Nigerian Economic Recovery Fund (NERFUND) may suspend operations soon due to the large volume of non-performing loans in its books.
Acting Managing Director of the agency Dr. Ezekiel Oseni, at a meeting with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) boss Ibrahim Magu, solicited for the anti-graft agency’s support as NERFUND was facing difficulty in recovering N17.5 billion in loans it had given.
“We can no longer support entrepreneurs owing to the fact that we gave out loans of N1.5bn and they are yet to be paid back.”
Oseni said while small customers who collected between N1m and N2m have started repaying, the agency is having difficulty in recovering the huge loans from big customers who took N50m and above.
He blamed the large volume of non-performing loans on the absence of collateral on loans taken by people close to politically exposed persons. “Some of these big customers borrowed this money without collateral through the influence of politicians and they don’t want to pay back because they feel its government money.”
NERFUND was set up in 1989 by the Ibrahim Babngida administration to provide medium and long term financing for Small and Medium Scale Enterprise, but unlike, banks, it gives loans without collateral.
NERFUND also failed to put in place a proper risk management system, as 80% of its loans were given to a few parties. Commercial institutions usually diversify their loan base across individuals and sectors to lessen the risk of default.
The agency is a classic case of why government should not be in the business of lending money. The mistakes made by the agency would not have occurred in the private sector. Banks usually ask intending clients if they are related to politically exposed persons. Doing so, enables them to apply extra caution.