Maritime lawyer and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) yesterday urged the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, to review the lending policy of banks.
Agbakoba made the plea in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
“The heartbeat of any economy is the financial services sector, but because the financial services sector is pursuing the wrong agenda, it is not growing.
“The financial services sector namely banks, lend money to big men but banks are known to lend money to the average Nigerian.
“The lending policy of banks is something the Nigerian President must correct. It is not enough to identify two or three billionaires and one bank gives all the money.
“The country cannot grow that way. It will just simply make one man rich, but when lending is done on a consumer basis, what we call consumer banking, then, 175 million Nigerians potentially can be borrowing and that is the only way that the banks can really, truly grow and become giant.
“This is the model that banks follow abroad. Lend money to everybody across the board, but the problem with lending money across the board here is that the banks are interested in getting their money back.
“Which means that the institutions supporting the financial services sector, the laws, must be strong.
“No bank would give money; you cannot pay and then to take you 10 years in court.
“The two things in the financial services sector would be a change in the lending procedure but strengthen the recovery procedure,” he said.
According to him, banks prefer to give secured credits.
Agbakoba said the incoming administration should be bothered about how to raise revenues in view of dwindling resources.
He said that the business community had a lot of business ideas, but no financial capacity.
“Development is driven by national guarantees. You will find that the business community would have a lot of ideas but no financial capacity.
“It is the government that provides the guarantee. This is standard practice everywhere across the world. You would have an Export-Import Guarantee Bank (NEXIM).
“So, if they approve what you are doing; so, I want to set up an airline. It will cost me 100 million dollars.
“I don’t have it, I have this.
“The government looks at my papers; they give Boeing a guarantee. So, Boeing knows that if there is a default, they go against the government.
“You can imagine when everybody is doing this; activities in the business community; there is a boom.
“So jobs are not created by mouth. You create jobs, by creating the institutions.
“The government has to create a National Guaranty Agency to support business development.
“It is this business development and its multiplier effect that drive jobs; that creates new ideas, new industries, new factories and all sorts of things; and people then get employed.
“So that I think, is of vital importance in the whole new design of government,” he said.
The maritime lawyer said the final challenge for the President-elect “is planning”.
According to Agbakoba, without planning, all these suggestions will not be achieved as the president-elect needs professionals and right pegs in the right hole in his cabinet.
He suggested that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) should now revert to its real function of development agenda for Nigerians and not a contract-awarding body.
He said if all the measures “are put in place, government will be looking toward saving between 30 to 40 per cent of the national income”.
Agbakoba said the savings could be ploughed into sectors like education, infrastructure and housing, among others.
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