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Fragmentation in the Nigerian payment space has served more as a constraint than an enabler; Squad by GTCO positions to lead with innovation and efficiency

Without a doubt, digital payment is the next growth frontier for financial services. Amongst other extenuating factors, growing digitalisation, mobile penetration, and evolving consumer behaviour have accelerated the shift towards cashless thereby creating entirely new business models and solutions built around payments.

Given the key role digitalisation plays in the financial lives of many people today, electronic payments are at the core of the payment ecosystem. As is the case with all things economic, Nigeria remains a most attractive market. Over the past years, we have seen largely foreign investors make a play to participate in the Nigerian technology and financial sector with considerable investments in FINTECH companies creating so-called “unicorns” of these establishments. This is helping to generate needed cohesion within the payment landscape and putting it at the forefront of innovation. The gains from the payment sector will serve to spur the global remittance industry as well as enhance financial inclusion. Increasingly, it is expected that newer, more efficient form factors and product offerings will look to enhance the digital payment experience for consumers and merchants alike.

Despite this trend, a more critical assessment of the payment industry shows that existing FINTECHs are merely scratching the surface of the payment landscape and its massive potential for financial inclusion. If anything, the fragmentation of the merchant-facing payments value chain has served to dampen the massive prospects of this sector. Available research point to the fact that asides security and privacy concerns, a major challenge presently facing the mobile payment ecosystem is the high level of market fragmentation as seen in multiplicity of platforms and the different service configurations on offer. With consumer adoption stalling, mobile payments still represent a small portion of total consumer payments. The complexities around payments and the rapid evolution of merchant services require a re-evaluation of business focus and value propositions.

In comes Squad by GTCO

It is against this backdrop that the launch of Squad, a full-service digital payment company conceived by Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc (GTCO Plc), is a most welcome development. For one thing, GTCO Plc is renowned for its strong corporate governance culture, bias for innovation and superior financial performance. Few financial institutions in Nigeria, and indeed Africa, can boast of GTCO’s impressive credentials. From its humble beginnings in 1990 as a pureplay banking institution, the company has morphed into a fully-fledged financial services powerhouse in a little over three decades. Underpinning this remarkably successful transformation is GTCO’s rich history of firsts: from pioneering industry-wide innovations in Online/Mobile Banking, USSD Banking, Instant Card issuance, and Fingerprint Banking to creating free business platforms to support small and medium-sized business owners in the food and fashion industries and revolutionising consumer lending with QuickCredit, GTCO has differentiated itself from other financial institutions by a mile.

With the launch of Squad, GTCO Plc aims to deploy its trademark efficient operations and innovative capacity to drive adoption in payment services and enhance financial inclusion. With the overarching goal to be the most efficient off-line and online merchant acquiring platform in all of Africa, Squad is well positioned to serve four important enterprise verticals namely: micro- businesses (kiosks), online sellers, digital natives, and corporates.

Reinventing the in-store payment experience, no longer limited to POS

Squad’s top offerings will include a payment gateway and the Soft POS. While most are familiar with the functionalities of payment gateways, the Soft POS solution is as cutting-edge as it is simple-to-use.

The Soft POS is a multiform-factor white-label solution that enables a smartphone to function as a merchant acceptance device. Essentially, the Soft POS allows any mobile phone with the NFC feature to be used as a point-of-sale. While this service is enjoying growing acceptance and use in other parts of the world like America, Europe, and Asia, Squad will be amongst the very first financial payments service in Africa to introduce this unique payment functionality. Merchants who have traditionally accepted cash payments or struggled with the sub-optimal nature of physical POS terminals, now have a simpler and more secure way to manage their transactions.

The solution effectively addresses the needs of micro and small businesses as it provides a cost-efficient card acceptance solution as well as complete visibility of merchant transactions making reconciliation and decision making faster and easier. With Soft POS, the consumer experience is elevated as it facilitates line-busting to streamline check out queues and eliminates friction. How does the Soft POS work? Quite simple and fast. Sellers can start accepting contactless payments in just few minutes by downloading the app from Google Play Store and completing the registration process.

Squad would also be offering other high-impact, value-adding services to merchants and corporates in various sectors of the economy to enhance their business operations and propel wide-scale growth.

What makes Squad unique?

As the name suggests, Squad denotes the power of a TEAM. The team at Squad is peopled by young, dynamic professionals who have imbibed GTCO Plc’s culture of innovation and efficiency to power next-generation payment solutions. If GTCO’s track-record of trailblazing achievements is anything to go by, Squad will in no time set the marker for merchant and customer fulfillment in payments. Squad is backed by a successful ‘Proudly African, Truly International” brand in GTCO Plc and is run by well-trained, digital-savvy minds with a keen understanding of market needs and trends. This is markedly different from what currently obtains where one or two founders set up and struggle to balance vision with ambition, and ultimately, falter off-course.

With no less a visionary than Segun Agbaje leading the Holding Company, we can be sure that values like transparency and integrity, which have become synonymous with the Guaranty Trust brand, will come on to define the payment space resulting in more clarity of purpose and extensive trust in the reliability of digital solutions. In a recent forum to review GTCO Plc’s prior year financial statements and projections for the 2022 financial year, Mr. Agbaje pledged to disclose the performance of the Group’s new businesses on a quarterly basis. This is a rarity in today’s clime. It is exactly what one would expect from a brand looking to champion Africa’s growth as it serves to enhance competitiveness and value creation for all stakeholders. You would recall that the Group recently started Guaranty Trust Fund Managers Ltd and Guaranty Trust Pension Managers Ltd to compete in the Asset Management and Pension sectors. These, alongside the new payment company, will certainly add to the viability of GTCO Plc long-term.

The future of payments is digital

To reference one of Segun Agbaje’s seminal submissions, ‘the future of payments is digital.’ The launch of Squad is timeous if Nigeria, and indeed Africa, must ride the wave of continued cash displacement and go on to drive digital payment adoption and financial inclusion. And, if there is a question of how to radically transform Africa’s payment space, Squad is the answer.

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*Fidelity Partners SMEDAN to Empower SMEs*

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In what has been termed a major move to bridge the gap in helping small businesses access much needed funding and capacity development initiatives, leading financial institution -Fidelity Bank Plc – has announced a strategic partnership with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN).

 

At a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signing ceremony held in Lagos recently, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Fidelity Bank Plc, Mrs Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe said the partnership reinforces the fact that the bank is a leading supporter of SMEs in Nigeria.

“For us at Fidelity Bank, supporting SMEs is in our DNA and for more than two decades we have been creating multiple platforms to help them thrive. These include the numerous products we have pioneered for the sector, our collaboration with the Lagos Business School to host the Export Management Programme, the Fidelity SME Academy and our weekly SME Forum radio programme where we have had successful business owners and even SMEDAN share tips on running thriving ventures with listeners.”

 

“This partnership is therefore another step in our journey of helping entrepreneurs grow and compete favorably in any market they operate and we are very happy to have SMEDAN join us”, commented Onyeali-Ikpe who was represented by the Executive Director, Lagos and South-West, Fidelity Bank, Dr Ken Opara.

On his part, Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, SMEDAN, Olawale Fasanya thanked Fidelity Bank for facilitating the partnership emphasizing that the MOU was particularly significant not just to the Agency but to the MSMEs ecosystem.

 

“Fidelity Bank is one of the few commercial banks in Nigeria that have shown immense interest in providing support to the large MSME community. I am very aware of some of your products purposely designed to serve the MSMEs. This explains why the Agency is very excited entering into this relationship that we believe will help change the narratives of the sub-sector”, commented Fasanya.

 

Fidelity Bank is a full-fledged commercial bank operating in Nigeria with over 7 million customers serviced across its 250 business offices and digital banking channels. The bank was recently recognized as the Best SME Bank Nigeria 2022 by the Global Banking & Finance Awards. The bank has also won awards for the “Fastest Growing Bank” and “MSME & Entrepreneurship Financing Bank of the Year” at the 2021 BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards.

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Court Documents Expose NDLEA Officers Alleged Involvement in Drug Trade

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Aggrieved officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), have exposed how the Deputy Commander General of Narcotics, Sunday Zirangey Drambi, and several senior officers in the Agency used their positions to enrich themselves.

 

Several former officials sacked by the Agency, according to our findings, have dumped some vital documents, revealing alleged strong links between some senior officers led by Sunday Zirangey Drambi and drug dealers.

 

One of the court cases involved a former operative, Williams Olubukola Olanrewaju, whose last place of posting was Yobe State command.

 

A 55-page court affidavit deposed at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in Abuja, is marked NICN/Abj/248/2022 and filed on August 15, 2022 between William Olubukola Olanrewaju Vs The Chairman, NDLEA & 4 Ors, Olanrewaju.

 

He explained that Sunday Zirangey, Deputy Commander General of Narcotics, headed his unit which compromised war against drug trafficking, allegedly collecting bribes on a regular basis.

 

It was gathered that Sunday Zirangey allegedly used his position to enrich himself such that he allegedly acquired multi-million naira properties in Abuja, Lagos and Adamawa.

 

Olanrewaju alleged that because he alongside many other officers refused to compromise, the head of the unit, Zirangey, punished him and hurriedly posted him to Yobe State Command, Damaturu interdiction points, with posting references of NDLEA/FIN/88/VOL. VII/237 and NDLEA/ADM/131/VOL.XIII/450 respectively.

 

The NDLEA was listed as the first defendant while the National Chairman of the Agency, Buba Marwa, was listed as the second defendant.

 

Zirangey Sunday Drambi, Samuel Okereke Abarogu, Assistant Commander of Narcotic, ACN, and Taupyen Sunday, also ACN, were listed as 3rd, 4th and 5th respondents all of SET/SIU, respectively.

 

The Court affidavit explained that while working at the SET/SIU Lekki office at Professor Kiumi Akingbehin Street, Lekki, Lagos, the Claimant had issues with his senior officers over “their corrupt activities ranging from frustrating him from accessing vital information, collecting bribes from suspects, missing files, aiding and abetting, tampering with drugs seized, and seizure of drug from a drug courier and refusing to arrest the person caught with hard drug.”

 

The claimant accused the officers of using “one Barrister Benson Ndakara to extort arrested targets,” who “is not an employee of the NDLEA.”

 

Sunday Zirangey is alleged to visit Lagos regularly where he meets with drug barons and traffickers. His hotel accommodation is allegedly paid for by these barons.

 

He was alleged to have refused wiretapping Lagos Island so as not to expose the dirty deals while collecting monthly “bribes” from them. One of the drug barons (name withheld) was said to have paid him N25 million few weeks ago.

 

The Court papers alleged that: “The corrupt officers always instructed the lawyer to arrest suspects for extortion and promised them that their cases would be frustrated if they could pay them through the lawyer.

 

“Also, all SET/SIU arrested suspects used Barrister Benson Ndakara for their cases as the corrupt officers only advised/introduced arrested suspects to use Barrister Benson Ndakara as their lawyer.”

 

Court affidavit deposed to on oath stated, “that on September 24, 2019, he and other officers of the 2 defendants, including, Azubuike Stella, Paul Dimgba, Tapgun Manjel, Attah Ifeanyichukwu, Chigorom Orji, and George Kehinde, collected 3 kilogramme of Heroin from one Charles Cole Osiyemi at Farm City Lounge, Lekki, close to SIU office in Lekki.”

 

He explained that he, alongside “Azubuike Stella, played the major role in the operation leading to interception of the Heroin from Charles, the drug courier.”

 

He explained in the court documents that on September 25, 2019, he asked Samuel Abarogu Okereke “what I will put in the investigation report but he told me not to write anything in the report because the 3kg of heroin would be kept for evidence in future arrest.”

 

Explaining that he was shocked, but that he quickly realised Samuel Abarogu Okereke and Sunday Zirangey “had tampered with the 3 kilogramme of Heroin. The 3 kilogramme of Heroin ought to have been taken to the NDLEA’s “Central Exhibit for safe keeping,” he said.

 

He further alleged that Sunday Zirangey “was aiding and abetting as he refused to arrest Mr. Charles Cole Osiyemi the target, from whom the 3 kilogramme of heroin was intercepted,” adding that, this was in spite of the fact that he had provided “the details of his whereabouts in his Intelligence Report before the drug interception day.”

 

Olanrewaju also accused Sunday Zirangey of being responsible for some missing files at the SIU (Sensitive Investigative Unit) of the NDLEA office in Lekki, Lagos State.

 

He alleged that Sunday Zirangey “used his position as senior officer” to “extort money from suspects on trial in the courts of law.

 

“The case of one Olusegun Folorunso Ayodele (target) is one among several cases of missing files at the SIU, Lekki, Lagos.

 

“Olusegun Folorunso Ayodele’s case file got missing in order to hinder the prosecution of another drug trafficker by name, Uba Harris Etochukwu Alaekwe.

 

“Owing to the missing case file, one Irene Ehizibolo member of the SIU fled without trace till date,” court processes showed.

 

He accused Sunday Zirangey and others of killing suspects mysteriously once they were aware that he knew about the deals. Citing an example, he alleged that, “The case of one target named OSAMA (nickname) is one instance. Osama is a farm planter in Ondo State. He paid some money into the account of Omotoso Solomon Gbadebo. After paying the money, he was released, and immediately he was released, he died. Omotoso Solomon Gbadebo is one of the corrupt officers.”

 

Part of the court documents also alleged that in August 2019, Saheed Oyewole Akanbi, whom he described as “a notorious international drug traffickers” was also killed after he was aware of “Sunday Zirangey’s illegal deals, which also involved “one Sani Ibrahim Sani, the ACGN (the director of Admin and Establishment,” of the Agency.

 

He claimed in the court documents that Sunday Zirangey and his accomplices stopped him from investigating “one Mr. Tajudeen of Holland (residing in Mozambique as of 2019 and who also has a residence in Lekki, Lagos State.”

 

He prayed the court to declare as illegal his orderly room trial, that he is still validly in the service of NDLEA, a perpetual injunction restraining the NDLEA and it’s officers from further subjecting him to inhuman and degrading treatment as well as restoration of his monthly salary of eighty-two thousand naira (N82,000.00k) and the sum of thirty million naira (N30,000,000.00k) being compensation for violating his right to personal liberty as guaranteed by section 34 of Nigerian Constitution and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Chapter AB (Chapter 10 LFN 1990) and Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948.

 

The affidavit further read: “They saw him as a threat to their corrupt activities and so planned to get him out of the Unit, which they eventually did.”

 

However, the Director of Media and Advocacy of the Agency, Femi Babafemi, denied any wrongdoing on the part of the NDLEA.

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