By Amaka Agwuegbo
Customers of GreenHouse Investment Solutions have expressed concern over the uncertain state of the microfinance institution as it battles to recover from failed investments that led to its temporary closure, which could sound the death knell for the microfinance sector that is gradually gaining public trust and patronage by depositors.
The crisis rocking GreenHouse Investment Solutions, Financial Vanguard gathered, is arising from failed investments, mismanagement, poor corporate governance and infighting among management and staff of the institution.
According to some staff who spoke to Financial Vanguard, the institution started showing signs of imminent collapse when it could not meet depositors demand for withdrawals of their money in the past couple of weeks, and sometimes putting a ceiling on how much depositors can withdraw from their respective accounts.
According to Mr. Godwin, the problem GreenHouse is experiencing was caused by some unprofitable investments the management made and were not able to recover their money on time, coupled with the effects of the global financial crisis.
â€œWe had to pay our customers half their requested money because we were not able to recoup our money in some investments we made. This didnâ€™t go down well with some customers and they started spreading rumours that GreenHouse is going under. They became angry and went away with our televisions and computers. This prompted us to close down for two weeks to enable us put our house in order.â€
â€œNow that we have opened, we are verifying our accounts so that we will meet up our financial obligations to our numerous customers as soon as possible.â€
Adding to what his colleague said, a marketer with the GreenHouse said a new dimension was added to the problem when the former manager resigned to open his microfinance bank and went with a sizeable number of staff.
According to him, â€œWhen the former manager resigned to open his microfinance bank, he went with a chunk of our staff. And in a bid to increase their customer base, these staff started phoning our customers to close their accounts with GreenHouse because we are going under. You can imagine the effect such type of information will have on people, and they can en-mass to close their accounts immediately. But sine we opened on Monday, 15th June 2009, customers have been coming to make deposits, but we tell them to hold on till we are through with the verification exercise.â€
A visible troubled customer, Mr. James, a phone operator at the Ijesha bus-stop, pleaded to be helped recover his money as that is what sustains his business. â€œWhen I heard that the bank was having problems and about to close, I called my account officer, who told me everything was alright. After some time, I went to the office and discovered it was locked, which made me call my account officer again, who has refused to pick my called till date. Please, I donâ€™t know if there is any way you can help me recover my money from them because that is what is sustaining my business.â€
When informed by the internal auditor on the process of getting her account information updated and that she would not be able to access her account for some time, she refused to understand, saying â€œThat is you peopleâ€™s business. My own is that Iâ€™ll need my money by the end of the month to buy some good for my shop. When you will see my wahala is when i come and the money is not ready, then you will tell me if the money belongs to you or meâ€.
In his reaction, Chairman of Lagos State Association of Microfinance Banks, Mr. Adenekan, said though the association is investigating the case of a closed bank, he is not aware of the closure of GreenHouse.
â€œA committee has been set up to look into the case of a closed bank. I didnâ€™t know that GreenHouse Investment Solutions had problems, but the association will be meeting soon and we will investigate into the matter. The association is here to make sure that no bank closes, and any one that has problems, we will ensure that they are back on their feet.â€ he said.