On Friday, 3 Nigerian federal government agencies—Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC)—collaborated with the Nigerian police force to raid some illegal financial institutions operating from their Opebi Road offices in Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria.
According to Punch, digital lending platforms like GoCash, Okash, EasyCredit, Easi Moni, KashKash, and Speedy Choice were among the busted companies.
The FCCPC, which led the joint operation, said the raid was a response to several customers’ complaints about the malpractices carried out by financial institutions.
Speaking at the raid, the CEO at FCCPC, Babatunde Irukera, said the agency started investigating and monitoring these companies in 2020 when consumers started accusing them of mishandling and violating their private data in the process of loan recovery.
“This information started quite a while ago. When the country was on lockdown in 2020 due to the pandemic, we started seeing the rise of money lenders,” Irukera said. “Because of the lockdown, people needed small and instant loans to sustain, which is understandable. But, over a period of time, people started to complain about the malpractice of the lenders so we started tracking it.”
Irukera also mentioned that, towards the end of last year, the agency had gathered a lot of information and started working with some other key agencies to monitor these businesses.
According to Irukera, their findings so far are: the interest rate charged by these digital lenders appears to violate the ethics of how lending is done; secondly, the unethical loan recovery practice of violating customers’ privacy to abuse and shame them and their acquaintances.
“So, we started an investigation trying to determine the location of these firms, which has been very difficult. These companies move around a lot, and it took us several months visiting each of their locations,” he said.
The FCCPC boss, however, said investigations also revealed that the loan firms weren’t Nigerian nor registered in the country, they don’t have an address nor do they have a license to do business in Nigeria. He also said that most of these companies operated from the same place and by the same person.
With no address, all these companies have mobile apps that can be downloaded on both Google and Apple Stores. So the agency had to engage the people who have been their victims and gather more evidence.
By now, all the agencies involved had gotten enough information and evidence to convince the court to issue a warrant for them to proceed with an investigation into a search and seizure.
“And sometime last month, a court issued a warrant and between then and now, we were preparing a sting operation, which is what you are seeing here today. The reason for this is because we wanted to be sure we were hitting at the place where we could get many of them,” said the FCCPC boss.
He also mentioned that the agency had issued an order to Apple and Google to take down these companies’ apps from their platforms. It has also ordered the banks to freeze these companies’ bank accounts.
Last year, when NITDA sanctioned Sokoloan, TechCabal reported that that would be the first of many. Though it took longer than expected, it’s finally happening.
“It doesn’t also mean that the people we are proceeding against today are the only ones—no. We want to start with them. We also understand that there are between 5 and 7 companies operating at the same location,” said Irukera, hinting at the agency’s ambition to cleanse the nation of all illegal digital lending practices.