By Providence Emmanuel
IN view of the country’s economic situation, what are the operational challenges confronting MfBs?
As you know, there is economic meltdown in the country and every financial institution is trying hard to see how they can scale through the challenges. But we the MfBs, especially those in Enugu, are doing our best to see how we can scale through.
The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, came up with a policy on financial inclusion, so we are working to see if we can help in rendering that financial service to the active poor in the rural area. We found that in the rural area, so many people keep their money in their house which is not good.
We are going into those places to see how we can convince them to open account with an MfB which is our jurisdiction. But if they want to open with a commercial bank, no problem; the most important thing is that they should stop keeping money in their house. They should be bringing it to the bank so as to further help in reviving the economy of the country.
So how far is the MfBs penetrating to drive financial inclusion?
There is no particular person excluded from keeping his/her money in the bank, rather, for one reason or the other they decided to keep their money in the house. Financial inclusion plan is to equip them to know the importance of keeping their money in the bank rather than keeping it in their various houses. That is what the CBN and other financial institutions are campaigning for. If that process succeeds, you will found out that you would never see a reasonable amount of money in anybody’s house, rather in the bank.
What are the challenges associated with operating MfB in the rural area?
Access road is a problem, network is another challenge. Sometimes when you get to the rural area, you will realize that there is no power supply for your operating system to work. But we still do our best to open cash centres and meeting points where we deploy some of our staff to go and mediate between the bank and the rural dwellers.
Sometimes we use other means of power supply like generating set, solar energy and others to power our system to work in such areas. Security is another thing, there is insecurity in most part of the country and it affects our operation in the rural areas. For instance, if you go and collect cash deposit from your clients in the rural area, it is always difficult to convey it from there to the corresponding bank where the cash is being lodged.
Is your bank a beneficiary of the intervention funds?
Yes we have benefitted from one of the intervention funds, especially the MSMED fund, which we got from the CBN through the Enugu State Government and it has been disbursed to so many entrepreneurs both medium and small scale. The facility is still in progress, we are still recovering the money and they have not finished paying. Through that program, we reached out to so many people in the rural area.
In your opinion, is there need for more intervention funds for MfB subsector?
Yes, I believe the ones they injected have a subset. The more they inject, the more it will help to revive the businesses of people in the rural area where we have more of the active poor. Their problem is how to get fund to do some of those businesses they are doing. Through interventions, it will be easier for them to operate. Some of these people have become employers of labour through intervention funds.
Are you comfortable with the CBN criteria for accessing the intervention funds?
There are criteria that the federal government has put in place to access the funds. But it was easier for us because the Enugu state government intervened. They sourced the money for us and gave us to give to the rural areas. Even the interest rate was subsidized by the state government. I think other states government can embrace such system. But if it is left for the MfBs alone to source direct, they may not get some of the requirement by the CBN.