By Emeka Oraetoka
If the report credited to the Postmaster General of the federation, Bisi Adegbuyi, on September 29, 2019, that abandoned offices of the Nigerian Postal Service, NIPOST, spread across the 774 local government areas in Nigeria will henceforth serve as microfinance banks operated by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, is anything to go by, Nigeria is set to witness even rapid rural economic transformation, development and growth.
It is a well known fact that the best option to reverse rural-urban migration and ensure inclusive growth and development, is through empowering the rural poor, economically. This NIPOST/CBN microfinance scheme is particularly heartwarming because it is going to engender even development and growth, apart from the fact that NIPOST offices, both currently in use and abandoned ones in the 774 LGAs, will be put to use. Even an elementary economist knows the positive implication of the proposed NIPOST microfinance bank to the Nigerian economy. The arrangement will probably be the first real attempt by government to target the rural poor strategically. The reason microfinance banks in the country are not doing well in terms of strategically targeting and empowering the rural poor is that they are concentrated in the state capitals only. Just few of them can be seen outside state capitals. In terms of space, they are nowhere to be found; besides, they are operating more or less like commercial banks, thereby defeating the purpose for which they were licensed to operate.
The passion at which the leadership of NIPOST is selling this microfinance scheme to Nigerians is an indication that President Muhammadu Buhari is ever determined to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty. For instance, the Postmaster General had hinted in January 27, 2019 that NIPOST had been re-positioned to lift more people out of poverty through its different empowerment programmes. The comment clearly shows an institution of government eager to use its spread to impact the poorest of the poor, positively. The re-assuring remark by PMG at the vocational service award night, organised by the Rotary Club, Elebu District 9125, 2018/209, speaks volume of the importance government attaches to NIPOST microfinance. He said: “The message to our people is that NIPOST is beyond just posting; NIPOST is ready, willing and able to fulfill its responsibility of the giving happiness to Nigerians. As you know, postal institutions all over the world has been used to actualise sustainable development goals of the United Nations, and we cannot be left behind; this is the fourth industrial revolution; technology is driving and Nigeria cannot be left behind”.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of NIPOST microfinance bank is the financial inclusion content. Just like the PMG pointed out, financial inclusion is the key to increased literacy in the rural areas. It will be recalled that Grameen Bank in Bangladesh which is a perfect example of microfinance success in terms of financial inclusion of poor rural population achieved success principally because of its spread in that country. The result of this wonderful model was the lifting of millions in Bangladesh out of poverty. The world was so amazed at the transformation in Bangladesh. And in 2006, Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts through micro-credit to create economic and social development from below. Already, Nigeria has a head-on advantage here. NIPOST offices in 774 LGAs will make the take-off of the microfinance bank very easy. This was probably why the PMG of NIPOST, Adegbuyi said: “We are creating a massive national micro-financial bank leveraging on our locations all over Nigeria; what we seek to do is to empower our people in the rural areas by letting them have access to small loans; by so doing, we are creating opportunities. As you know, all over the world, the engine rooms of any economy are the small medium enterprises. I am very confident that in fullness of time no part of Nigeria will not see the presence of NIPOST because we are everywhere and we have to leverage on that massive National infrastructure.”
All appears set for a historic take off of a wonderful initiative that is capable of lifting even millions more of poor Nigerians in the rural areas out of poverty. NIPOST microfinance bank is also going to lead to mass literacy at the grass-root because a financially stable rural population will pursue education. An educated rural population will be healthy and socially cohesive as well. The positives that go with a financial stable rural population are numerous; what is required now is the WILL by government to ensure the success of the programme.
*Oraetoka, an information management consultant and researcher, wrote from Garki-Abuja