The Story of Nigeria’s First Bank

Imagine a time before ATMs, mobile banking, and instant online transactions. In 1894, amidst the bustle of colonial Lagos, a financial pioneer planted a seed that would blossom into the First Bank of Nigeria, forever altering the landscape of the nation’s economy. This article delves into the fascinating history of this institution, tracing its journey from a modest colonial outpost to a modern powerhouse shaping Nigeria’s financial future.

From Colonial Roots to Independent Strides

The story begins with Sir Alfred Jones, a British shipping magnate with a keen eye for opportunity. In 1894, he established the Bank of British West Africa (BBWA), with its first branch in Lagos. Initially catering to European traders and colonial officials, the BBWA laid the groundwork for a financial system in nascent Nigeria.

 A Catalyst for Growth:

As Nigeria navigated the turbulent waters of colonialism and eventual independence in 1960, the BBWA transformed alongside the nation. It indigenized its operations in 1971, becoming the First Bank of Nigeria Limited. This pivotal step marked a new era of Nigerian ownership and leadership in the financial sector.

 Branching Out: A Nationwide Network

The First Bank understood the importance of accessibility. It expanded its branch network, reaching remote corners of the country and bringing financial services closer to the people. This commitment to inclusivity fueled economic growth and empowered communities.

Beyond Traditional Banking: 

The First Bank wasn’t content to simply be a repository for cash. It embraced innovation, becoming a trailblazer in electronic banking. In 1984, it launched the first Automated Teller Machine (ATM) in Nigeria, marking a significant leap into the digital age.

From Cards to Cash:

The First Bank’s portfolio grew to encompass a wide range of financial products and services. Credit cards, debit cards, mobile banking, and internet banking became commonplace, transforming how Nigerians manage their finances.

 Navigating Challenges and Shaping the Future

The First Bank’s journey hasn’t been without its share of challenges. Economic fluctuations, political instability, and technological disruptions have tested its resilience. However, the bank has adapted and thrived, emerging stronger and more adaptable with each hurdle overcome.

Corporate Social Responsibility:

The First Bank recognizes that its success is intertwined with the well-being of its community. It actively invests in corporate social responsibility initiatives, focusing on education, healthcare, and environmental sustainability. These efforts not only benefit individuals but also contribute to building a stronger, more prosperous Nigeria.

A Legacy of Financial Empowerment

Today, the First Bank stands as a testament to the power of vision and perseverance. It has transformed from a colonial outpost into a leading financial institution, serving millions of Nigerians and powering the nation’s economic engine. Its legacy extends beyond its balance sheets, for it has empowered individuals, fostered entrepreneurship, and played a pivotal role in shaping Nigeria’s financial landscape.

Looking Ahead: A Future of Continued Growth

The First Bank continues to evolve, embracing new technologies and adapting to changing market dynamics. Its focus on financial inclusion, digital innovation, and sustainable practices positions it well for continued success in the years to come. As Nigeria charts its economic course, the First Bank remains a key player, committed to driving progress and prosperity for all.


  1. Is the First Bank of Nigeria still owned by the British? No, the First Bank was indigenized in 1971 and is now a fully Nigerian-owned company.
  2. What are some of the First Bank’s most significant achievements? The First Bank was the first to launch an ATM in Nigeria, pioneered mobile banking, and is a leading provider of financial services across the country.
  3. What are the First Bank’s future plans? The bank is focused on expanding its digital offerings, promoting financial inclusion, and supporting sustainable development in Nigeria.
  4. How can I open an account with the First Bank? You can visit any First Bank branch or apply online through their website or mobile app.
  5. What does the First Bank do to contribute to the community? The bank has a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility, supporting education, healthcare, and environmental initiatives in Nigeria.


The First Bank of Nigeria’s story is an inspiring narrative of resilience, innovation, and unwavering commitment to progress. It stands as a symbol of Nigeria’s economic journey and a testament to the power of financial inclusion to empower individuals and drive national prosperity.

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