Beneficiaries of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) COVID-19 relief loans have voiced their concerns regarding the recent move by the CBN to recover these loans, raising questions about the terms and conditions initially promised during the disbursement of funds.
The CBN had launched the Targeted Credit Facilities (TCF) in 2020, a program aimed at providing financial support to Nigerians severely affected by the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. The News Agency of Nigeria reported that these loans were intended to mitigate the adverse economic impacts faced by individuals and businesses.
Speaking to NAN, Abbas Sule, a beneficiary of the loan, expressed his dissatisfaction with the loan recovery process. Sule revealed, “When I was granted the loan facility in 2020, the bank official that processed the release through NIRSAL Microfinance Bank (NMFB) received a commission of N50,000, and I was paid N450,000.” He continued, “Now they want me to repay N500,000, that is not fair.”
Fatimah Alli, another beneficiary of the TCF, shared her experience, stating, “I got a loan of N500,000 in 2020 to cushion the economic effect of COVID-19. But at that time, we were assured that we would not be required to repay the money.” Alli expressed her shock, saying, “Recently, all the money in my bank account was removed by the CBN as part of the loan recovery drive.”
The CBN introduced the N50 billion TCF in March 2020 with the aim of providing financial support to households and Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) severely impacted by the pandemic. These loans were disbursed to beneficiaries by NIRSAL, an entity owned by the CBN, at a favorable interest rate of 5%, with a moratorium period that extended until February 28, 2021. After the moratorium period ended, the interest rate reverted to nine percent from March 1, 2021.
In an official statement posted on NMFB’s Twitter handle, the bank stated, “We have played our part. It is now your turn.” NMFB revealed that it had disbursed loans worth N503 billion to more than 881,081 Nigerians and business operators to cushion the effects of the pandemic. The bank emphasized that these loans were not grants and urged beneficiaries to take the necessary steps to repay them. The bank advised, “You are expected to visit the nearest NIRSAL branch to obtain a loan repayment schedule. You must ensure that your loan account is always funded.”
As the CBN moves forward with loan recovery efforts, beneficiaries like Fatimah Alli and Abbas Sule hope for a more transparent and equitable resolution to their concerns regarding the repayment process. The situation underscores the importance of clear communication and adherence to promised terms when disbursing loans during crisis periods like the COVID-19 pandemic.