The Federal Government has given approval to the Bank of Industry to recover the N17.5bn outstanding loans being owed by customers of the Nigeria Economic Reconstruction Fund.
NERFUND is currently having liquidity challenges owing to its huge non-performing loans portfolio.
The instrument of approval was given through a Memorandum of Understanding signed on Wednesday in Abuja between the Ministry of Finance led by its Permanent Secretary, Mahmoud Dutse, and the BoI led by the Managing Director, Mr. Olukayode Pitan.
Also present at the signing of the MoU, which was held at the headquarters of the Ministry of Finance in Abuja were top officials of the bank and the ministry.
Speaking in an interview with journalists shortly after the event, Pitan said the bank would adopt all legal means available to recover the bad loans for the government.
He stated, “Part of what we signed today is that the BoI will continue to manage NERFUND. That means that those who are owing NERFUND and also outstanding facilities that have put NERFUND into trouble, the BoI will recover and make sure those loans are collected.
“This is to let people know, especially those owing NERFUND, to begin to come to the Bank of Industry for repayment. People took the money and refused to pay back; some had good reasons but many did not.
“The money to be recovered now is about N17.5bn and we will use all available means open to us legally to recover the money.”
He decried the inability of people who borrowed money from government agencies to repay, adding that such an attitude was denying others who needed funds for their business the opportunity to raise the needed financing.
Pitan said, “For us from the Bank of Industry, we have to learn from NERFUND what not to do so that we do not also end up like NERFUND.
“The idea many Nigerians have is that when you have a government institution like NERFUND, the BoI, Nigeria Export-Import Bank and Bank of Agriculture that are giving out loans, they think that it is a part of their national cake that is not meant to be repaid.
“It is when those who have taken that money repay that the banks can be in business and lend to more Nigerians. It’s even sad when you know that most of these loans were given at interest rates that were below the market rate. So when the government has gone out of its way to allocate money to ministries and agencies to help Nigerians and they are not been paid back, you are not doing the government any favour.”
Dutse, in his remarks, commended the bank for the intervention in NERFUND.