Emmanuel Ugwu, Umuahia
The business community in Aba has welcomed with open arms Accion Microfinance Bank as it opened shop at the commercial hub of Abia, dangling a loan portfolio of N7 billion with a promise of easy access to loans and bright future for customers.
Managing director of the Bank, Mr. Taiwo Joda said that the Aba branch, which is the first in Abia and the 44th full operational branch of the bank, â€œhas a unique target market of small, medium and micro entrepreneurs in the Ariaria communityâ€ which hosts the famous Ariaria International market.
He said that the bank which started business in May 2006 has already established itself as one of the leading MFBs in Nigeria with a total disbursement of over N7 billion from inception till date, has close to N9 billion in total assets and N3.9 billion in shareholder funds.
Not only that Joda also stated that Accion has maintained a steady expansion in its customer base having grown from â€œa humble position of a state Microfinance of 2,531 customers in 2007 to a national MFB with over 273,000 customer accounts in 62 operational outlets comprising 44 branches, seven cash centres and 11 virtual teamsâ€.
â€œWe are here to offer our basket of financial services and products ranging form savings, current , fixed deposit accounts , microloans, asset loan, SME loans, insurance and e-channels which will definitely lend hand in government efforts at alleviating poverty among the low income earners and people of the bottom of the pyramid,â€ he said.
The Accion MD assured that his bank would assist its prospective customers in Aba to grow their businesses in line with the bankâ€™s mission which is â€œto economically empower micro entrepreneurs and low income earners by providing financial services in a sustainable, ethical and profitable mannerâ€.
He further stated that Accion was strong enough to carry the financial burden of its customers, citing several â€˜awards of excellence attesting to our high quality of services and operationâ€. These include best MFB 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, EFINA financial Inclusion Award as a Leader in Financial Inclusion in the Microfinance banking sector, the most consistent Microfinance Bank of the Year 2015 Award, among others.
Representatives of Abia state government and Aba business community were on hand to welcome Accion to the commercial centre and SME hub with a promise to do good business with the bank.
The permanent secretary, ministry of trade and investment, Mr. Onyema Abarikwu, who was represented by he head of department , SME, Mrs. Chinyere Nwosu, commended Accion mangement for its foresight in opening their first branch in the state at Aba which is reputed as the commercial nerve centre of South east zone.
He said that the presidency has declared Abia state as the capital of SMEs in Nigeria during a visit by the Vice-president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo hence Accion should take advantage of the business opportunities in the state, adding that government has provided a conducive atmosphere for growth of businesses.
The permanent secretary urged Accion management â€œto assist our business men and women in MSME with loan facilities and advancesâ€ as well live up to its promise of granting them easy access to funds.
Speaking in the same vein the permanent secretary ministry of cooperatives and poverty reduction, Mr. Ernest Onyeukwu, who was represented by the director of community development, Azubuike Ebere, said that though Aba is the hub of SMEs business operators find it difficult to access loans.
He therefore urged Accion to make its interest rate business friendly in order to make it easy for customers to pay back, adding that traditional rulers should serve as loan guarantors.
Earlier in his remarks the president of Aba chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ACCIMA) Chief Andy Uba lauded the management of Accion for deeming it to come into Aba to open shop for financial business.
He advised the MFB â€œto do us a favour by relaxing the interest rateâ€ and assured that members of Aba business community that got loans would always endeavour to fulfill their own side of the bargain by repaying loans received to enhance their businesses.