Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
An Onitsha, Anambra State-based micro savings and property facilitating firm, Fund Trust Multipurpose Cooperative Society, has reiterated its commitment to providing financial inclusion for the poor by inculcating in them the culture of savings.
President of Fund Trust Cooperative Society, Mr Silas Ifeanyi, who made the commitment after a road show to mark the fifth anniversary of the organisation, stated that the group’s vision when it took off five years ago was to become the “banker to the unbankable – those people who make small earnings and save like N200 daily and cannot go to a regular bank to deposit such paltry sums.”
He said the society renders services to roadside petty traders, tricycle riders, sand loaders in dredging sites among others. He noted that instead of such people coming to the firm to save money, they are spared such stress, as field workers from the firm rather go to such people to collect the little sums and save for them on daily basis.
“We bank their money and develop their savings culture. But not only that, we render financial assistance to them. Our mission is also to provide exceptional tailored services to our members, and by doing that we create financial inclusion. In spite of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s campaign for financial inclusion, many are yet to be included in Nigeria’s financial services.
Ifeanyi said in rendering its services, the cooperative society has prevented the poorest of the poor to resort to self help by engaging in crimes such as kidnapping, armed robbery, and prostitution, among other vices.
He said the ban on the operation of commercial motorcycles in Onitsha without government backed palliatives would have escalated crime to an unimaginable proportion if not for the intervention of the cooperative society in procuring tricycles for the former okada riders.
“We have given out tricycles in large numbers to beneficiaries and the repayment pattern is very friendly to the users. Some of them now have up to three or four tricycles and the good thing is that they don’t provide any collateral apart from belonging to a loading pit where they can be properly identified.
“We don’t know these people from Adam but through this we have been able to empower them and redirected their lives positively,” said Ifeanyi.
He said the society had given about 3000 members cooperative loan, out of which about 200 benefitted this year alone.
The group, he further said, had also delivered foodstuff to over 7,000 members. He noted that more than 30 people scattered in about 10 markets in and around Onitsha are involved in the daily contribution scheme popularly called esusu
He said the success of the operation was hinged on experience, sincerity and integrity.
“Some don’t have experience. Some come to make money and run away. That accounts for high mortality rate in the business. But we have built trust over the years and cannot run away. Ours will not die because it is well structured with a succession plan that will even outlive us.
He also said the unfriendly economic climate in Nigeria has affected business generally but stated the society had no option than to trudge on. “You cannot make omelette without breaking eggs,” he stated.
“Our main source of revenue is daily contributions. We practicalise our vision by reaching out to the people at their duty posts like iron benders, sand dredgers and water vendors to collect their money on daily basis and save for them.”
Ifeanyi expressed regret that some of the customers, notably petty traders, have been displaced in most urban areas in Onitsha in the road decongestion exercise carried out by the state government.
“Some were permanently sent to their villages, some died and some are still hopeless. They sell their wares like oranges, tomatoes, water melons, pears, bananas, plantains, among others. And at the end of the day, they make little savings from the sales but since they were chased out, their poor condition have become worse.”
“About 40 per cent of Nigerians have access to finance. How many Nigerians can walk into the bank and come out with money to solve their problems? If you cannot walk into the bank and come out with money, you are excluded financially.
“I have been kidnapped once and the guys told me ‘you were the ones excluding us financially and I told them I was one of them’. Because we are doing this cooperative society business, we have taken most people out of criminality.”
“We have done a lot for the people without government assistance. We are doing this to help the society who raised me. I was a banker for 15 years here in Onitsha and rose to become a general manager. Now, I want to pay back to the society,” he said.