Anuoluwapo Cooperative and Multipurpose Society Limited, Lemode, Ifo local government area of Ogun State, Nigeria, held its Annual General Meeting recently. In this interview by our correspondent, DAVID ADENEKAN, the president of the group, Mr. Babatunde Henry Osevbobo , speaks on the relevance of cooperative society in Nigeria today in view of the poor economic situation. He also speaks on how to identify a credible cooperative society for anyone planning to join. Excerpts:
What would you say is the relevance of cooperative society in the kind of poor economy we have in Nigeria today?
Let me start by saying that we celebrated our fifth Annual General Meeting recently, and that is an attestation to the fact that the society is growing. I must tell you too that since we started, we have been making profits; we have been increasing our profits year in year out. That is to tell you how important our transactions in the society have been.
Coming back to your question, the importance of cooperative society in our present day economy cannot be over-emphasised. The economy is very bad, we all know. You would also agree with me that the common man has no place in today’s economy to survive. However, the only hope or best way that the common man can survive is through the cooperative society. The reason is that, number one, the operation of cooperative society is different from every other area or avenues to get financial facilities like loans and other funds. You cannot compare the operations of the cooperative society with what obtains in the banking sector; number two, the interest rate that we offer in the cooperative society is affordable by even the ordinary businessmen and women, and the market men and women in the society. With the way the cooperative society is structured, it helps the people at the lower rung of the ladder in the society to be able to meet up with the financial demands of their businesses. For instance, in our cooperative society, when you save with us for six months as a new member, you can request for double of what you have with us as loan. And when you take that, you will be required to pay only 10 per cent of it. It is not recurrent, but one off. Which is to say for instance, if you are apply for a facility of N100,000, you will only pay 10 per cent which is N10,000. That 10 per cent will be added to the N100,000, and you will pay that back in 11 months. You cannot get that from the bank. And even if you pay the money as stated, there are some considerations given to you because you are a member of the society and you are known in person. So, you would agree that cooperative society is just the way to help people in the present day economy; not only in business, but in personal responsibilities too.
You would also agree with me that the common man has no place in today’s economy to survive. However, the only hope or best way that the common man can survive is through the cooperative society.
Is that the only avenue through which a member can be financially helped?
No. In our society, we have a short term loan and we have a long term loan. We have various types of arrangements in the society too, whereby you can save just the way you have fixed deposit in the bank. We call that, Special Savings. It is like a fixed deposit in the bank. When you save the money, by the time you want to take it back, we don’t take from it. No interest. We only help to save it. When you need the money, you only write a letter and we pay it back to you. Although we are aware that some cooperative societies engage in some fraudulent practices, we can tell you that in our society we follow the rules strictly. Also, we are registered with the Ogun State Ministry of Cooperative and Community Development. I always tell people that when you want to join a cooperative society, find out the details about it. Find out if it is registered with the state government of its location. If it is not, don’t go near it. If it is, then, you can join because there is security; there is guarantee that your money is safe. Cooperative society in today’s economy is the best.
What do you do to ensure loans are paid back because we are aware that getting loans paid back is one of the major problems that a cooperative society can face?
We do have such issues, but based on the laws guiding the operations of the society, we have various means of getting our money paid back by members. The first one is that we incorporate fine such that when you don’t pay back your loan as at when due, you are fined. Then, if it goes beyond that, there are also an arrangement where the guarantors are held responsible – you cannot get a loan from a cooperative society without having a minimum of two guarantors. Those two guarantors, we can hold responsible. Mind you, they are also members of the society. Non-members cannot be your guarantor. The guarantors also are people who have money in the society. So, those are the people that will be forced to go after you to pay your loan. This is because if you don’t pay back your loan, they will not be able to get a similar facility from the society. And beyond that, there is an arrangement where you can bring in arbitration from the Ministry of Cooperative to collect the money. And if that doesn’t work out, there are also provision for arresting such people.
Have you arrested any of your members?
No, we have not. For the past five years we have been operating, we have not had issues of loan refund that have gone beyond our capacity. So, all our members have been doing the needful, they have been paying our loans, as at when due. Because they know that fines are also involved, they are also doing what they need to do. Very few of them have gone beyond that anyway, and the step we took was to send their guarantors after them. The guarantors know that if the people didn’t refund, they would not have access to similar facilities. With that, we have recovered our money. Now, all members on loan are paying as at when due.
In our financial report, the money that we gave out as loan last year is above N6 million. This is despite the fact that we have just clocked five years. The loans are being repaid as at when due.
Look for a cooperative society registered with the government of the state and start saving. That is going to be your best bet to have a good economic ability and security.
What are your major avenues of making money apart from the interest you get from the loans you give out to members?
There are other ways through which we make money. One, at every meeting, we collect meeting dues; we collect development dues. And when new members are coming in, the pay entrance fees. These are some of the ways we make money. Then, the fine I talked about earlier. When members default, we fine them. Also, during the end of the year or festive periods, we sell commodities like rice, chicken, ram, groundnut oil and others to members alone. Members buy and we make our little profit from such transactions. We have also invested in chairs that we rent out to members and non-members during occasions. Also, we reach out to non-members in a controlled way that we can give them little facility, collect the money back and we make some profit from that. We also go as far as investing in shares in the cooperative union. The cooperative union is higher than the cooperative society. We invest in the shares in the union and whatever comes from the union in form of dividend is given to the society as profit.
What would be your advice to those who have not joined the cooperative society?
My advice to them is that they should join fast because they are missing a lot. They are wasting precious time. If you are depending on the banks in the present day economy, you are just wasting your precious time. Look for a cooperative society registered with the government of the state and start saving. That is going to be your best bet to have a good economic ability and security. At any time, when you reach out to them, they will always answer you and come to your aid. Cooperative society, to the best of my knowledge and based on my experience so far, is the best for every individual.