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Nigerians Alarmed as Loan App Intimidation Tactics Escalate Ahead of Festive Season

Threat to life is a criminal offense provided for in Section 56 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015. It states that a person who threatens to carry out the violence of attacking another person is guilty of a misdemeanor and can be jailed for one year.

While the criminal defamation under the Nigeria law clearly states that a defamation matter is defined in section 373 of the criminal code as a matter likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing the person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or likely to damage any person in his or her profession or trade by injury to his reputation.

Despite these clearly defined laws, Nigerians across the 6 geopolitical zones are not spared the extreme tactics used by loan app operators on clients considered to have defaulted in their loan repayment.

However, loan app operators can not claim ignorance in their approach, resorting to high-handedness as the solution to loan recovery when they break the law to do so. Ignorance of the law does not afford any excuse for any act or omission which would otherwise constitute an offence, unless knowledge of the law by the offender is expressly declared to be an element of the offence.

As the yuletide season gear up and the end-of-year fever heightens with the drop in conscientious consumerism, LightRay Media carried out a survey to feel the pulse of Nigerians regarding the upsurge of extreme tactics by loan app managers and operator’s and their disregard for the rule of law.

By Roland Bayode

Nigerians across the country are expressing alarm and distress as reports emerge of escalating intimidation tactics employed by loan app managers, creating a worrisome trend just ahead of the festive season. Many concerned citizens took to Facebook to share their harrowing experiences, voicing their dismay at the aggressive methods used by these apps to recover unpaid loans.

The federal government through the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has registered and approved 211 loan apps, at the end of October, 2023.

The 211 companies comprise 172 that have received full approval from the commission and 39 others with conditional approval.

In an online survey conducted by LightRay Media, concerned citizens and social media users on Facebook decried the worrying trend of the excessive use of underhanded means employed by loan app managers and their operators.

Pelu Awofeso, a Facebook user, described the situation as “a very unfortunate reality” and questioned the rationale behind the use of aggressive tactics by loan app managers, especially during a time when festivities are approaching.

In a report by Leadership News, the number of loan apps under the watchlist increased from 55 in September to 84 as of October. Some of the apps include Cashlawn App, Easynaira App, Crediting App, Yoyi App, Nut Loan App, Cashpal App, Nairaeasy Gist Loan App, Camelloan App, Nairaloan App, Moneytreefinance Made Easy App, Cashme App, Secucash App, Creditbox App, and Cashmama App. Others Are;  Crimson Credit App, Galaxy Credit App, Ease Cash App, Xcredit, Imoney, Naira Naija, Imoneyplus-Instant, Nairanaija-Instant, Nownowmoney, Naija Cash, and Getloan.

Recall that the commission has developed the Limited Interim Regulatory/Registration Framework and Guidelines for Digital Lending, 2022 in partnership with the Joint Task Force (JTF), in order to support equitable, open, and advantageous alternative lending alternatives for Nigerians.

Nelson Egware, another Facebook user, expressed disbelief at borrowers who take loans without intentions to repay, highlights the ethical dilemma at the heart of the issue.

Oriolowo Oyeniyi Bashir, also on Facebook, raised concerns about the legitimacy of some loan apps, accusing certain platforms of engaging in fraudulent activities, like misusing borrowers’ card details.

Various users shared their distressing encounters. Erenma Grace Emmanuel, via Facebook, recounted a troubling incident where she threatened to involve a borrower’s family members due to non-repayment. Timi Dare detailed shocking experiences of being cursed, receiving threatening messages, and even facing character assassination attempts over unpaid debts.

Chukwuemeka Chukwuemeka, commenting on Facebook, drew parallels between problematic loan app managers and landlords, underscoring the prevalence of such troubling characters in society. While Auxy Austenite, also on Facebook, highlighted the use of unsettling means by some apps for debt recovery, further accentuating the severity of the issue.

Fredrick Abel emphasized the lack of accountability among borrowers and urged individuals to ensure timely repayment despite any leniency, warning about accumulating interest and consequences. Emmanuel Ogbeche acknowledged the dubious nature of some captured screenshots while denouncing the crude tactics employed by these loan apps, emphasizing the need for ethical practices and regulatory oversight in the online lending sector.

Despite the FCCPC’s effort in partnership with Google to delisted a total of 45 loan apps from the Google Play Store that were found to be operating illegally in the country, new loan apps keep popping and users of their services are not spared the emotional damage and defamation they leave behind in their wake.

As the festive season approaches, these distressing experiences have raised concerns among Nigerians about the ethical conduct and regulatory oversight of online loan apps, prompting urgent calls for measures to protect borrowers from such aggressive and predatory lending practices.

But how can customers of loan apps protect themselves and get justice? In an interview with Nelson Olanipekun, Team Lead of Gavel, a civic tech not-for-profit organisation that uses tech to solve matters relating to the law and the justice system, he explained that “Gavel is providing probono services to anyone who is a victim of the high-handedness of loan app operators and managers seeking for justice can reach out” to them. He further assured that the organisation would be provided the support they need to get the justice they seek. The rule of law he emphasised, must be respected and obeyed.

Speaking on the outcome of the online survey report on loan app operators and their managers, the Executive Director of LightRay Media, Ejiro Umukoro, said, “We conducted this survey to get the empirical data on the current upsurged of complaints and whispers of persons voicing their hopelessness to fight back or stop the extreme tactics, particualrly the threat to their lives and unbridled character assassination by loan app operators and their managers. Nigeria must become a country where lawlessness is not tolerated at all.” She urged the “Nigerian National Assembly at both the Senate and House of Representatives to consider the under-handed practices of loan app operators as a case for urgent national importance to be deliberated robustly for immediate action during the next plenary before the Yuletide and new year set in to address any further abuse and exploitation of Nigerians,” she emphasised.

This investigation is supported by LightRay Media on Human Rights Report and Impact of Technology. LightRay Media in partnership with Gavel on Monday 18th, December 2023, will host a Twitter and Social Media amplification-and-solutions-driven advocacy on the need for the rule of law and right to human dignity in compliance with the UN SDG Goals: peace, justice and strong institutions; partnership for goals, no poverty and zero hunger.


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