By Amaka Agwuegbo
TheÂ growingÂ incidence of failingÂ Â microfinance banks has increased by the reported closure of Almond MFB, an Ijaniki located bank, in the suburbs of Lagos, as customers besieged the bankâ€™s premises in bid to make withdrawal of their funds in the MFBâ€™s vaults.
According to sources, the bank ran into trouble waters due to insider abuse and weak corporate governance, factors the Central Bank of Nigeria had warned are inimical to the industry and could mitigate against the poverty eradication objectives of the microfinance policy, as the Managing Director of Almond MFB, Mr. Daniel Abu, was alleged to have converted, to personal use, depositors money to the tune of N120m.
Vanguard gathered that the MD had been syphoning money from the bank without being noticed. What gave Abu away was when he tried to cajole a female staff to withdrew the sum of N1million and brought to him at a specifiedÂ location in Ogun State.Â The said staff revealed her boss unusual request to her colleagues who later involved the police who detailedÂ four plain cloth police men to go with her who effected his arrest.
When Vanguard visited the bank yesterday, numerous customers were seen discussing their fate in groups, who could not get into the banking hall which was under lock and key.
According to Mr. Femi, a customer who just joined the bank, â€œI just came here this morning to withdraw some money only to discover that the bank is closed. When I asked some other people that I met here what happened, I was told that the bank has closed shop. Please help me beg them to give me my money.â€
Another customer, Mrs. Clara, said she was called by her account officer to come and close her account. â€œMy account officer called me over the weekend to come and close my account because the bank was having problems. I was surprised when I got here and found out that they were not opened. When I called her, she said there was no money to pay depositors.â€
However, the said Managing Director of Almond MFB has been arrested by the Police as some angry customers swore to take the fight for their deposits to the Police station where the embattled hemlsman is being held.
A bank official, who pleaded anonymity, denied that the said amount was N120m, but disclosedÂ that a committee has been set up by the management of the bankÂ to investigate the matter.
â€œRight now, a committee has been set up by our management to look into the matter and we intend to get to the root of it all so as to ascertain how much he embezzled took and how he would pay back.â€
When contacted, the Lagos State chairman of National Association of Micro Finance Banks (MFBs), Mr. Olutayo Adenekan, said he was not aware of Almond MFBâ€™s closure, but a committee has been set up to look into the cases of closed banks.