On Friday, the Federal Competition Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), in collaboration with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and the Nigerian Police Force, raided some illegal financial institutions operating on Opebi Road, Ikeja, Lagos.

The Punch reported that among the financial institutions impacted by the raid were GoCash, Okash, EasyCredit, Kashkash, Speedy Choice, and Easy Moni.

During the search, Babatunde Irukera, the FCCPC’s Chief Executive Officer, said the raid was in reaction to consumers’ complaints about the financial firms’ malpractices.

He said that consumers had accused banking institutions of abusing their privacy during their debt collection efforts, and that the agency began investigating the accusations in 2020.

This information started quite a while ago. Some time ago, when the country was on lockdown in 2020 due to the pandemic, we started seeing a rise in money lenders,” he said.

“Because there was a lockdown due to the pandemic, people needed small, easy loans, which is understandable. But over a period of time, people started complaining about the malpractices of the lenders, so we started tracking them.”

Irukera said that the interest rates offered by online financial institutions seem to go against the rules of the lending business.

“The key two things that were the subject of concern were what seems to be the naming and shaming violations of people’s privacy with respect to how these lenders recover their loans. Secondly, the interest rate seems to be a violation of the ethics of how lending is done. So, those were the two things that we set out to look for,” he said.

So, we started an investigation trying to determine the location of these firms. That has been a very difficult thing. We did that for several months, and some of them have moved from one place to another, and we have been visiting these places for months.”

The head of the FCCPC, on the other hand, said that investigations found that the businesses were not Nigerian companies or registered in the country.

“We found out that most of these companies operate from the same place. We also found out that many of them are actually operated by the same person. They are not Nigerian companies; they don’t have an address in Nigeria; they are not registered in Nigeria with the Corporate Affairs Commission; and they do not have any licence to do their business.”

Irukare said that the agency had written to app providers around the world asking them to stop the online banks from working.

He said, “Essentially, what they have is an app, and so we started gathering more information about them. We engaged the public and the people who had been their victims. They gave us more information.”

“I must add, though, that not all money lenders are operating illegally, which is why it has been taking time for us to track these people.

“It doesn’t also mean that the people we are proceeding against today are the only ones. We want to start with them. We also understand that there are between five and seven companies operating at the same location.”