The Central Bank of Nigeria had in 2014 announced that cash withdrawal at another bank other than an account holder's bank would cost N65, although withdrawal at the ATMs of a customer's bank is free.

According to the apex bank's directive, the first three transactions in a month by the customer of another bank are free for the card holder but paid for by the issuing bank.
But, by this development, customers who have accounts with both banks would be exempted from the interbank charges.

This implies that customers using the ATM can presume that the banks are one, even as their merger negotiations still remain ongoing.

"Access Bank and Diamond Bank Customers now have access to over 3,100 ATMs free of charge" the statement said Monday.

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