Herbert Wigwe, GMD, Access Bank

BY EMEKA EJERE

Leading Nigerian lender, Access Bank Plc is undoubtedly one of the corporate giants playing a prominent role in the ongoing efforts to check the spread of the novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country in diverse ways. With more than 1.6 million cases confirmed in 209 countries and territories, and 95,722             people already killed as at April 9, the pandemic is arguably the biggest challenge facing humanity at the moment.

In Nigeria, from February 27 when the index case was announced in Lagos till date, 288 persons have been infected and 7 persons dead, with Lagos which has been described as the epicentre of COVID-19 in Nigeria now having 158 infections, a figure almost three times the number of infections in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which has 54 cases.

Others states where COVID-19 cases have been confirmed are Osun – 20, Edo – 12, Oyo – 11, Bauchi – six, Akwa Ibom – five, Kaduna – five, Ogun – four, Enugu – two, Ekiti – two, Rivers – two, Kwara – two, Delta – two, Benue – one, Ondo – one, and Katsina – one.

Attempt to avert the pandemic assuming an overwhelming proportion has kept both government and the private sector of the nation working round the clock.  It is not news that Access Bank has been at the forefront of the interventions deployed to fight the pandemic by big players in the private sector.

Project sponsorship and donations

The bank played a major role in the formation of the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), a task force instituted to ensure the minimisation of the impact of Coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria. With a guiding strategy of making impactful social investments, and giving back to the society, this new joint effort has seen the bank donate N1 billion to facilitate the building of 1000-bed isolation centres across the six geopolitical zones of the country.

The bank strongly aligns with the position of researchers who have identified early detection and isolation as important parts of ending the spread of the virus and so believes that making testing and isolation centres more accessible will help save more lives.

The first phase of the project, according to CACOVID, is the construction of additional testing and isolation centres in Yaba and Gbagada, (Lagos), Enugu, Kano, Port Harcourt, Borno, and Abuja. The next phase of the project, the task force further stated, will see the construction of additional centres in more states of the federation to enable early detection and testing of suspected COVID -19 cases as well as treatment of confirmed cases.

“In our characteristic manner of offering ‘more than banking,’ Access Bank is at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19”, the group managing director, Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe, who among other philanthropists, also donated N1 billion to the fight against COVID-19, noted.

“Through our various projects, we are looking to support the government and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) by providing facilities that can serve as both testing and isolation centres.

“Despite the strides being made, we implore all Nigerians to adhere to stipulated social distancing guidelines and practice regular hand washing as directed by the World Health Organization. We are positive that we can beat the spread of the virus if we all comply with the safety measures as advised by the NCDC and WHO. ”

Public enlightenment

In one of the videos which are being promoted nationwide, the bank dutifully educates members of the public on what social distancing is about and why they should adhere to the warnings. They also highlighted prevention tips and measures which will be of immense help in curbing the menace.

Also recently, the bank released a video showing the bank’s CEO educating the public on the appropriate ways of hand washing. In the video, Mr WigweHe explained, “We think we’ve been washing our hands quite well but there are WHO standards for cleanliness and how this is done.

“Firstly, you need to wet your hands with water, apply enough soap to cover all your hand surface, rub your palms together palm to palm, then use your right hand on top of your left hand and with your fingers in between so that you’re washing your hands and in between your fingers as well.

“Back of the fingers must also be kept clean and of course, rotational movements around your hands, rubbing the back of your hands and of course rinsing your hands with water once that is done in a very clean and hygienic manner”

Mr Wigwe also took to his twitter handle recently to call on Nigerians to take personal hygiene seriously and practice social distancing to avoid contracting COVID-19 virus. He called on those who have ageing loved ones at home to endeavour to call them daily.

“In these unprecedented times, these things are critical: Work from home; wash your hands thoroughly; practice physical distancing and call you ageing loved ones (daily),” he advised.

Experience has shown the elderly people are more vulnerable to Coronavirus because of the dwindling strength of their immune system.

Product innovation

In light of the ongoing global pandemic, Access Bank has introduced a Dual Transaction Service (DTS) to better serve its customers during this period. Dual Transaction Service (DTS) is an enhanced Naira debit card service that provides access to credit at the same time. It is designed to allow pre-approved customers to access a credit line through their existing debit card.

DTS provides a seamless and exciting experience for on-boarding customers on all Access Bank credit card products. Access Bank customers earning above N20,000 will have full access to explore this service. Customers can also access 3 times the value of their salary during this period of restricted movement.

“The dual card service from Access Bank is the first-of-its-kind on the continent. The features of the dual transaction service represent another milestone in our mission to transform banking and demonstrates how far we have come in such a short time,” said Victor Etuokwu, director, Retail Banking, Access Bank.

Etuokwu assured that Access Bank will continue to promote digital transactions and discourage branch banking until the world is completely out of the pandemic times.

Also in the spirit of making life easier for its customers in this period of lockdown, the bank recently launched AccessMore app, a revolutionary mobile banking application. Access Bank will facilitate customers’ easy access to their funds while helping them carry out seamless transactions as restriction of movement continues.

According to the bank, AccessMore app is an innovative mobile application that offers a ‘more than banking’ experience; built on cutting-edge technology, offering tailored and personalized services, ease of use and excellent customer experience.

“In a period like this, when we need to be more present and relevant in the lives of our customers than ever, we have risen to the challenge to ensure our customers have access to their funds to carry out transactions while keeping safe at home by providing not just uninterrupted service but superior service”, Wigwe explained.

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