FCCPC, ICPC and NITDA Raid Offices of Illegal Online Lenders
The Executive Vice President of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, Mr Babatunde Irukera, yesterday led a team of investigators and enforcement officials to swoop down on alleged operators of online lending illegal and loan collection through the use of apps in a way that exploits and damages the reputation of their victims.
GoCash, Easy Credit, Quick Pick, Kash Kash, Easy Moni, Sokoloan and All Cash.
At the Sokoloan, which occupied two floors at 21 Opebi Road and was allegedly owned by Chinese businessmen, workers refused to open their doors and forced FCCPC officers to break their locks.
The Sokoloan is said to have over 5,000 employees who earn at least N50,000 per month.
Irukera told reporters that the FCCPC started collecting information on the activities of these so-called unscrupulous lenders in 2020 during the peak of the COVID-19 lockdown, when people needed easy loans to cope.
He said: “At the end of last year, after gathering a lot of information, the FCCPC engaged other agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the ICPC, the National Commission of Human Rights, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian Communications Commission. , to create a joint regulatory working group to review these companies.
“The two main areas of concern were what appeared to be whistleblowing and shaming or an invasion of people’s privacy in terms of how these lenders collect loans.
“Secondly, sometimes the interest factor, and the way it was calculated, showed the violation of the ethical principles of lending. So we launched an investigation to try to determine the location of these people, but it was a very difficult thing. We’ve been doing this for several months and some of them have been moving from place to place and we have to scout that place almost daily for months.
“We also discovered that many of these companies are not Nigerian companies, they do not have an address in Nigeria and they are not registered in Nigeria with the Corporate Affairs Commission and they have no license to operate.
“Essentially what they have is an app, and so we started gathering more information, we engaged the public and people who were victimized by them to get information.
“And as we got more information, we had enough to present to the court to convince them to issue a warrant for us to investigate a search and seizure. At the end of last month , a court issued a warrant, and in the meantime and now we were planning an undercover operation that you see today because we wanted to make sure we were hitting where we were going to get a lot of it.
Irukera added that the FCCPC has also issued several orders today to app stores and Google stores where some of these apps are available to shut them down so that people are no longer victimized.
“Second, some people went to the banks today to freeze the accounts they use to exploit people.
“I must add however that not all moneylenders operate illegally and that is why it has taken us some time to sort out which ones we want to continue with.
“That doesn’t mean the people we’re prosecuting today are the only ones, but that’s where we have information now and we want to start with them,” he said.
The FCCPC executive vice president said the commission would restrict the business of those found to be in default, freeze their accounts and advise the general public not to do business with them.
“There is going to be a long and protracted investigation to determine what went wrong and if there will be a sanction.
“The most important thing for us is to be more corrective than retributive.
“But it’s too early to say whether the place will be sealed off or not. If there is enough evidence that illegal activities are happening here and there is no way to stop these illegal activities, we Sealing a business is not something we take lightly.
“But if the entirety of a business is illegal and leaving it open will lead to further exploitation, we will have no choice but to seal.
“Employing people to carry on illegal activities can never be an excuse for allowing these illegal activities to exist,” he said.