Access to credit, outdated policies, major challenges of cooperatives–Stakeholders

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Abuja –  Dr Dickson Okolo, the Chief Executive Officer, Foundation of Greater Access Support to Rural Dwellers, says access to credit is one of the greatest challenges of cooperative societies in the country.
Okolo said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Abuja.
He said that the use of outdated policies in the operations of cooperatives in the country was also one of its major challenges.
He said that if these two challenges were taken care of, cooperatives would be the better for it and would be able to contribute more in the economic growth of the country.
Okolo, who was the former Director of Federal Cooperatives, said that the guideline presently used by cooperatives was last renewed in 2002.
“ It is a very old policy and the standard practice is that when you do a policy, after 10 years you change it but that one is certainly more than 10 years.
“We have proposed another policy which is being presented to government for adoption,’’ he said.
On government intervention funds, Okolo said that cooperatives had not been able to access the funds as much as they should.
“Part of the challenge is that they need to be tutored on how to do so and that is what we call due diligence.
“If we are able to teach them sufficiently on the subject matter of due diligence, they will know how to prepare themselves to qualify to receive such funds.
“The onus however lies on the stakeholders who include the cooperatives themselves as well as the financing agencies to do this due diligence,’’ he said.
He explained that financial agencies in many countries take cooperatives to farmers and tried to educate and encourage them on how to access loans.
“The challenge we have in Nigeria is that the financial service provider holds his funds and is waiting for somebody who is qualified to come and take it.
“Whereas in some other countries, the financial service provider is following up on the people to give them the credit and they have a role to play in providing the due diligence.
“My advice is that they should realise that they are stakeholders in the whole activities.
“Therefore, all of us including CBN and the cooperative themselves must have a common meeting point to resolve issues connected to access to credit,’’ Okolo said.
Mr Emmanuel Atama, the Executive Secretary, National Cooperative Financing Agency of Nigeria (CFAN) stressed the need for cooperatives in the country to be strengthened.
According to Atama, cooperatives have direct link to the people in the grassroots who form majority of the Nigerian population and if they are strengthened, Nigerians will benefit more.
“Cooperatives help to build the savings culture, it is also helping SMEs to build capacities and access finance so that they will be able to deliver on their set mandate.
“And that is the reason why both government and development partners always tailor their programmes towards cooperatives because that is one of the best ways to reach the masses,’’ Atama said. (NAN)

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