With only 58 million Nigerians having access to financial services, plans are being put in place by banks and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ensure that not less than 40 million individuals from all around the states are included in the nation’s financial sector in the next two years.

This is to be done through 500,000 Shared Agent Network Expansion Program (SANEP) that was launched by the Bankers Committee.

Speaking at the first annual media workshop of the Electronic Payment Providers Association of Nigeria (EPPAN), the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed noted that SANEP will go a long way in ensuring that the country achieved its 2020 financial inclusion target.

In his good will address at the workshop, the minister while noting that lack of education on the need to be included in the financial services sector is a challenge that must be surmounted, expressed optimism that the Central Bank of Nigeria and other stakeholders in the industry will succeed in the quest “provided that all stakeholders are committed to the growth of financial inclusion.”

Expressing concern that only 58 million Nigerians has access to financial services out of a population of about 200 million with about 50 per cent of the population bankable, he said the reasons for this slow pace are not far-fetched. “Our deposit money banks concentrate more in the cities and juicy areas. Microfinance banks are not as strong as deposit money banks.

“There is no gainsaying the fact that many individual businesses require funds but the funds must be administered profitably and judiciously. I must emphasize once again that SANEP is a good initiative and I will also commend CBN for that magnificent stride.”

On his part, CBN director, Banking and Payments Services Department, ‘Dipo Fatokun, noted that a well-functioning National Payments System (NPS) is crucial to the financial sector development in order to increase confidence in the financial sector by ensuring a credible, reliable and efficient payment system.

According to him, the Nigerian payment landscape in recent times has experienced a lot of innovations in the financial services, bursting with enterprise and reaching the unbanked and underserved.

The CBN under the Payments System Vision2020, and in collaboration with other key stakeholders, has implemented several initiatives aimed at modernizing and transforming the National Payments System (NPS) in recent years.

Some of these include the licensing of 25 Mobile Money Operators to develop products and financial services that would be accessible to the banked and unbanked population. It also introduced agent banking as a delivery channel for offering banking services in a cost effective manner to a wider geography of consumers.

As identification of individuals was a challenge that banks had to face in fulfilling the Know Your Customer requirements, the Bank Verification Number (BVN) had been introduced to provide bank customers with unique identification against their accounts.