N17.2bn Non-performing Loans: NERFUND To Drag Customers To ICPC, EFCC

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he National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND) is considering enlisting the services of anti-graft agencies-Independent Corrupt  Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) in the recovery of the over N17.2billion non-performing loan.

About 1, 143 projects, mainly in SMEs and Micro categories funded between 2010 and 2013, were said to have been involved in the N17.2billion loan portfolio.

Acting managing director of the development finance institution, Dr. Ezekiel Oseni disclosed this in Abuja yesterday on the sideline of a meeting with a delegation from the African Rural and Agricultural Credit Association(AFRACA), led by its secretary general, Mr Saleh Gasua.

Until Oseni’s appointment last month, NERFUND, which was set up  to provide needed medium-to long-term financing to Micro, Small and Medium Scale Industrial  Enterprises, had been engulfed in serious crisis which prompted the federal government to  shut it down.

According to insider sources, part of the issues that triggered the tension in the office was the huge loan portfolio of the bank which had rendered it incapacitated.

But speaking with our correspondent, the new acting MD, Oseni, said the bank had launched an aggressive loan recovery drive.

According to him, some of the strategies include: identifying and engaging the various customers to work out repayment options and sales of the assets of those whose projects are on ground but unable to pay back.

The NERFUND boss also stated that, as part of the moves to encourage repayment, the bank was ready to grant concession on the loan interest to certain categories of customers.

He, however threatened to drag some of the customers found to have either invested the loan granted to them on projects not listed in their loan applications and those who out rightly diverted the funds to the ICPC and EFCC.

“Many of the loans that constitute the N17.2 billion loans have been hanging for more than 10 years. What we are doing presently is to get the customers to repay. We have reached out to some of them.

“This one month that I have resumed, some customers have been coming in to make payments to us. I expect the rate of recovery to be higher than what we are experiencing right now. What we are planning to do is to give them a little more time to enable them to respond.

“But for those that think they don’t have obligation to pay, there are a lot of strategies that we are going to embark upon to recover the money. For those whose projects are on ground, but don’t have the means to pay, we will dispose their assets.

“We are going through all the legal processes  to enable us sell the assets without violating the legal agreement we signed with them. Those we also need to take to the law enforcement agencies like ICPC and EFCC to help us to collect the money, especially where we discover that there were diversions, we will also do it,” he said.

On why the DFI was having high loan non-repayment portfolio, Oseni said NERFUND was not originally set up to engage in direct lending and as such lacked the expertise to do the business.

For instance, he said that findings revealed that the ratio of non-performing loans was high because in many instances, no proper appraisals were conducted before some of the loans were granted to customers.

Stating his mission, the AFRACA scribe, Saleh Gashua said the organisation was in Nigeria to discuss with its various member institutions on how to strike a synergy for the provision of sustainable financial services to the rural and agricultural communities within the continent.

 

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