FEATURE ARTICLE

Saturday, March 9, 2019
teniolaeric@yahoo.com
Lagos, Nigeria
IS THE PEOPLE'S BANK COMING BACK? (1)

he Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, GCON, declared in Ilorin recently that the Federal Government will float People's Money bank in the country this year. He added that the bank when established will have branches in all the states of the federation for traders and artisans to have access to credit facilities. Professor Osinbajo did not explain whether the Peoples' Money Bank being proposed will be different, from the People's Bank established by General (rtd.) Ibrahim Babangida through Decree No. 22 of 1990 but commenced operation in October 1989. The People's Bank was charged then with the responsibility of extending credit to under-privileged Nigerians who could not ordinarily access such loans from the orthodox banking system.

When General Babangida introduced the People's Bank, he appointed Dr. Augustus Taiwo Solarin (22/08/22 - 27/07/94), an educationist and social critic as the chairman of the bank. Dr. Solarin was former Principal of Molusi College, Ijebu-Igbo and later founded his own school, Mayflower Secondary School, Ikenne in Ogun state on January 27, 1956.

General Babangida also appointed Mrs. Maria Shokenu (1946-2005) from Irele family of Edo state but lived her entire life in Lagos as Managing Director of the Bank. Mrs. Shokenu had earlier worked in Owena bank, New Nigerian Bank and Eco-Bank. Mrs. Shokenu married a gentleman from Isale-Eko, Femi, who happens to be a devout Catholic. She died in the Bell View airline crash flight 210 on October 22, 2005 at Lisa Village in Ogun state along with the former Nigeria Railway Corporation chairman, Alhaji Mohammed Waziri, Post Master-General of the federation, Alhaji Abubakar Musa Argungun, former Permanent Secretary of the FCT, Mr. Deji Omotade and others.

My senior colleague and friend, late Mr. Ekundayo Alabi Wright (1939-2018) was also involved in the operation of the People's Bank.

After the exit of General Babangida in 1993, little was heard about the People's Bank.

On June 5, 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo set up a committee on Streamlining and Rationalisation of Poverty Alleviation Institutions and Agencies. The committee was headed by Alhaji Ahmed Joda. Other members of the committee were Mrs. Fumilayo Adebo-Kiencke, Dr. Attahiru Jega, Engr. Chike Madueke, Dr. Peter Ogbang, Mallam Oumar Shittien, Alhaji Adamu Yakubu and Dr. Abdullahi Aliyu (Secretary). The following served as resource persons for the committee- Dr. Magaji B. Mahmoud, Dr. (Mrs.) Evelyn Onyeozili, Dr. M.S. Kallah, Dr. Abubakar Lamorde, Dr. Ephraim Madu, Engr. A. Liman, Engr. Willy Achukwu, Hajiya Talatu Bashir, Chief (Mrs.) Bisi Ogunleye, Mrs. Olubunmi Adetunbi, Prince Lekan Fadele, a renowned stockbroker from Ota, who now lives in Canada and Mr. S.O. Eloho (National Planning Commission).

The committee was inaugurated by my direct boss, Chief Ufott Ekaette, CFR, who was then Secretary of the Government of the Federation on July 22nd, 1999, I anchored the event. Present at the occasion were Dr. Goke Adegoroye, Mr. Tunde Kamiliu Kasali, Mr. S.A. Adeyeye, Dr. J.N. Obiegu, Chief Olusegun Oloriebi Ogunkua, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, Mr. Samuel Olu Adekunle, Chief Michael Okhibe Onoja, Alhaji B.U. Maitambari and Chief Asinobi Emmanuel Ogbuehi (OON), who were then Permanent Secretaries in the office of the Secretary of the Government of the Federation.

The People's Bank of Nigeria was among the agencies examined by the Alhaji Ahmed Joda's committee. Other agencies examined by the committee included National Agency for the Resettlement of Pastoralists and Migrant Fishermen (NARPF), Small Industries Development agency (SIDA), National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHDA), National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Nigerian Agricultural and Co-operative Bank Ltd. (NACB), Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC), River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs), Nigerian Industrial Bank, (NIDB), Family Support Trust Fund (FSTF), National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Forma Education (NCMLAE), the Nigerian Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) and others.

It was observed by the committee that the People's bank has been engaged in-group lending cottage industry promoters, agricultural producers, NGOs and co-operative societies. The People's Bank claimed to have recorded the following achievements: disbursement of N1.7 billion as in-house loans from funds derived directly from Federal Government, with which it provided support for over 1million new businesses, with a net saving of N995.25 million. It has also disbursed N0.9 billion as loans from funds provided by Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP). Although the bank claims total loan repayment rate of 87%, analysis of its External Audit Report shows a huge loss provision of over 80% on its total portfolio. This contradiction suggests that the bank has a high degree of problem loans despite management's claim of high rate of loan repayment.

Also, some of the bank's funds have been trapped in distressed, as well as liquidated banks due to unwise investment decisions. The bank complained of inadequate funding from the Federal Government, constrained investment avenues, high cost credit administration. There is also evidence of mismanagement of funds in some its branches. In spite of the above problems, it is believed that, with some restructuring and staff rationalization, the bank can be well positioned to handle micro-credit delivery. This is especially because of the professional quality of some of its staff, widespread presence (280 branches nation-wide) and ten years' experience in the business of micro-credit delivery.

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