By Omobayo Azeez
The managing director and chief executive officer of Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo, has stressed the need for the federal government to work towards creating a credible and strong identity management towards expanding access to credit in the country.
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Sekibo, noting that while the Bank Verification Number (BVN) has been able to create a form of identification in the country, it has not successfully addressed some of the issues around identity management.
Speaking at the 2019 Annual Conference of Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN) at the weekend, Sekibo noted that the ability of individuals to relocate from one place to another without notifying anyone was a major issue in access to credit.
Represented by Segun Akanji, divisional head, strategy and business solutions, Sekibo said the dearth of effective and standard identity management infrastructure made access to credit for the SMEs in Nigeria tough as banks only see unmitigated risks.
“I am talking about identity management challenge. That is the biggest collateral to lending and that is what is missing in this economy. The day banks can verify where you live, everybody will get loan with ease, because you cannot run away.
“The problem is this, I don’t know where you live. The address of the company is not where you live. And you can wake up in FESTAC today, but tomorrow you move to Ajangbadi or Victoria Island. You don’t have to tell me. And that is a huge problem for banks.
“People take a loan from banks and change accommodation, run away to Ibadan and you cannot find them. That must change. But how do you do that? It is very simple. You lose all the benefits that is allocated to you as a person, the day you relocate like that; you are as good as dead,” he explained.
He continues: “Like when you live abroad, once you misbehave with your identity, you cannot bank, your credit goes bad, you cannot go to hospital and everything else goes bad and you cannot do anything. So, you have a responsibility to yourself and the country that supports you to report yourself.
“There is no value in our identity management as we have it. So, it is not just about banks, it is about the holistic structure where there is no value to the person that each of us will represent. ”
According to Sekibo, just like it is the practice abroad, a person who changes accommodation is always the one to inform his financial institutions, hospital, and other bodies even if that takes a couple of days to complete.
“Why? There is value to where you live. That’s where your mail, pension, cheque comes. Everything attached to you comes to that address. So, there is value. We need to get to that and then no one will need collateral to get some minimum amount to do business.”
Sekibo also observed that although the banks had pushed the government to some form of identity management system through the bank verification number, BVN, it has not been enough to solve the problem of the identity constraining lending in the country.