Giving back to the society is a culture that most corporate organisations have made part of their business ethics. It is motivated by the need to ensure that the immediate environment of the organisation remains sustainable in a bid to sustain the business.
Many organisation have taken on various ventures in a bid to give back to the society as part of measures at nation building and giving back to the society. With a destiny intertwined with Nigeria, FirstBank has, since its founding in 1894, remained committed to nation building and driving sustainable development through many initiatives, a number of which have focused on the youth segment.
The bank’s infrastructure development, education endowment, FutureFirst (financial literacy, entrepreneurship and career programme), e-learning and employee giving and volunteering programmes, all have a youth focus.
Instituted in 1994 to enhance overall academic excellence through research by funding research projects in federal universities selected around Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones, FirstBank’s education endowment programme seeks to complement the Federal Government’s efforts in developing and advancing the country’s tertiary education. In each school it is structured to provide an annual research grant, annual public presentation of research findings and annual award for the three best-graduating students in the particular field of focus.
Some of the existing endowments and their focus areas include: Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi State (engineering technology); University of Lagos, Lagos State (Samuel Asabia endowment – business ethics); and Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State (banking and finance). Others are: University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Benue State (agronomy); University of Benin, Edo State (computer science); University of Maiduguri, Borno State (water resources engineering); University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom (petroleum engineering); among several others.
The FutureFirst programme, which has impacted over 60 secondary schools and over 85,000 students across Nigeria with knowledge of financial literacy and entrepreneurship, was created to empower Nigerian youths to become financially independent through fulfilling careers and the right financial knowledge.
Built around career counselling, financial literacy and entrepreneurship, the programme seeks to guide students appropriately towards making the right career choices and is pursued through various activities that impart knowledge on career planning and fulfilment to school students, such as Youth Empowerment Series (3.0), UI Career Fair among others.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic FirstBank sought through its e-learning initiative, targeting school children whose education suffered massive disruptions due to the pandemic, to move one million of them to an e-learning platform. The bank worked with partners such as IBM, UNESCO, Robert & John and the Lagos State Government to forestall the possibility of the children’s education coming to a complete halt due to COVID.
FirstBank Employee Giving and Volunteering programme was designed to encourage employees to give something back to the community and to instil in employees the integral corporate culture of giving. Its implementation has seen employees commit over 40,000 volunteering hours over the years participating in different CRS activities, including Global Money Week, World Savings Day, Youth Empowerment Series as well as SPARK (Start Performing Random Acts of Kindness – a values-based initiative to reignite societal values and raise the consciousness that everyone can choose to do acts of kindness).
The CSR activities embarked on by FirstBank employees have empowered students with practical business experience through the organisation and operation of an after-school business enterprise programme and the transfer of relevant skills to the students. In addition, students have benefitted from the inculcation of values such as good judgement, hard work, integrity, confidence and collaboration by the bank’s employees.
Given FirstBank’s long history of supporting initiatives that inspire and mobilise the youth segment towards reaching for noble ideals and their personal goals, it is not surprising that it is this first-class bank that is putting its full weight and resources behind First-Class Material, as official sponsor right from the maiden edition to its second season, which commenced in August 2021. By showcasing those who are first class and distinguished, their winning mentality, never-say-die and never-quitting attitude, the docuseries is inspiring others to follow their examples and become first class and distinguished in their own callings.
First of all, first class is not only limited to academic pursuits but also covers other pursuits in life. It is about being distinguished in one’s pursuits, academic or otherwise. Everyone wants to be considered first class and distinguished in the communities they belong to and the endeavours that they are involved with.
First-Class Material offers Nigeria a veritable platform to sell a very positive narrative of the country through the inspiring stories of these first-class and distinguished individuals, who are Nigerian heroes in their own rights. Distinguished not by birth or any political connection but the first-class attitude of manifesting excellence in their pursuits, their stories hold up a mirror other Nigerians can see themselves in and be challenged.
This must have been the motivation for the partnership between First Bank of Nigeria Limited, premier bank in West Africa and the leading financial inclusion services provider in Nigeria for 128 years, and Linda Ikeji TV that birthed the First-Class Material documentary series (docuseries) that is in its second season in 2022.
Created to showcase, promote and celebrate Nigerians who are excelling in various fields of endeavour – academic and otherwise – and contributing to national growth and development, First-Class Material seeks to use their stories to both inspire others and project a positive image of the country.
According to the Chief Executive of the Linda Ikeji Media group, the “partnership with FirstBank creates an excellent platform to showcase Nigeria to the world, as the extraordinary people that we truly are.”
On her part, Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications at FirstBank, Folake Ani-Mumuney, noted that for “FirstBank, it is about inspiring young people and national impact. Our goal is to inspire our youth and encourage them to make informed choices, critical to securing their future whilst impacting mankind and society at large.”
As first-class individuals can be found in all walks of life and not just in academia, First-Class Material is highlighting exploits of Nigerians in the arts, sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine, politics as well as in academia and other domains whose stories provide inspiration to young people on career pathways. The accomplishments of these Nigerians in different fields of endeavour are serving to inspire the next generation of creators, innovators and trailblazers in various sectors.
Aiming to make education, vocational training and skill acquisition trendy, attractive and fashionable to Nigeria‘s human capital, the docuseries considers two categories of individuals to spotlight. One, it looks at first-class students across Nigerian universities and exceptional students in secondary schools and two, it beams its searchlight on young and upwardly mobile trendsetters and tech start-ups’ founders.
Viewers of First-Class Material are guaranteed to pick valuable lessons and draw some of those same values from the docuseries. For unemployed young graduates struggling with redirecting their minds to the many possibilities outside their dream white-collar jobs, Sipasi Olalekan, founder of ProjectOzone, interviewed in the maiden episode,
Episode 1, will inspire them to think differently.
From doubts about his employability, Sipasi turned his strength in agriculture to a source of income, becoming a US-funded CEO and a youth leader who now trains youths, farmers and active citizens on sustainable agricultural practice.
Episode 3, Season 2 brings to all the very talented and exceptional John Amanam, a prosthetics inventor and sculptor who makes hyperrealism prosthetics for the physically challenged. Inventive young people who view the episode will feel the power of the inspired life of this Nigerian who has bagged several awards for his innovation and creativity because of his passion for the art form that continues to touch the lives of amputees and the physically challenged across Africa.
The inventive will equally be inspired by 12-year-old inventor and engineering prodigy, Lucky Ekhator, featured in Episode 3, Season 1. Lucky manufactures household appliances from scrap plastics and metals and has invented things like the blender, fan, refrigerator and a whole lot more. Nine-year-old Basil Opasil Opara, a game developer who has built over 30 games, is another inspiring story the inventive will be pleased to view. Episode 5, Season 1 features the story.
Dr Olusola Ayoola (Episode 6, Season 2), the founder of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Nigeria (RAIN), a foremost research and innovation centre focused on the creation and development of artificial Intelligence-enabled technologies, will excite the inventive. Dr Ayoola’s inventions, such as anti-terrorism combat drones, remote-controlled home appliances, smart city security surveillance gadgets, among others, have earned him recognitions from across the world.