By Providence Emmanuel
LAPO Microfinance Bank said that 80 percent of its total assets are loans granted to customers to grow their businesses.
Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the bank, Mr. Godwin Ehigiamusoe, disclosed this at a media briefing in Lagos, where he also lamented the penchant for attributing infractions by other MfBs to LAPO.
He said: “LAPO MfB is a premium MfB in Nigeria not only by our long history of involvement with low income households but also for our size and the robust financial services we provide. We do know that most people at the bottom end of the society take LAPO as synonymous with microfinance in Nigeria. It is for this reason most infractions by other microfinance institutions and banks are ascribed as LAPO.
“While we take credit for pioneering microfinance in Nigeria and Africa, we feel we need to create awareness on the fact that it is indeed different from other microfinance banks and institutions. While I commend the role of the media in supporting the emergence of microfinance sector in Nigeria, I wish to appeal for greater reportage on the sector in a manner that ensures its growth for the over-all benefits of our people.”
Stressing that the bank has, over the last 30 years, kept faith with its initial mandate to assist persons at the bottom end of the society to break out of the grip of poverty, he stated: “There is a huge demand for loan in this country especially at the lower end. What it is today, is that the gap is too much for us, the reason is because lending business is risky. I can tell you that many MfBs have their money but they just go and put it in fixed deposit with the commercial banks and collect returns but we are saying no, we are a development organization, if I go to a commercial bank and say I want to deposit N14 billion, I know what they would give me as interest but we want to push it out and take the risk of default and that is what we are doing.
“You would be surprised if you look at our balance sheet, our loan portfolio is more than 80 percent of our total asset. LAPO as a bank does not have a house of its own, because if we put more money in those assets, we would have less money to give out. So, 80 percent of our total asset is in loan.”
Additionally, he said that the biggest threats faced by the sub sector was the issue of bad loans, adding that most Nigerians love to take loans but find it difficult to repay as at when due which has led to the collapse of some of the banks in the country.
Urging the government to support the sub sector to enable more Nigerians to be financially included and lifted out of poverty, Ehigiamusoe said: “We live in a country where people would smile and be happy when they are collecting loans but when it is time for them to pay back, they would start telling stories, making it look like the banks are bad. This is an issue threatening the growth of the sub sector. Nigerians must change their attitude towards loan repayment.
“If a customer collects loan and channels half of that loan outside the business it is meant for, repayment would be difficult, because the half cannot do the business and pay back the loan.”