By James Emejo in Abuja
The acting Managing Director of the National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND), Mr. Ezekiel Oseni has said the fund was unable to pay staff salaries while majority of the staff had been laid off owing to the N17.5 billion owed it by recalcitrant debtors.
He has therefore appealed to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to help recover the outstanding amount.
According to him, eight percent of the total customers, who borrowed money accounted for over 81 percent of total non-performing loans.
Speaking during a courtesy visit to the EFCC in Abuja, Oseni said since he assumed office in August last year, he had engaged with 135 customer, who borrowed between N1million to N5million and had been making efforts to repay.
But the challenge according to him, lied with the big debtors who owed between N50million and above- and have sworn not to pay back simple because it was public funds.
Others said it was only their own share of the national cake, he told the anti-graft officials.
Majority of the loans lacked requisite collaterals and were merely backed by guarantees from past political office holders.
Some of the big debtors were said to have resorted to endless litigation to frustrate recovery efforts.
He said the situation has rendered the fund broke and currently unable to pay staff salaries while many had recently been sacked, with more to follow if nothing was done to arrest the situation.
Oseni, therefore, asked the EFCC to set up a special task force in NERFUND to help in the investigation and recovery of N14.2 billion owed by the so-called big debtors.
Responding, Chief of Staff to the acting EFCC Chairman, Mr. Ola Olukoye on behalf of his boss, Ibrahim Magu, assured the NERFUND of maximum cooperation, adding that the request was within its area of jurisdiction.
He further assured the NERFUND boss that the commission would be ready to assist in the recovery after a memorandum of understanding is signed to that effect.
NERFUND was set up to provide needed medium – to long-term financing to viable Small and Medium scale production enterprises. The grand objectives are to increase the quantum of goods and services available for local consumption and export, provide needed employment, expand our production base and add value to the economy.
It is designed to aid in the cake-baking process, and as such, fund disbursements by the NERFUND will be based on competitive efficiency”. Since there is more demand for the NERFUND loans than the resources currently available can satisfy, only the most viable projects may benefit from the programme. Your challenge is to put together one of the most viable projects to benefit from the NERFUND programme. The NERFUND has been very successful in reorientating the nation towards a production culture from the old trading culture. So far, the NERFUND has approved loans for one thousand four hundred and ninety seven projects, valued at over N5billion.