Some Microfinance Bank operators on Thursday in Lagos debunked allegations of discrimination against elderly Nigerians interested in accessing comfort and development loans.
The operators debunked the claim in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
They said that their operations was moderated by microfinance banking policy of 2009 as reviewed in 2013 by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
NAN reports that in spite of the denials by most microfinance bank operators in Lagos, a cross section of Nigerians insist the banks engaged in high level discrimination in their loans offerings.
Chief Innocent Akinola, 56, says his had yet to recover from the shock and embarrassment he received recently from one microfinance banks.
According to Akinola, the bank closed its doors on him in March 2015 when he turned 56 years, in spite of his long standing relationship with them.
“For three years, I have received loans for both my business and personal needs without issues.
“I had also serviced the loans without problem until March when I sought for new loan for the expansion of my animal feeds business.
“The bank without notice after documentation only informed me that my demands was not approved because of my age.
“My case was worsened because my small company had already placed others for new machines based on our existing relationship,’’ he said.
Mrs Nneka Ifedi says her experience with a microfinance bank can be best described as hope raised and dashed.
According to her, the bank officials came and marketed at the right time when I need some funds to establish a small business.
“I did save money with the bank for about eight months but was refused the loan on the ground that am 57 years when I eventually applied,’’ she said.
Ifedi also said that her experience with the banks also affected her business plans and the enthusiasm to continue with the small business dream.
Also speaking, Mr Nkem Nweke, a former banker, said that “the operational rascality of microfinance banks on loans stemmed from poor regulation’’.
He urged the regulators to be alive to their responsibilities, arguing that most of the microfinance banks are involved in unwholesome banking practices.
Reacting to the allegations, the chairman of National Association of Microfinance Banks (NAMB), Lagos Chapter, Mrs Clara Oloniniyi, said the banks did not get involved in selective credit.
“We all know the rationale for establishing the sub-sector, which is to extend credit facilities to the active poor.
“The sub-sector is crucial to the development of the country, so, we must kick against anything that could cause its downturn.
“And one such thing is not adhering to rules stipulated by the regulators to guide the sub-sector.
“According CBN operational guidelines, the age limit for accessing loan in banks is between 18 and 65 years.
“If you are below 18 or above 65 years though active, we can’t grant you credit.
“Apart from CBN guidelines, it is generally assumed that people in their 60’s get sick and any money granted to such persons may fall under bad debt.
“And we all know bad debts don’t do anything than causing operations to wind up.
“So, any practitioner that went outside the age limit stipulated by CBN is doing that at his or her own risk,’’ she said,
A former president of NAMB, Mr Mathias Umeh, said the approved age limit for accessing loans in microfinance banks is between 18 years and 60 years.
According to him, anyone below 18 year is adjudged incompetent in money management and anyone above 60 years is adjudged inactive.
“Remember that in this country’s constitution the retirement age is 60 years, meaning once you clock 60 years you must go and rest.
“Microfinance banks deal with the active poor, people who still have the required strength to run business which the loan was taken for,’’ he said.
The Managing Director of Bosak Microfinance, Lagos, Mr Kola Bello, also debunked the alleged selective credit practiced by the microfinance banks.
“We are not discriminatory. We simply abide by CBN guidelines for microfinance banks.
“Once you are below 18 and above 60 years, you cannot access loan from us — remember we deal with the active poor.
“I will advise my colleagues not to be too bullish in their tasks but to be cautious in their risk management approach,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, a lawyer, Mrs Caroline Ozuduh, has advocated for a review of the age limit for Nigerians interested in banks’ loans from 60 years to 75 years.
According to Ozuduh, the need for the review stemmed from the fact that some elderly ones are still active after 60 years.
“In fact, that is the time some elderly Nigerians blessed with good health should apply their experience in micro economic development.
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