NPF Microfinance Bank Plc started operations 25 years ago, on the 20th August, 1993. In this interview, the founder, former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Aliyu Atta, harps on how the bank evolved and its establishment.
By Providence Emmanuel
How did you come about NPF MfB?
As a young and newly appointed head of the Interpol (Nigeria) in 1972 at the famous Alagbon Close, we were lucky to be part of the 50th Anniversary celebration of the creation of Interpol in the world.
As such, all Interpol Officers met in Vienna Austria. The Nigerian delegation was led by late IGP, Chief Sunday Adewusi, who was the head of the CID at Alagbon Close. Young officers from other countries also arrived Vienna for the anniversary. On the second day of the meeting, I was able to meet young officers from Malaysia, Kenya, Ghana, and others from Independent African Countries.
At coffee break, we met at the bar in the eatery where the Malaysian officer and I discussed the welfare of Police Officers in our various countries. The officer revealed welfare packages for police personnel in his country, eager to get more facts from him, I made the Malaysian to talk more and he revealed how police officers benefited from police Cooperative Society in his country. When I came back to my hotel room I put up a report on my discussions with the Malaysian and handed it over to then leader of the Nigerian delegation, Chief Sunday Adewusi.
Amazed by my report, Chief Adewusi urged me to go back and further interview the Malaysian officer. Having gathered more facts on welfare packages for police officers in Malaysia, I prepared a detailed report and handed it to Adewusi. When the Nigerian delegation returned home, He presented our report to the second indigenous IG, late Kam Selem, who
asked Adewusi to go to Malaysia to study police officers welfare in Malaysia. On his return, Adewusi handed over a detailed report to him and his report finally materialized in the formation of the Nigeria Police Cooperative Society. This society is one of the most successful in the country today.
What happened to you afterward?
Having become the Inspector-General of Police I thought of what to do to further improve on the welfare of police officers in the country. Luckily, the Federal Government came up with the idea of community banks in the country to help alleviate the poor of the people in the rural areas and the grassroots. I became interested in this crusade and contacted the then Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), late Abdulkadir Ahmed, who incidentally was my classmate at Barewa College. Abdulkadir had high regards for me being his classmate, class captain and prefect. I sold the idea of coming up with a community bank for the Nigeria Police Force. He bought the idea and further encouraged me for this idea to materialize.
He gave me a clue that I would have to pay for a fee to get the Community Bank registered. Also the then Minister of Finance, Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji, further encouraged me to go ahead with my ‘brain child’. The registration fee for the Community Bank was N500,000. I had to pay this fee personally from my savings to get the bank registered. Having got approval for the take-off of the bank, where to get the operational base became a riddle. I decided to get a structure within the Police barracks at Obalende which also has proximity with the Obalende market.
I believed that putting the bank at its present site in Lagos will help police families and civilians to transact their businesses easily. When the bank structure became ready for commissioning, I brought in my very good friend, the Osama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, who also had been a policeman initially to commission the edifice. The Benin Monarch had been and is still my very good friend during my working days in the old Bendel as ACP CID. Chief Igbinedion made good contributions at the opening of the bank, some in my name and some for the police. This money really helped in the take-off of the bank.
How did the bank metamorphosed to where it is now?
Due to inadequate office space and facility such as telephones my house in Lagos was partly used as operational base and when a branch was opened in Abuja again my house at Asokoro was used as the operational base. With the pioneer staff of the bank we have been able to bring the institution to its present enviable position as the leading and most successful Microfinance Bank in the Country. As the first Chairman of the bank in August, 1993 I declined taking salary and my reason for this was to help police officers and their wives to benefit from the meager resources of the bank at that time. Police officers, their families could go to the bank and take loans to run their petty trading.
Today, the bank has over 380 thousand customers, about 70 percent of that are members of our primary constituency, the police, paramilitary, prisons, immigration, customs and the remaining 30 percent of that account for the members of the general public. The bank is opened to the entire country as several branches have been opened in various State capitals. I must pay glowing tribute to late Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), Elder (Mrs) Rachel Isimenmen Iyamabo. This woman of value held forte as Chairperson of the bank when I retired as IGP on August 16, 1993. The bank progressed under her watch and metamorphosed into a Microfinance Bank Plc.
This feat was also attained with the sound managerial input of the late General Manager of the bank, Mallam Mohammed Alhassan. Mallam Alhassan’s foresight and dedication materialized in the erecting of the edifice that stands as the Head Office of the bank named Aliyu Atta House, at No. 1, Ikoyi Road, Obalende Lagos.