While the ongoing lockdown put in place by government to curb the spread of Coronavirus in Nigeria may have achieved some gains, the situation appears to have pitched lenders and borrowers of money against each other.
Already, some micro-finance banks in the country are beginning to chase after many of their debtors, who are yet to repay loans they collected before the outbreak of the virus and shutdown of the economy.
A handful of persons in this category told SaharaReporters that they have been getting messages and notifications from the banks that borrowed them money to pay back immediately or face sanctions.
A trader based in Oyo State, Mrs Bisola Ajeigbe, who borrowed funds from a micro-credit organisation said that the extended lockdown had prevented many of them from making money to repay the loan but that the lender had refused to show some understanding despite the situation in the country.
She said, "I borrowed some money since November with the promise to pay back by March this year but now the Coronavirus is affecting us and we could not open our stores for sales.
"But those who borrowed us money have started asking us to pay back because we have exhausted the deadline. I am even confused right now."
Another trader based in Kwara State, Busayo Akinyemi, told SaharaReporters that some of the microcredit agencies have began asking for their money and threatening to visit them and take whatever was worth the money they had borrowed.
She said, “We have been receiving threats of all kinds from the micro-finance banks who are demanding for their money.
“All pleas for them to have some patience with us are being overlooked as they have threatened to come to our places of business and homes and take whatever was equivalent in value to the loans we took from them. I am totally confused.”
An official of LAPO Micro-finance Bank in Edo State told SaharaReporters that they have been reaching out to many of their customers (debtors) through their phone numbers to remind them of the need to repay their loans.
He said, "Before now, we visited their shops or stores to remind them to pay back their loans but because of the Coronavirus pandemic, we cannot reach them physically.
"We are a business and people must understand this and honour the terms of their agreements with us.
“If we don’t recoup our money, how can we continue to service customers?"
Apart from LAPO, SaharaReporters gathered that other micro-finance banks in the country have also been reaching out to debtors – some with threats – in order to recoup the monies given out as loans.
In Lagos, Mr Adekunle Iyiola, a private lender, said that the pandemic and lockdown that has followed has left borrowers feeling anxious and scared.
According to him, many of his debtors have been hiding from him and using the Coronavirus lockdown as an excuse not to pay back.
He said, “People are not paying back the money they borrowed from us. They are saying the lockdown has affected their businesses and sources of income but that is not what we want to hear.
“Some of them have even switched off their numbers because once they see our calls, they believe problem was on the way.”
Iyiola however, said that despite the lack of funds and failure of debtors to pay back, more borrowers were still approaching him for loans.
Mrs Regina Chukwudi, who also runs a local credit enterprise in Akure, Ondo State, told SaharaReportersthat the Coronavirus pandemic had affected her business because debtors were no longer paying back loans.
She said, "There is hunger in the land but the problem is that those who have even borrowed money from us earlier before the issue of this pandemic surfaced have not returned it.
“So, where do we see money to borrow those fresh ones wanting us to lend them money?
"We are exercising patience with them because we also understand the situation on the ground and it is someone that is alive that you can ask to pay back your money or whatever he or she borrows.
"As for me, I don't pressurise anyone who had borrowed money from us because if the person dies, you can't do anything."
A chartered accountant based in Akure, Mr Abiodun Olusegun, said Nigerians should prepare for inflation and scarcity in funds as a result of the lockdown of the economy.
He said, "The truth is that the money is not even in circulation. So, how do you get someone who owes you money when you already know what's happening in the country and the world at large?
"We are all aware that things are very hard and we have already projected an inflation because the pandemic has caused lots of things and crippled the economy.
“However, people should exercise patience because government doesn't not even have solution to this yet."