UN special advocate, Queen Maxima of the Netherlands visits Ambode

Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode (right); Queen Maxima of The Netherlands and Chief Executive Officer, PharmAccess Group, Onno Schellekens, during her courtesy visit to Lagos House, Ikeja… yesterday.

• Lauds Lagos State’s health policy
• Seeks better healthcare, private sector participation in Nigeria
• Visit strategic to country’s financial inclusion, says UN chief

The Queen of the Netherlands, Her Majesty, Maxima Zorreguieta Cerruti, yesterday visited the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode.

The visit was part of efforts to advance the United Nation’s (UN) financial inclusion advocacy to alleviate poverty and foster equitable economic growth in Nigeria.

Maxima’s visit was the first in the country as the Special Advocate to the UN’s Secretary General, after her earlier visit in 2012 to lay the foundation for the scheme.

She commended the state government’s initiatives to improve service-delivery, especially towards expanding access to affordable healthcare.

“Nigeria differs from the Netherlands in the sense that here, just 2-5per cent of people have health insurance whereas in the Netherlands, it is compulsory and universal. Nigeria is in the early stages of development and needs to give a lot of attention to this,” she said.

Lamenting the gender disparity in the country, Maxima said there is a big gender gap presently as women have just 42.6 percent of bank accounts, compared to 54.6 per cent for men.

According to her, women also have limited access to other financial possibilities, just as a mere two per cent of adults use mobile money, even though there are 88 million mobile telephone subscribers in the country.

She explained: “Currently, just 48.6 per cent of Nigerian adults have access to financial services such as savings, loans, insurance or payments and this number drops even more to 24 per cent in the remote northwest.”

Ambode, who received Queen Maxima alongside his wife, Bolanle and other top officials of the state, commended her efforts at advancing issues relating to healthcare and financial inclusion.

The governor explained that the informal sector accounted for about 80 per cent of Lagos population, a development he said, prompted his administration to set up N25billion Employment Trust Fund (ETF).

Meanwhile, the United Nations Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Edward Kallon, has described her visit as strategic to the country.

He said it would deepen financial inclusion, which is targeted at 80 per cent by 2020.

Kallon prescribed a “centre-stage” role in policy and implementation processes and participation of private sector operators in surmounting the assessed enormous challenges.

He said: “The UN system in Nigeria supports the national development initiatives of the government, including the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and the Sustainable Development Goals using our Partnership Development Framework.”

The special advocate last visited Nigeria in 2012 when the country launched its national financial inclusion strategy. Nigeria is now beginning the process of revising that strategy in order to expand its impact.

During her visit, Queen Maxima would be at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, where she would speak with development partners, such as the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

She will also meet with the Nigerian Development Bank and the Nigerian Communications Commission, as well as a driving school that also functions as a bank agent, where customers could open an account, deposit and collect money and also make transfers.

The UN representative would also meet with the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele and Deputy Prime Minister Yemi Osinbajo, Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun and Governor Ibrahim Shettima of Borno State.

She is expected to deliver a speech on the role of government in driving financial inclusion.



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