The government of Oyo State said on Tuesday that it has so far spent the sum of Two Billion, Seven Hundred and Seventy-Nine Million (N2,779,000,000) on the effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.The state’s COVID-19 Task Force, which gave the account through the Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Akinola Ojo, said that the amount was spent on setting up of treatment and isolation centres, procurement of palliatives and seedlings for a section of the residents and farmers as well as on procurement of ambulances and the security of the state’s borders, among others.A statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, indicated that Akinola stated these while briefing the press at the Governor’s Office, Agodi Ibadan.He maintained that the state considered it imperative to inform the public on the expenses on the pandemic in line with the principle of transparency and accountability, which he said Governor Makinde is known for.The commissioner gave the breakdown of the expenses as including: N370 million for the setting up of the Infectious Disease Centre, Olodo, Ibadan; N453 million on security of the state borders; N118 million to provide support for the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan for partnership on testing; N900 million on provision of palliatives and seedling to residents and farmers.He added that N321 million was expended on procurement of ambulances for the Ministry of Health while the state has also expended N614 million so far on the procurement of reagents, body kits, drugs and other items for testing and treatment of patients.”In terms of the cost of treatment, if you remember when I gave the breakdown, I said we spent N614 million on other items, which were consumables, such as reagents and body kits and others for patients.”The commissioner, who stated that the state has approved a total of N15,000 per health worker as hazard allowance added that the allowance would be paid from March 2020.While asking questions as to why journalists were not classified as frontline workers, he stated that the state would look into the quest and ensure that journalists also benefit from the palliatives.The Commissioner, on behalf of Governor Makinde, appreciated all residents of the state and well-meaning individuals who have made donations in cash and materials to support the State’s endowment fund on COVID-19.According to him, the endowment fund so far has realised the sum of N378 million in cash donations, while the total value of cash and kind donations stand at N1.1 billion.Other donations according to him included the N250 million in cash and medical equipment received from CACOVID and donations of medical equipment from corporate organisations, groups and individuals.He, however, stated that though the state was promised the sum of N100 million by the Federal Government, it was yet to receive the money from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).According to him, the state was yet to touch the donated cash of N378 million, adding that the funds spent so far are from the coffers of Oyo State.He also stated that the government would give a full account when the funds donated by well-meaning individuals would be disbursed.The Commissioner said: “In line with the principle of transparency and accountability, which the administration of Engineer Seyi Makinde is known for, it is imperative, especially at this time, that we inform the good people of Oyo State on the amount we have realised so far by your contributions and the expenses incurred in the fight against the global enemy, COVID-19. “Oyo State recorded its first index case on March 20, 2020. The COVID-19 Task Force, headed by Governor Makinde, was constituted for partnership. As of today, we have received a cash donation totalling N378 million from the citizens of Oyo State, well-meaning Nigerians and corporate organisations. I must appreciate all of you who have donated. “These donations are publicly available on Oyo State government website and they are regularly updated.”In terms of expenses and the breakdown, as a state and, as of today, we have spent N2,779,000,000. A breakdown of these expenses shows that we have spent N900 million to provide for palliatives to the indigent amongst us and also provide palliatives to the farmers in the form of seedlings. “The plan of the governor is to set up four world class isolation centres across the regions of the state. And this, without doubt, has come with a cost. We have set up the Olodo Isolation Centre, which is a word class facility. We are in the process of setting up isolation centres in Saki, Ogbomoso and Igbo Ora. All we need to actualise these has been set aside and included in the cost of roughly N2.8billion that has been spent this far. “We have also been able to provide security by securing the state borders, which has cost us N450 million. We provided security trucks and the cost of personnel. “I must say that health workers have not been neglected because they are the frontline staff who are fighting against this virus. So, we have been able to pay their volunteer and hazard allowances in June and backdated to March. We are going to pay the hazard allowance of all the health workers from March up until June. So, this just gives you a brief analysis of how much we have spent so far on COVID-19 pandemic in Oyo State.”On Olodo, we spent a total of N370 million, which forms part of the cost we spent in upgrading the centre and also the personnel cost incurred so far. We have also spent N453 million on security of the state borders. We have spent another N118 million in supporting UCH, a partner that is supporting us in testing coronavirus patients. We spent an additional N900 million on palliatives and for provision of seedling to farmers that were affected.”We have spent N321 million in buying ambulances for the Ministry of Health to support the fight. On other items like supply of reagents, body kits, we have spent a total of N614 million. If you have all that up, it will give you a total of N2,779,000,000.”SignedTaiwo AdisaChief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde
How FirstBank Employees are Making a Difference in their Immediate Environments Through the SPARK Initiative
Every other day, social media brings us a picture or video of a dilapidated school somewhere in Nigeria or shares images of a distraught widow, a struggling roadside trader or street hawker, or some other hapless victims of the extremely harsh realities of living in Nigeria. Immediately, as if on cue or automated, viewers launch into stinging attacks of government, public officials, the privileged class and even Nigeria itself.
The attacking mob wastes no time in calling for the government’s head or the heads of public officials with responsibilities in the jurisdiction or sector where the unfortunate sights surfaced from.
The online mob seems unconcerned that while its eyes and ears, aided and locked in by the binoculars and headsets of social media, are completely focused on distressing situations it may not be able to help other than rant about, countless situations that it can help are calling for attention in its immediate neighbourhood every single day. Focusing on things so far away while ignoring or pretending not to see the things in one’s immediate vicinity is a human tendency which is well recognised.
Journalists even have a term for a similar or related behaviour among their own. “Afghanistanism” is the tendency of the media to focus on news and happenings in remote places and other parts of the world to the exclusion or neglect of covering happenings and problems in the local environment of the media. It is like the psychological or emotional equivalent of the eye defect medical practitioners refer to as hyperopia or farsightedness. Sufferers can see objects that are far away but have difficulty focusing on objects that are up close.
By focusing on faraway objects people do not have to offer to give a helping hand but can offer their finger to point at others and their tongue to criticise and pontificate. Everyone can criticise and pontificate online or become an “e-warrior”, like Nigerians like to call it, fighting government and whoever and whatever in society they are unhappy with from the comfort and safety of their bedroom and behind their keyboard.
It is the easiest of things to do but not the noblest or kindest. It is the well-trodden path but should never be confused with taking the high road in reaching out with compassion to people around whose lives and circumstances could do with some kindness.
Taking the high road rather than practising Afghanistanism or psychological hyperopia is the approach adopted by First Bank of Nigeria Limited, the premier bank in West Africa with its impact woven into the fabric of society. This approach has played an important role in sustaining FirstBank’s development-oriented services for over 127 years as the region’s foremost financial inclusion services provider.
It has been a driving motivation for how the bank operates. FirstBank always considers the impact of all its operations and actions on customers and other stakeholders, including the environment, to ensure it is making a net positive difference in the end. And this orientation has attracted to the bank people who share a similar outlook – whether as employees, partners or other stakeholders. They look forward every year to an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the bank and make a net positive difference in their own immediate environments.
These men and women do not pretend that they can solve or intervene in all the challenging situations confronting people in their immediate environments but they do not refrain whenever they can lend a helping hand and make a difference.
Through an Employee Giving and Volunteering programme employees of FirstBank find a ready platform to fully identify with the compassionate disposition of the bank, which further has a number of initiatives that enable employees to give expression to this identification. The Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness (SPARK) Initiative is but one such initiative.
Aimed at expanding and deepening FirstBank’s involvement within the communities of its various stakeholders, SPARK seeks to do so by integrating and institutionalising random acts of kindness in society. Among employees SPARK has inspired and encouraged kindness and empathy as well as consideration for others. It has also contributed to employee bonding and teamwork, which have been critical to enhancing work performance.
This year’s implementation of the SPARK Initiative has seen employees under the banner of their various departments make choices regarding the specific nature of intervention they would want to undertake and the specific group of people or institutions within their immediate communities that they would want to extend the milk of human kindness to.
Employees and their departments could choose any one of the four areas that constitute FirstBank’s corporate responsibility and sustainability (CR&S) pillars: Education, entrepreneurship, health and welfare, and environment. Under education, they have had a choice to make between support for infrastructural facilities in schools, such as renovation of dilapidated buildings, painting of school buildings, and provision of laptops and desktops; or donation of items such as classroom chairs and tables, books and stationaries; or provision of scholarships for best students, feeding of school students per day or week, funding of a school initiative such as JETS club, bootcamp, space club, etc.
If employees and their departments were interested in supporting entrepreneurship, then they had the chance to empower through entrepreneurship programmes of their choosing such as sponsoring youth and women to acquire skills like fashion designing, baking, hairstyling, make-up artistry, electrical repairs, event decoration and planning, catering, etc., or enabling entrepreneurs with tools and equipment to work or supporting SMEs and start-ups.
Where the health and welfare area was their preferred area of intervention, employees and their departments could choose from: donations to orphanages (selected from an approved list of orphanages); support to a good cause, for example lending a helping hand to the Down Syndrome Foundation; support to widows; support to people with health-related issues; and off-setting medical bills.
And if employees and their departments were to decide to go for the environment, then they could choose from: support to environmental issues, such as support to Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) initiatives; donation of garbage cans to a community; partnership with a recycling firm to recycle waste; support to LAWMA such as donating cleaning tools (brooms, dustbin parkers), etc.
While several departments in FirstBank did things worth showcasing so the good citizens of Nigeria (individual and corporate) can emulate, this piece has just enough space to accommodate the activities of only three departments: Human Capital Management and Development (HCMD), Compliance, and Marketing and Corporate Communications (M&CC) departments. The employees in these departments seemed involved in efforts to outdo each other in acts of kindness, which made more sense and would leave a real difference on the ground as against criticising and pontificating online on faraway issues.
The Human Capital Management and Development department decided that reaching out to one of the most vulnerable groups in Nigeria – underprivileged widows and their underfed children – was the best way they could stay true to the “Human” in their name. And employees in the department moved beyond their Marina location to the nearest environment where some of the most vulnerable widows are to be found to go show kindness. The Makoko community situated in Lagos Mainland and which CNN once described in a report as “Nigeria’s floating slum” was overwhelmed to receive the august visitors from HCMD bearing so much food stuff to benefit their widows and children. What they did not realise was the overwhelming sense of gratitude felt by their benefactors for the opportunity to be able to give back.
Tagged “Feed a Widow Initiative”, the undertaking was HCMD employees’ way of putting a smile back on the faces of widows in impoverished communities and they got more than they could ever have imagined. Their hosts received them with the broadest of smiles and said goodbye to them with the grandest of gratitude; and they left with very broad smiles on their own faces. The jury is still out on who between the hosts and their guests ended up with the broadest of smiles on the day. And given the “fierce contest” to outdo the other in smiling, one is again forced to wonder why people labelled e-warriors would choose to forfeit this kind of real joy for the joyless world they have locked themselves in by clinging on to Afghanistanism and psychological hyperopia.
Not so for employees in the Compliance department. Not to be outdone and, in fact, as though going up the hierarchy of human needs, Compliance employees decided that they would focus on the education need of their beneficiary community.
HCMD had done an excellent job of providing the basic “stomach infrastructure” without which it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get any of the beneficiaries interested in any talk about more sublime matters like education and mental development. So, employees of Compliance department, in order to encourage pupils to continue their pursuit of education, procured Mathematics and English Language textbooks for 617 pupils who would be in senior secondary (SS) 1 and 2 classes of Gbara Community Secondary School in Jakande, Ajah in the next academic session. The visit to the school and book donation were undertaken when the pupils were in the third term preceding the new academic session.
The gesture was Compliance employees’ own way of giving back in such a manner as to relieve the pupils of this public school, particularly those from indigent homes, and their parents or guardians of the financial burden involved in providing textbooks for the two core subjects. It was also, in an uncanny way, an attempt by the employees to ensure the pupils were in full compliance with the requirements for taking on the two most important subjects in the secondary school curriculum, putting the pupils at a vantage position to excel in these two essential subjects. There were other benefits of the engagement that the employees noted. They observed that their presence in the school inspired the children, giving them “hope that a better life was within reach and could be achieved.” The employees thus expressed optimism that the engagement boosted the children’s interest in succeeding in life through the pursuit of education.
For employees of the Marketing and Corporate Communications department (M&CC), entrepreneurship was the area they decided to focus on, to make a difference in their own immediate environment. Every day they came to their office on Broad Street or the bank’s head office in Marina, they passed by a number of roadside traders around the various office buildings in the locations. They observed that some of these traders were exposed to the elements or having difficulties in their business and struggling to make ends meet, and decided that they would do something about it. And true to their word, they did something about it that made so much difference in the businesses and circumstances of the traders. They provided the traders the following: branded umbrella to offer shade from both sun and rain, improving the conditions under which they operated and their quality of life; branded chairs and tables to accommodate more customers in their corner as well as grants to boost their business capital.
Anyone who has met with employees in the corporate communications department of any major bank in Nigeria would readily admit that these professionals have among them some of the most skilful digital marketers around. So, it is not for lack of skills to be e-warriors that M&CC employees chose to extend the milk of human kindness flowing in them to roadside traders around their office rather than practise Afghanistanism. They could have chosen to concentrate all their time and resources on attacking the government online and blaming public officials for all the challenges in the economy and the spate of insecurity all over the nation and whatever else would make M&CC employees true champions of Afghanistanism and psychological hyperopia. But would that make any difference to the lot of the roadside traders around them and lessen their burden? So, M&CC employees chose the road less travelled but one that could deliver the desired impact, and it did.
There are so many lessons to draw and feelings to take away from the examples demonstrated by employees of these three departments in Nigeria’s foremost lender. Besides committing their time and resources to their chosen humanitarian initiatives using the platform of the SPARK Initiative that places FirstBank at the forefront of the social impact space through employee advocacy, the employees have shown that they have the milk of human kindness flowing through their veins. They have demonstrated that they would rather consider how they could extend kindness to people around them and make a difference than pretend not to see the situations affecting those around them while playing Afghanistanism and psychological hyperopia online.
For the rest of us who are not FirstBank employees, the message could not be clearer: The next time we feel like we must share on social media distressing images to provoke government-bashing or we feel constrained to make stinging comments on such images that are shared to criticise Nigeria, we should first pause and look around us. We should look to see if we can identify situations where we, not government or Nigeria, can make a difference. Then we should take our fingers off the keyboard and go out there or make that call that will make a difference in some other person’s life and circumstances. We should be like FirstBank and its employees. We should follow their example of trying to outdo themselves in showing kindness to others. We should start where we are with what we have, to make a difference right now – yes, this very minute and not some future time.
First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank) is the premier Bank in West Africa and the leading financial inclusion services provider in Nigeria for over 127 years.
With over 750 business locations and over 130,620 Banking Agents spread across 99% of the 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria, FirstBank provides a comprehensive range of retail and corporate financial services to serve its over 30 million customers. The Bank has international presence through its subsidiaries, FBN Bank (UK) Limited in London and Paris, FBNBank in the Republic of Congo, Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Sierra-Leone and Senegal, as well as a Representative Office in Beijing.
The Bank has been handy at promoting digital payment in the country and has issued over 10million cards, the first bank to achieve such a milestone in the country. FirstBank’s cashless transaction drive extends to having more than 10million people on its USSD Quick Banking service through the nationally renowned *894# Banking code and over 4.5 million people on FirstMobile platform.
Since its establishment in 1894, FirstBank has consistently built relationships with customers focusing on the fundamentals of good corporate governance, strong liquidity, optimised risk management and leadership. Over the years, the Bank has led the financing of private investment in infrastructure development in the Nigerian economy by playing key roles in the Federal Government’s privatisation and commercialisation schemes. With its global reach, FirstBank provides prospective investors wishing to explore the vast business opportunities that are available in Nigeria, an internationally competitive world-class brand and a credible financial partner.
FirstBank has been named “Most Valuable Bank Brand in Nigeria” six times in a row (2011 – 2016) by the globally renowned “The Banker Magazine” of the Financial Times Group; “Best Retail Bank in Nigeria” for seven consecutive years (2011 – 2017) by the Asian Banker International Excellence in Retail Financial Services Awards and “Best Bank in Nigeria” by Global Finance for 15 years. Our brand purpose is always to put customers, partners and stakeholders at the heart of our business, even as we standardise customer experience and excellence in financial solutions across sub-Saharan Africa, in consonance with our brand vision “To be the partner of the first choice in building your future”. Our brand promise is always to deliver the ultimate “gold standard” of value and excellence. This commitment is anchored on our inherent values of passion, partnership and people, to position You First in every respect.
Group Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications
BREAKING #EndSARSMemorial: Activists Begin Car Procession At Lekki Tollgate
A car procession is currently going on at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos in memory of the #EndSARS protests of last year.
This is despite a ban on protests in Lagos and the heavy presence of armed police personnel at the tollgate.
The activists who turned up at the tollgate with their cars were seen waving Nigerian flags from inside the vehicles and honking the horns while singing solidarity songs.
Speaking to newsmen, they stated that they will continue going to and fro the tollgate as their own way of protesting.
Thepagenews had earlier reported that operatives of the Lagos State Police Command arrested two protesters at the Lekki tollgate where the #EndSARS Memorial Protest is scheduled to hold in the state today.
One of those arrested claimed to be a journalist while the other was seen carrying a placard.
The police had reportedly warned that anyone seen at the tollgate without an ID card will be arrested.
Bishop Raps Fayemi Over State Of Roads As Fayose, Others Join 3rd Anniversary Bash
The Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has been advised to do everything possible to protect the new roads that have just been constructed and inaugurated from being destroyed by influx of trailers.
The Catholic Bishop of Ekiti Diocese, the Most Reverend Felix Ajakaye, who gave the charge, expressed dismay that the recent influx of articulated vehicles and luxurious buses in the state is already taking its toll on the new roads which are gradually being destroyed.
Speaking during the thanksgiving service to mark the third anniversary of the Fayemi Administration, the Bishop charged the Governor to put barriers on the newly constructed state roads to prevent a further damage by reckless trailers and luxurious bus drivers.
The service was attended by two former Governors, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, Chief Ayodele Fayose; Deputy Governor, Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi; First Lady, Erelu Bisi Fayemi; former Deputy Governors, Chief Abiodun Aluko and Prof. Modupe Adelabu; Speaker of the House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Funminiyi Afuye; National and State Assembly members and traditional rulers.
The first lesson of the thanksgiving service drawn from Isaiah Chapter 53 Verses 10 and 11 was read by Governor Fayemi.
The Bishop also advocated competence as the best criterion to be considered in determining who succeeds Dr. Fayemi. He urged the people of the State to vote the right candidate into office and not to mortgage their future and that of their children through vote buying.
The Most Reverend Ajakaye urged interest groups including Ekiti Council of Elders, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Justice, Peace and Development Initiative (JPDI) to be actively involved in the process that will lead to emergence of the next Governor.
Bishop Ajakaye said: “I pity you Your Excellency on the state of roads in Ekiti State and this has been through the influx of trucks and luxury buses. These roads are not inter-state roads but inter-town roads; lots of damages have been done on them already.
“Ilupeju-Ire-Ijan Road, I passed through the road recently, it has been destroyed; Agbado-Ode-Isinbode Road too has been destroyed and many of our roads have been damaged by the influx of trailers and luxurious buses and many of those drivers don’t know our terrain well.
“I want to suggest that we put barriers on our roads to avoid monumental damage on our roads. I fear for the new Ado-Iyin Road if we don’t do what we suppose to do.”
He added: “We need competent people on leadership positions. On the 2022 governorship election in Ekiti and 2023 election in Nigeria, let us stop vote selling and vote buying. People should stop it for the sake of their future and the future of their children.
“Vote selling has become a big business and after you have taken money to vote them in, you will be complaining of hardship. Ahead of the Ekiti governorship election, Ekiti Council of Elders, JDPI, NUJ must be actively involved to ensure that the best emerges.
“If any of the governorship candidates fails to show up at the debate, he must be blacklisted.”
The cleric charged President Muhammadu Buhari to look inwards and fish out alleged saboteurs working against the security agenda of his administration especially the fight against insurgency and also advocates for quality incentives for soldiers on the front line.
He urged the President to unveil those behind the spate violence, killings and kidnappings in the country and ensure they face the full wrath of the law.
In his remarks at the service, Governor Fayemi who appreciated the people of the state for their support in the last three years said much still needed to be done for “Ekiti of our dream to become a reality.”
Dr. Fayemi said: “I am a product of grace, because we human beings delude ourselves often when we think it’s our talent, our merit, our capacity and our competence that has given us the place where we are. Whatever we are is unmerited because there thousands of others who are better than us but don’t have the grace to be there.
“That is why it is important for us to come for this thanksgiving mass for us. The challenges are there and what the Bible says is that not that we will not have challenges but they will not overcome us.
“The work is not yet done but we will continue to do our best the way our pathfinder, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo left with his head held high, former Governor Ayo Fayose did his best for our state. Ekiti of our dream will become a reality if we all keep building on it without subtracting from it.
“We are here to sacrifice. Leadership is not office, it’s not title, leadership is service, leadership is sacrifice and may God give us the grace to be of service to our people.
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