By Providence Emmanuel
Managing Director, Coastline Microfinance Bank Limited, Mrs. Fejiro Ugute, in this interview stressed the need to review the criteria for accessing intervention funds of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN so as to make them accessible to microfinance banks. She also spoke on efforts of the bank towards the financial inclusion target of the apex bank.
HOW would you assess the activities of Microfinance Banks in Delta State in view of the economic challenges and insecurity in some parts of the country?
First of all, before assessment is made on something, you must first find out what the purpose of that thing is. The purpose of MfB is to empower the masses at the grassroots level in the society. The grassroots level simply means the base of the society and the base of every existence is the foundation. A building without foundation will collapse. MfB is the foundation upon which an economy is built.
Therefore, accessing and appraising the MfB in Delta State, simply means how many people have MfBs given a financial foundation for them to build upon and the answer is numerous. As at April 7, 2018 Delta State was the third richest state in Nigeria with a GDP of $16.749 billion. A state cannot have that kind of economy without a proper solid foundation and that foundation is MfB subsector. I say the MfBs have done well for themselves for this period despite the problem of insecurity, armed robbery, kidnapping, youth restiveness or youth restlessness, militancy; yet, we are thriving; going into the creeks to empower and liberate people from abject poverty and squalor.
It is only at MfB will illiterates be properly guided on how to be empowered and truly empowered. Economic challenges are there for us to overcome and solve. These challenges are our responsibilities and we handle them by standardizing local businesses/services, agriculture, trade, manufacturing, among others to discourage reliance on foreign imported products, thereby increasing the worth and appreciation of locally made goods.
How is your bank working towards the financial inclusion target of the CBN?
As the MD/CEO of Coastline Micro finance Bank, formerly known as Okere Community Bank, we are strict observers of all CBN prudential guidelines for 25 years, the CBN financial inclusion target is driven by the bank earnestly in order to meet the demands of the unbanked in the creeks and remote villages. The bank in its milestone has branded its own Automated Teller Machine, ATM cards, has its own Bank Verification Number, BVN, machine of which people in the remote areas are registered by taking banking to their door steps. We also provide businesses in rural and remote villages with Point of Sale, PoS, terminal device for their customers to make purchases thereby reducing the risk of travelling long distance to the town to withdraw money before transactions are made. Our customers can check their account details using our USSD code. We also provide them mobile app to enable mobile transactions such as bills payment, recharge card purchase, fund transfer to make life easier for them. Financial inclusion is all about bringing financial activities and services to people that ordinarily do not have access to financial products and services.
Do you think the intervention funds available to MfBs have achieved the purpose for which they were set up?
The various intervention funds were supposed to uplift the masses especially those at the bottom of the pyramid, which the MfBs deal with currently, but stringent criteria and bottlenecks have hindered many from accessing it. If these criteria are reviewed it will help to meet the needs/objectives smoothly.
How would you rate loan default at a time when the economy is in a bad shape?
I wouldn’t say it wasn’t expected. Loan default is a foreseeable risk that we have seen and it is bewildering that the rate of loan default goes as high as the cost of living. People come to take loan as friends and refuse to pay like foes.
In answer to your question, the rate at which loan repayment and schedules grow higher is alarming and it is one of the pangs of giving out loans to customers. But we cannot punish the good for the offence of the bad. There are still customers willing to repay loans. These customers make the copious loan defaulters bearable. We have put all policies in place to enable prompt payment in order to avert the menace of high default, though, to meet the five percent PAR requirement from CBN is unrealizable for many MfBs for now but we are striving to contain the rate of default.
What is your bank doing differently that differentiates it from other banks?
First of all, I will like to point out that we are not just different from other banks, we are unique, peculiar and distinctive. Apart from being one of the oldest MfB in Delta State, established in 1992 as Okere Community bank which later metamorphosed to a micro finance bank in 2007; we have covered the nooks and crannies of both rural and urban areas of Delta state with our specialized products that suit the micro business men and women. We have also gone digital, our ATM cards can be used at all ATMs and PoS all over the world, we have our website and mobile app, for instant, money transfer, bill payments and global e-banking services.
The bank concentrates on the Esusu business model as its core product which meets the required needs of both educated and uneducated micro, small and medium scale businesses. This makes us very unique. Conclusively but not exhaustively; our customer care services are open 24 hours in a day, our staffs are very meticulous and above all we are patient. We always understand the customer’s plight and look for ways to ameliorate it. We care for them, we are loyal to them and we intend to stay with them forever. We have been here for 25 years, we are still here and we will continue to be here, serving and providing further and better financial services to our customers.