Ronke Tolani (not her real name), an employee at Asha Microfinance Bank, a financial institution believed to be owned by Bangladeshi nationals, has told how the company’s management forces its employees to use their monthly salaries to pay off debts from to compensate for loan defaulters.
Tolani told FIJ that the bank, also known as ASA Nigeria, has made life unbearable for most of its employees with its cutthroat policies.
“At ASA Nigeria, and because of our goals as an organization, we need to look for small business owners who are willing to take our loans and then pay them back with interest,” Tolani said.
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“In most cases, the people we lend to default through no fault of our own. Some of them sometimes start the repayment process, but before you know it, they suddenly stop.
“If they fail, the company completes the payback with employees’ salaries. Often an employee has several customers for loans, and if all of these people fail to meet the repayment schedule, employees go home without pay at the end of the month.
“Currently I haven’t received any money for three months because my customers have defaulted on their repayment.”
Borrowing to Survive
Tolani told FIJ she survives by borrowing money from friends and family to keep her alive.
“At some point my parents had to take out loans for me to settle ASA Nigeria. It’s worse because we’re expected to pay those funds with interest, which drains us both financially and psychologically,” she said.
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Tolani added that at other times, employees fight these loan delinquents so they can pay off their debts.
“ASA Nigeria does not protect us from customers who we try to make them pay when they default. They usually side with customers against their own employees,” she said.
“I once got into an argument with a customer who refused to pay off her loan, and instead this customer beat me up and pulled my hair out of the middle. The part she drew became bare. After the incident, I had to be treated in the hospital by my family.
“ASA Nigeria has not interfered in the matter. They also didn’t take the case to the client. Your actions have shown me that a defaulting customer is more valuable than his employees.”
DEDUCTION NOT SPECIFIED IN CONTRACT
When FIJ Tolani asked if employee contracts required them to pay back loans owed by debtors, she said it was not documented.
“All we were told when we were hired was to make loans and recover 100 percent. But my letter of appointment never stated that I would use my money to pay cash,” she said.
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“Cash refers to money from customers who flee after taking out the loans. They suddenly disappear and there is no trace of them.
“By default, you don’t want to enter a zero at the end of the month for delinquent loans, which means unpaid loans. The organization doesn’t care how you want to get the money back. They act like nothing happened or whether the customers paid or not.
“Any debts that you cannot collect, you must pay with your salary. They act like they don’t know you’re paying. You believe you need to be able to retrieve the money.
“You cannot complain or protest against this policy or you would be branded as acting against the will of the organization to succeed as a business enterprise.
“You would be charged and ‘managed’ by the organization. Before you know it, management is accusing you of embezzlement.
FIJ emailed Asha Microfinance Bank on June 1 for a response, but no response had been received as of press time.