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How we fished out fraudsters in N4bn SME loan fund – RIMA

How we fished out fraudsters in N4bn SME loan fund – RIMA

Thousands of fraudsters and imposters have been tracked and fished out in the disbursement of N4bn fund for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Rivers State.

The agency that did the thorough screening, the Rivers State Micro Finance Agency (RIMA), disclosed to newsmen recently that it was a big shock to discover that about 70percent of applicants were those he described as imposters.

The successful ones were pegged at 3066 who were to get about N4.2bn which came from the state government under Sim Fubara and the Bank of Industry (BoI). The disbursement took place the next day after the media chat.

At a pre-event press briefing in RIMA headquarters on Thursday, May 2, 2024, Jonathan Tobin, the CEO said the meticulous screening exercise fished out those fakes out of the over thousands of applicants.

Giving the background, the MD/CEO said a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by the Rivers State government and the BoI which led to the release of a total of N4bn: N2bn is with RIMA while N2bn is with BoI.

Tobin said processing took his team to the 23 LGAs but that 70percent was screened out. He said the loans are not for startups or greens.

He talked about two categories: Those requesting between One Naira and N1m were assessed by RIMA, those above up to N50m were processed by BoI.

Explaining the verification shocker, he said those in the 70percent category that failed were giving wrong locations, addresses, and fake contacts. Some, he stated, borrowed somebody’s shop but during physical verification, the fraud was exposed.

He went on: “Some 3066 beneficiaries were pre-qualified for disbursement of a total of N1.62bn under the N1m maximum segment will be handed out by the governor. The BoI is handling the 103 applicants valued at N2.2bn. Rivers State is ready to do business.”

He described the loans as the cheapest in the country at 7.5percent per year, saying banks were giving at over 30percent. He explained some of the conditionalities thus: “Those asking for one N1m or less need one guarantor with National identity Number (NIN).”

He gave other categories and their conditions, but said all are cheap with easy conditions.

Tobin said more applicants were rushing to RIMA headquarters but early applicants would get first. He training was compulsory so beneficiaries would be abreast with basics such as how to grow your business, how to manage your finances (not to rush to extravagant lifestyle as soon as you got the loan, and to know that while you may sleep, the loan is counting); how to separate private funds from business money; how to do marketing; security issues around your business; how to monitor indicators around your enterprise; and sensitivity to information.

During question and answer, Tobin said media outfits were free to apply, saying graphics people have shown interest, jewel dealers, fibre boat builders, saying N200m was ready on day one. He said there was no political pressure on him with the full backing of the governor even as he said he was never a politician.

Governor Sim Fubara, who has showed keen interest in the reality of the loan package for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), will hand the first 24 packages to flag off the scheme.