• * As CBN Unveils Plans To Introduce USSD Code To Improve E-Naira

By Festus Akanbi

The Pension Commission (PenCom) has disclosed that the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) have registered 93,114 Retirement Savings Accounts (RSAs), in the first quarter (Q1) of year 2022.

According to a statement posted on its official website at the weekend, the report showed that the PFAs registered 93,114 RSAs during the quarter under review, which brought the cumulative RSA registrations from inception to 9,621,979 as of March 31. The report stated that the total RSA Transfer was 7,663, which was concluded in the first week of April 2022.

“This covered RSA transfer requests, submitted by PFAs between January 1, and March 31, which were eligible for RSA transfer in the first quarter of 2022. “Out of the total RSA transfers initiated, 5,543 RSAs were transferred to their new PFAs, along with their associated pension assets, while 2,120 transfer requests failed.

“The failed submissions by PFAs could be attributed to their internal processes, as all the PFAs recorded some failed RSA transfer request submissions,” the report said.

Also, the report stated that PenCOM received an application from the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), to transfer NSITF contributions, on behalf of 218 NSITF contributors during the quarter under review.

“Approval was granted to transfer N11.53 million to the RSAs of 213 contributors; on a similar note, the commission approved monthly pensions in the sum of N40.47 million to 2,304 NSITF pensioners,” it said.

The report also stated that the compliance by state governments to the status of Implementation of the CPS and other Schemes as of Q1 2022 is impressive. “25 States of the Federation had enacted pension laws on the CPS, while eight states are at the bill stage, four states adopted the Contributory Defined Benefits Scheme (CDBS).”

PenCom added that it received 11,200 applications from private sector organisations for the issuance of Pension Clearance Certificates (PCCs).

“Out of this number, PCCs were issued to 10,541 organisations, while 659 applications were in the approval process as of March 31. The records showed that the 10,541 organisations' actions had remitted a total sum of N59,39 billion into the RSAs of their employees, totalling 45,170,” it added.

Meanwhile in another development, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said it is set to introduce the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) code as part of steps to improve the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

CBN’s Deputy Governor, Dr Kingsley Obiora, disclosed the apex bank’s efforts to improve eNaira at the IMF African Department Speakers Series held virtually at the weekend. The series was focused on “CBDC and Private Digital Payments in Kenya and Nigeria: Challenges and Opportunities for Sub-Saharan Africa.”

The CBN inaugurated the CBDC, also known as the eNaira, on October 25, 2021, aimed at making financial transactions easier and seamless for every stratum of society.

Obiora said the introduction of the USSD code became necessary to improve financial inclusion in the country and to ensure people without smartphones could still transact on the eNaira platform.

“We have made serious progress in the last seven to eight years because when the current governor resumed in 2014, one of the pillars of his vision was to significantly improve financial inclusion.

“So at the time, we were at 48 per cent of our population within the financial system and given several policies that he conceived and implemented, we are almost at 70 per cent.

“That still leaves us with about 30 per cent of our population out of the financial system and we believe the CBDC can help reduce that number even more. A lot of people might not have smartphones but that is essentially the next step of our improvement in the CBDC, to introduce the USSD code, so those that do not have smartphones can still transact,” Obiora said.

The CBN deputy governor said that the barrier to entry on the CBDC platform was low, which, he said made it possible for everyone with a Bank Verification Number (BVN) to be onboarded into the eNaira platform in a few minutes. Obiora said the value of the country’s digital payments grew from $324 billion in 2008 to about $2.4 trillion presently, adding that Nigerians were now used to digital payments.

“As you know, within the continent we have one of the largest Fintech companies, Futterwave, Paystack, etc,” the apex bank boss added. He said that the CBDC had significant benefits for Nigeria, which was why the CBN decided to introduce it.

Obiora listed the benefits to include rapid financial inclusion, reducing the cost of processing cash, enabling direct welfare payments to citizens, and reducing the informal economy.

Others are improving tax collection, boosting cross-border trade and remittances, reducing the cost and improving the efficiency of payments and just endearing economic growth in general. He, however, listed some of the key risks to CBDC to include banking sector disintermediation, operational risks of knowing that there is non-stop service, cyber security risks, internet disruptions and financial literacy.

Obiora said that Nigeria was doing well based on a PwC report, which showed that the country was number one in terms of adoption, adding that the CBN would keep growing and improving on the system.

Speaking on adopting cryptocurrency in Nigeria, the deputy governor said for now it would not become part of the country’s financial system because of the volatility that it could create for the system.

Commenting on the high cost of food and fuel in Nigeria caused by the war in Ukraine, he said that the problem was more political than economic.

“We hope that world leaders will sort this out as quickly as possible because ordinary people who have no egos and did not cause this problem are the ones that are suffering the most. “Within Nigeria what we are seeing is that farm gate food prices have either stabilised or reduced, whereas in the market it has increased.”

Obiora said a lot of the problems with rising food inflation were due to logistic problems and the issue of higher prices of fuel and transportation. “We are trying to deal with that by investing a bit in a commodity exchange so that they can stabilise prices.

He said, “within the monetary policy committee, rates will be raised at least to signal that we will continue to keep an eye on inflation and stand ready to do whatever it takes to turn it around.”

According to the moderator, Director, African Department, IMF, Mr Abebe Selassie, the series is a platform where Africa’s pressing economic policy issues are discussed and organised by the IMF’s African Department.

Selassie said the series provided an opportunity for policymakers, academics, and analysts to offer their perspectives on economic and policy issues relevant to the IMF’S African constituency. (source: Thisday). NNL.