The decision of the Federal Ministry of Finance to shut the Nigerian Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND) may have put the organisation’s N7 billion loan disbursed to various customers in jeopardy.
The amount, as learnt, represented outstanding loans which were being repaid before the organisation was shut last week.
NERFUNDs staff said that they were shocked at what they described as , “extreme reaction” of the Federal Ministry of Finance to their peaceful protest aimed at drawing government’s attention to their plight.
Mal. Umar Mamu, the President of the NERFUND Staff Union told Vanguard that his members were surprised that the ministry shut the organisation due to the peaceful protests which he said did not pose any threat security.
He insisted that his members did nothing to warrant a pre-emptive measure of shutting NERFUND “to forestall” breakdown of law and order,” as claimed by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Alh. Mahmud Isa Dutse, in the letter addressed to all staff. According to him, if anything, the staff expected sympathy from the ministry, especially given the fact that they expressed their frustrations over the years due to government’s failure to appoint a substantive Board and Executive Management for the organisation.
His words, “what we were expecting was that at least, we have taken our demands to the ministry and we were going through a lot of frustration before now. Our demands to the ministry which are three: definite pronouncement on the status of NERFUND; that the Executive Management should go and a substantive board and executive management appointed for NERFUND, and finally that NERFUND should be recapitalised.
“We were very shocked when we came to work this morning to see a notice at the gate saying that NERFUND has been completely shut down and that the ministry was sending us on an indefinite leave and that whatever decision they take will be communicated to us.
“What we were expecting was a positive response from the ministry. Positive response in the sense that the ministry will ask the executive management which is made up of just two people, to go. These people are from NDIC (Alh. Mohammed Kollere, Ag MD) and CBN (Mr. Elenwor Ihua, ED Ops). They are on secondment.
“We expected that after asking them to return to their organisations, even if it means sending somebody from the ministry to take over, if they don’t want people from our management to take over Executive management, before a substantive appointments can be made.
“But unfortunately, we were shocked because we left office yesterday around 5 pm and we got to the office today (Friday) and saw the notice telling us that NERFUND has been shut. Implications “I don’t think that was a good decision because of the implications of that decision to NERFUND itself and to the government in general.
“The implications are that NERFUND has the responsibilities of giving out loans to entrepreneurs and recovering such loans. Now, owing to the circumstances in which the organisation has found itself, we have not been giving loans in the last three or four years but we are recovering loans that had already been given out.
“By this single act of closing NERFUND, a lot of business promoters who were given loans have started calling, expressing doubts over the future of NERFUND and now think the loans given to them have become their own share of the national cake.
“Government is talking about safeguarding the physical assets in NERFUND, we have more than N7 billion out there not yet recovered and we are putting in efforts to recover these loans.
“With this action, we have been taken back because even if they ask us to go back to work tomorrow, we will find it difficult to convince a lot of people that we are actually back in business and that they must complete the repayment of their loans.