Daylight Robbery at Yobe Microfinance Bank, by Barrister Suleiman Hassan Gimba

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A lot of things have happened since my ink last dropped on this page, with the Ramadan fasting and my renewed love for performance poetry keeping me away from anything article-writing.

However, a new form of lunacy that has all but confirmed the death of reasoning emerged in Yobe.

The avoidable incident created a trilemma in my pen the kind you get when 16,000 people have been hard done by, with some suffering more than others, through either unnatural deductions by the Yobe Microfinance Bank Limited or avoidable disqualification of participants of the Special Public Works Program (SPW.)

Amid the storm, the MD of the Microfinance Bank has come out to make clarifications while the Selection Committee has remained mute.

For someone that loves controversy, his response has added a tornado to, instead of calming, the storm.

Many have called on him to get a PR team, I think he should resign and allow those that have been in the bank for decades to take over.

That is not just the right thing to do it is the most honourable thing, if he has the honour that is.

The most bizarre thing he said is that the bank is not a charity and they are set up to make profit.

Wow, who could have thought? Only the brilliant Al-Muhajjir, I suppose. But what has he done to make profit for the bank apart from looking for gullible beneficiaries to swindle?

Since his appointment, the YMB has successfully grown into a poorly managed financial institution that solely looks for favours from government agencies as the sole way of attracting customers.

On 29 September 2020, he entered into an agreement with the Yobe Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (Yobe MSME) to register beneficiaries of the Federal Government Survival Fund Program “free from any charges” and on 23 December in the same year, he partnered the Yobe State Emergency Management Agency (YOSEMA) to share relief funds to 1500 vulnerable households.

So, is there any reasonable man that will open an account purely for their service delivery and not under duress of missing out on a Federal Government program they have earned on merit?

The Federal Government did an excellent job of creating 20-man selection committees in each state that came up with one thousand persons in each local government, and for the purpose of transparency and accountability, six banks (Heritage Bank Plc, Zenith Bank, United Bank for Africa, Access Bank, Fidelity Bank, and First City Monument Bank) were tasked to open accounts for the participants in their branches across the country.

All payments were to be made from the CBN directly to the accounts of the beneficiaries, the way it was done in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) loan, the Survival Fund and other programs of the Federal Government.

The banks were issued engagement letters on 7 October 2020 by Festus Keyamo, the Minister of State for Labour and Productivity were tasked with simultaneously registering the participants for the program.

Somehow along the way, 16 of the 17 local governments of Yobe were handed to the worst bank in the state, statistically speaking.

It never should have been saddled with this enormous task and someone (I am sure it is not the Federal Government) needs to take responsibility for putting the fate and sweat of innocent citizens in the hands of Almuhajjir.

The selection committee had their cut out for them as of the 16,000 participants designated to the bank, 2,000 were disqualified under avoidable circumstances.

That is a whopping 14.29 per cent eliminated from the equation by his incompetence or better put, the equivalent of participants from two whole local governments.

The mistakes sprouted from nonverification of BVN to ask those that imputed the wrong digits to correct it, or those with a name mismatch on BVN biodata and means of identification to get an affidavit. This is as low as the bank has fallen, even a bank headed by Almuhajjir should not be able to make this kindergarten error, but it has.

The first thing every commercial bank (good or bad) does before opening an account is the verification of BVN, it is like Modern Banking 101.

So how on earth did they fail to do this? Who will take the fall, the bank or the 2,000 that have been disqualified for no fault of theirs?

The incompetence did not stop there, the 14,000 that survived Almuhajjir’s incompetence unsurprisingly didn’t survive his greed.

They were robbed in broad daylight to the tune of 2,200 0r 2,500 or 2,050 or 1,500. You just can’t tell with Dr Almuhajjir, he has eaten his own vomit more times than Pacman eats dots in a year but Dr seems to enjoy it though as he has “revomitted” countless times through ill-advised writings and even more ill-advised videos.

So unsanitary! The explanation he gave will confuse anyone with a brain, they are more complicated than “oga, snake don swallow the money o.”

In his second video which we agonizingly watched, he tried to show he is smarter than everyone when explaining bank charges for the “services” the bank rendered which he put at some 1,000 and another 1,000 as minimum deposit despite it being approved that zero deposit policies attract the most deposit and all serious commercial banks have moved to it.

He continued blabbing and then said something about ATM and POS that I would have sworn he said under the influence of a substance but I don’t have the evidence, so we will let it slide.

In the end, he put it at, 2,200 and then 500 as POS charges despite money points charging 100 Naira per 5,000 and even less than that when one withdraws upwards of 10,000.

On his calculator, he must have been multiplying 2,200 by 14,000 persons to have 30,800,000 a month and 92,400,000 in three months. Or 2,500 per month, which puts the figure at 35,000,000 a month and 105,000,000 in three months. For 2,050 and 1,500 he will get 28,700,000 and 21,000,000 in a month respectively; 86,100,000 and 63,000,000 in three months respectively.

A prudent man would wonder, with all these millions if the SWP was designed to uplift the poor or gluttons like Almuhajjir.

All in all, he might be feeling like a smart businessman for earning millions from the sweat of thousands but I know “monkey dey work, baboon dey chop” when I see one. Just last year he was complaining of not being taken to where he will enjoy dividends of democracy despite campaigning hard for APC, he seems to be enjoying those dividends now tunda ya samu wuka da nama akan hakkin jama’a and has become a Pharaoh that has 14,000 people building his pyramid. Swift!

He should look at the modus operandi of commercial banks and how they attract customers.

The six banks awarded based on merit by the Federal Government all run zero deposit accounts, their accounts can be opened in minutes using just BVN through their USSD codes or online portals, they reward customers that have deposited money for some time and have so many promos.

They give out loans, certificates of deposits and also engage in other profitmaking ventures. They have incentives too, UBA which I bank with for instance have not charged me a dime for the last two ATM cards they gave me.

Heritage Bank has participated in many government programs because they are reliable.

While the other participating banks have operated seamlessly and quietly in other states, Almuhajjir has based their charges on two weeks of visiting rural communities to open accounts for the participants of the program and for going to Abuja.

Except if he is a bizzy body, his work ends after the opening of the bank accounts and the rest is totally that of the selection committee.

So, who sent him to Abuja? How much is the cost of transport to Abuja that you will put charges that will cumulatively be hundreds of millions?

None of the participating banks went to Abuja for their customers and they were paid regardless. All the commercial banks have their charges but they are not astronomical.

He thinks because the beneficiaries are from rural areas, no one knows anything about the SPW. To shed more light on the program, it has been around long before Almuhajjir promised himself that he wants to be rich.

It was started in the 1980s as part of a partnership between the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO.) The idea was gotten from several historical templates ranging from the Great Depression and methods in colonial Africa.

The current format of the program was approved in October 2019 by President Muhammadu Buhari; first through a pilot program in five local government areas in eight states namely: Adamawa, Borno, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Jigawa, Katsina and Kwara. “It is a dry season/off-season transient job program” and was originally designed for the rehabilitation/maintenance of public and social infrastructure.

On 6 April 2020, it was extended to all the 774 local governments in Nigeria, with 774,000 participants who were recruited from the pool of unskilled persons in rural areas to be paid an allowance of N20,000 monthly for three months.

They are not in any way earning free money as they will handle over 3,000 projects across the country.

Of the extended program, a lot of states started paying in March, so his claim that Yobe is amongst the first to pay in Nigeria is a blatant lie and a cheap ploy to take credit where he has none.

What is more shocking is that he thinks he is doing people a favour by extorting them because if they come to Damaturu, they will spend more and if they are not paid on that day, he expertly advised them to look for an IDP camp to stay ‘cos Almuhajjir has displaced them. Is there nothing this man cannot do?

In his latest explanation, which has contradicted all previous ones, he gave the participants three options (he can be so democratic sometimes); 1. “Home delivery” of the money at the cost of 1,000 to the bank and 500 to the vendors. This option can only be taken on this Saturday. 2. Participants come to Damaturu to apply for ATM cards at 1,050 Naira each and they pay the bank 1,000 (probably for finding time to attend to the customer) at 2,050 and they must wait for 2 weeks before getting the ATM card. In 2021, our brilliant Dr cannot issue instant ATM cards bayan ya “karbi jari daga gwamnati.” 3. Those that want to withdraw on the counter should wait for two weeks, after which they must pay the bank 1,000 for being so generous to allow the Federal Government use them to pay the participants and then a further 500 for cheque booklet, this leaves the total at 1,500.

Looking at it critically, it makes sense that people cannot withdraw their hard-earned money for two weeks because all the staff are also the vendors that will go out for 500 each, probably.

With all the hardship, who in his right senses will open an account at the bank?

How then will they make the profit that he was tasked to do since the bank is neither a mosque nor SEMA?

Almuhajjir has a sustainable plan, to keep getting projects like this and continue handling them in the same way.

Insha Allah, we will not allow this to continue. If he wants to make profit, he should find a way to attract deposits to his bank.

Exploiting innocent people because they have no one is what we will not condone.

He can still be excused though, not because he is unqualified to hold the position under CBN regulations but because he personally told someone that he is stupid and can’t learn anything that is being explained to him.

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