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Mastercard and Zenith Bank Introduce New Payment Cards to Accelerate Financial Inclusion in Nigeria



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Mastercard has today announced the launch of two innovative products in collaboration with Zenith Bank, the Mastercard Naija Card and the World Elite Credit Card, designed to address the diverse financial needs of Nigerians. These payment cards are set to accelerate financial inclusion in the country, catering to the unique needs of multiple market segments.

L-R: Dr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, GMD/CEO, Zenith Bank Plc, Celestina Appeal, Group Head Card Business and Solutions, Zenith Bank PLC, Mark Elliott, Divisional President SSA, Mastercard, Folasade Femi-Lawal, Country Manager, West Africa, Mastercard and Dimitrios Dosis, President of Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EEMEA) at Mastercard.

As part of Mastercard’s financial inclusion strategy, the Mastercard Naija Card aims to provide affordable banking solutions to consumers who have historically been excluded from traditional financial services.

This innovative product will enable financial institutions to reach a wider customer base, contributing to the goal of reducing the number of financially excluded individuals in Nigeria, which stands at 28.8 million as of 2023.

Alternatively, the World Elite Credit Card, a premium credit card designed for ultra-high-net-worth individuals, offers a host of benefits and discounts, including travel, lifestyle, and health and insurance services. With the World Elite Credit Card, targeted cardholders can enjoy a higher level of service at home and abroad.

“We are excited to launch these groundbreaking solutions with Zenith Bank. They represent a significant step forward in our mission to connect one billion people to the digital economy by 2025.

“By providing affordable banking solutions catering to the unique needs of diverse consumer segments, our vision of powering a more inclusive financial ecosystem that benefits everyone, moves a step closer to fruition,” said Folasade Femi-Lawal, Country Manager and Area Business Head, West Africa, at Mastercard.

This collaboration represents a significant milestone as Mastercard introduces its first domestic card in Africa and the World Elite Credit Card in West Africa, underscoring the company’s dedication to expanding access to first-rate, locally relevant financial services.

Additionally, it aligns with the shared mission of both Mastercard and Zenith Bank – driving the former’s objective of nurturing inclusive financial markets and the latter’s mission of fostering innovation, superior performance, and delivering premium value to all stakeholders.

“We are delighted to collaborate with Mastercard to launch these innovative products which will significantly bolster financial inclusion and address the unique requirements of our customers.

“These solutions demonstrate our unwavering commitment to delivering accessible and bespoke financial services across all customer segments,” said Dr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, GMD/CEO, Zenith Bank Plc.

With this collaboration, Mastercard and Zenith Bank stand poised to redefine the financial landscape in Nigeria and West Africa, offering enhanced control and access to a world of premium, bespoke services, and driving a shared vision of progress and accessibility.

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Ugo Onwuaso is an ICT enthusiast. He believes technology should be used for general good. He holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the Lagos state University. Dear Reader, Your support matters. But we believe that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. That is why, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and finance and how they affect lives. Our incisive and analytical view of how technology news affects the daily life help individuals and organizations make up their minds. Quality journalism costs money. Today, we're asking that you support us to do more. Kindly support our effort to deliver technology and finance journalism to everyone in the world. Donate as little as N1,000. Bank transfers can be made to: UBA Plc 1017156876 Communication Week Media Ltd


Extradition Efforts Underway as Arjarwalla, Fugitive Binance Executive Located in Kenya



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Nigerian Government has traced Nadeem Arjarwalla, Binance executive to Kenya following his escape from custody and is currently taking steps to extradite him back to Nigeria.

Extradition Efforts Underway as Arjarwalla, Fugitive Binance Executive Located in Kenya

According to a report from Punch, sources from within the office of the Nigerian presidency disclosed that Arjarwalla went into hiding once he arrived in Kenya.

The Nigerian government is collaborating with Interpol and Kenyan police to bring Arjarwalla back to Nigeria to face charges leveled against him.

Anjarwalla arrived in Nigeria in February following claims that the exchange manipulated the country’s fiat currency, the Nigerian naira. Arjarwalla was detained alongside another Binance executive after a meeting with the Nigerian government.

Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) heads up the investigation and slammed the exchange and its two executives with five counts bordering on money laundering. However, Anjarwalla reportedly escaped custody on March 22 and was able to board a flight out of the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Anjarwalla reportedly flew out of Abuja on a Middle East airline. However, it is unclear how he managed to board the international flight, as his United Kingdom passport, with which he entered Nigeria, remains in the custody of the Nigerian authorities.

According to an immigration official, the Binance executive fled Nigeria on a Kenyan passport, and authorities are now trying to determine how Anjarwalla acquired the passport, as he had no other travel documents while in custody.

While Arjarwalla remains out of the country, the other Binance executive, Tigran Gambaryan, pleaded not guilty to the charges, with his wife and others calling for his release after several weeks in detention. Gambaryan’s wife has launched a petition to bring him back to the United States, which had 3,373 signatures at the time of publication. However, Gambaryan’s case has been adjourned until April 19.

On March 5, Binance announced that it intended to cease all naira transactions, effectively exiting the market. Binance also mentioned that Binance’s peer-to-peer platform delisted all naira trading pairs in late February.

On Feb. 27, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria argued that crypto exchanges in Nigeria were suspected of handling illicit transactions, also pointing to “suspicious flows” of funds at Binance.


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NGX Sanctions Julius Berger over ‘Insider Dealing’



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Nigerian Exchange (NGX) has sanctioned Julius Berger Nigeria (JBN) Plc for engaging in inappropriate insider dealing in shares.

NGX Sanctions Julius Berger over ‘Insider Dealing’

Insider dealing is the illegal practice of trading on the stock exchange to one’s own advantage through having access to confidential information.

Incorporated in 1970, Julius Berger Nigeria became a publicly quoted company in 1991 and has more than 10,000 shareholders.

NGX Regulatory Company (NGX RegCo), the self regulatory organisation (SRO) that regulates activities at the NGX, stated that JBN breached certain provisions of the listing rules and was thus sanctioned accordingly.

According to NGX RegCo, JBN violated provisions on “closed period”, in breach of the construction company’s commitment to adhere to listing rules and standards.

The NGX had tightened its rules and regulations to checkmate boardroom intrigues and block information arbitrage that tend to confer advantages on companies’ directors.

The amendments expanded the scope and authority of corporate financial reporting while eliminating gaps that allowed companies to sidetrack relevant rules in stage-managing corporate compliance.

The enhanced framework provided clarity and greater disclosures on directors’ trading in shares, corporate liability for accuracy and compliance of financial statement, dissuade bogus dividend payment and other sundry boardroom’s maneuverings that tend to favour insiders.

The amendments came on the heels of noticeable increase in violations of rules on ‘closed period’, a period when directors are banned from trading in the shares of their companies.

Rule 17.17 of the NGX disallows insiders and their connected persons from trading in the shares or bonds of their companies during the ‘closed period’ or any period during which trading is restricted.

This period is mostly at a period of sensitive material information, like prior knowledge of financials, dividends or major corporate changes, which places directors and other insiders at advantage above other general and retail investors.

A review of the disclosure violations at the stock market had shown that all violations in 2021 were related to violation of Rule 17.17 on ‘closed period’.

Under the amendments, in addition to the provisions of relevant accounting standards, laws, rules and requirements regarding preparation of financial statements, companies are now required to include several specific declarations on securities transactions by directors, changes in shareholding structure, self-assessment on compliance with corporate governance standards and internal code for directors on securities transactions among others.

According to the rules, in relation to securities transactions by directors, a company shall disclose in its quarterly financial statements, full year audited financial statements, and in corporate governance report contained in its annual report whether the company has adopted a code of conduct regarding securities transactions by its directors on terms no less exacting than the required standard set out by the market.

The company is also required to disclose, having made specific enquiry of all directors, whether its directors have complied with, or whether there has been any non-compliance with, the required standard set out in the Exchange’s rules and in code of conduct regarding securities transactions by directors.


Cerdit: The Nation


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IMF says Rising Cyber Threats Pose Serious Concerns for Financial Stability



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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has declared that cyberattacks have more than doubled since the pandemic. In a blog released during the week, it pointed out that while companies have historically suffered relatively modest direct losses from cyberattacks, some have experienced a much heavier toll.

Specifically, US credit reporting agency Equifax, for example, paid more than $1 billion in penalties after a major data breach in 2017 that affected about 150 million consumers.

“As we show in a chapter of the April 2024 Global Financial Stability Report, the risk of extreme losses from cyber incidents is increasing. Such losses could potentially cause funding problems for companies and even jeopardise their solvency.

“The size of these extreme losses has more than quadrupled since 2017 to $2.5 billion. And indirect losses like reputational damage or security upgrades are substantially higher.

“The financial sector is uniquely exposed to cyber risk. Financial firms—given the large amounts of sensitive data and transactions they handle—are often targeted by criminals seeking to steal money or disrupt economic activity. Attacks on financial firms account for nearly one-fifth of the total, of which banks are the most exposed,” IMF said.

According to the Bretton Woods institution, incidents in the financial sector could threaten financial and economic stability if they erode confidence in the financial system, disrupt critical services, or cause spillovers to other institutions. “For example, a severe incident at a financial institution could undermine trust and, in extreme cases, lead to market selloffs or runs on banks.

Although no significant “cyber runs” have occurred thus far, our analysis suggests modest and somewhat persistent deposit outflows have occurred at smaller US banks after a cyberattack.

“Cyber incidents that disrupt critical services like payment networks could also severely affect economic activity. For example, a December attack at the Central Bank of Lesotho disrupted the national payment system, preventing transactions by domestic banks.

“Another consideration is that financial firms increasingly rely on third-party IT service providers, and may do so even more with the emerging role of artificial intelligence.

“Such external providers can improve operational resilience, but also expose the financial industry to systemwide shocks. For example, a 2023 ransomware attack on a cloud IT service provider caused simultaneous outages at 60 US credit unions,” it added.

The Fund said with the global financial system facing significant and growing cyber risks from increasing digitalization and geopolitical tensions, policies and governance frameworks at firms must keep pace.

The global lender added that because private incentives may be insufficient to address cyber risks—for example, firms may not fully account for the systemwide effects of incidents—public intervention may be necessary.

However, according to an IMF survey of central banks and supervisory authorities, cybersecurity policy frameworks, especially in emerging market and developing economies, often remain insufficient. For example, only about half of countries surveyed had a national, financial sector-focused cybersecurity strategy or dedicated cybersecurity regulations.

To strengthen resilience in the financial sector, authorities should develop an adequate national cybersecurity strategy accompanied by effective regulation and supervisory capacity that should encompass: Periodically assessing the cybersecurity landscape and identifying potential systemic risks from interconnectedness and concentrations, including from third-party service providers.

Encouraging cyber “maturity” among financial sector firms, including board-level access to cybersecurity expertise, as supported by the chapter’s analysis which suggests that better cyber-related governance may reduce cyber risk.

Improving cyber hygiene of firms—that is, their online security and system health (such as antimalware and multifactor authentication)—and training and awareness.

Prioritising data reporting and collection of cyber incidents, and sharing information among financial sector participants to enhance their collective preparedness.

As attacks often emanate from outside a financial firm’s home country and proceeds can be routed across borders, international cooperation is imperative to address cyber risk successfully.

It stressed that while cyber incidents will occur, the financial sector needed the capacity to deliver critical business services during these disruptions.

To this end, financial firms should develop, and test, response and recovery procedures and national authorities should have effective response protocols and crisis management frameworks in place.

It also hinted that IMF actively helped member countries strengthen their cybersecurity frameworks through policy advice, for example as part of the Financial Sector Assessment Programme, and through capacity-building activities.

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