Other lenders urged to emulate Access Bank’s N50bn interest-free loan


Access Bank Plc has taken a lead in designing an interest free loan and grant for small and medium sized enterprises and youth affected by the #ENDSARS crisis.

Last week saw businesses shut down, lives lost and several properties destroyed after the hoodlums hijacked the peaceful protest against the Special Anti-robbery Unit (SARS) and police brutality by the Nigerian youth across the country.

As part of efforts to get the affected businesses get back on their feet, Access Bank at the weekend through its official Linkedin page announced that it has set aside a minimum of N50 billion interest-free loans and grants to support communities, Micro, Small and Medium sized businesses and the youth.

“Now more than ever, we remain committed to our purpose of impacting lives positively. In light of the recent occurrences, we will be supporting Nigerian businesses with 50 Billion Naira interest-free loans and grants,” the bank stated.

Herbert Wigwe, Group managing director/ceo had at the weekend disclosed to Businessday that the bank would issue the guidelines for accessing the fund this week.

“Let them come up with the guidelines then we will know whether they are being realistic or not”, Uju Ogubunka, president, Bank Customers Association of Nigeria (BCAN) said by phone.

However some of the affected businesses have indicated interest in the fund, while analysts in the financial services sector have commended the bank for the move.

An official at one of the branches of Spar who preferred to be anonymous noted that they would be interested in the loan but that their head office would be the one to have the final say on it.

The N50bn interest-free loan scheme of Access Bank for businesses affected by the end SARS crisis is highly commendable,” said Uche Uwaleke, professor of capital market and president Capital market Academics of Nigeria.

Uwaleke said the move is quite exemplary and a demonstration of empathy on the part of the bank. Other banks should borrow a leaf from this great show of corporate social responsibility.

He said extending this kind gesture in the form of reduced interest rate and moratorium to those who already borrowed money should equally be considered.

“There is no doubt that the implementation of this plan will be at a cost to the bank. This cost should be borne by the shareholders ultimately and not the customers by way of higher bank charges. It is the responsibility of the CBN to ensure that deposit money banks, as financial intermediaries, do not give with one hand and take with another,” Uwaleke said.

On his part, Ayodele Akinwunmi, relationship manager, corporate banking, FSDH Merchant Bank Limited, said, “I think it is a good gesture from the bank to assist businesses affected by the crisis to recover faster by offering financial assistance to the affected businesses”.

He said the strategy will also help the bank to win new customers because customers will see them as bank that can stand with them even in crisis. And in the long-run, he said it is a win-win for both parties and the economy.

Olalekan Aworinde, Senior Lecturer, department of economics, Pan-atlantic University, Lagos, said giving such interest-free loan and grant is also part of their corporate social responsibility, if other Banks does this it will have a positive impact on the level of their performance in the long run.

On the other hand, in celebration of Women’s Health Month, Access Bank’s ‘W’ Initiative, a flagship women empowerment programme from Access Bank on Monday announced a breast cancer awareness campaign and screening for women in Lagos, Abuja and Port-harcourt from the 21st – 31st of October, 2020.

The W Health Month, aimed at improving community awareness on health issues that affect women and their families by bridging knowledge gaps, providing access to health checks and encouraging healthy lifestyle habits, will be kicking off with the Breast Cancer Awareness Sensitization Campaign from October 21, 2020. Subsequently, women across the three states will have access to free breast screening from October 26th – 31st, 2020.

Speaking on the campaign, Ayona Trimnell, group head, W Initiative, said, “Breast cancer is the 2nd most common cancer among women therefore, the need for awareness cannot be overemphasized in the effort to fight and prevent the devastating and long-lasting impact of the illness on affected women and their families.”

“While there has been considerable global conversations about this subject matter over the past few decades, many Nigerian women are still unaware of the importance and procedure for regular breast screening, which is a major reason Nigeria has one of the highest breast cancer mortality rates in the world. During this Women’s Health Month, and even beyond, Access Bank is committed to raising awareness, and providing medical support for women across the country.”

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