By Kenneth Jukpor
Mr. Bashir Ambi is the President of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) Staff Multipurpose Cooperative Society. After the 24th Annual General Meeting (AGM) which was held last week, he sat with MMS Plus for this interview. Bashir narrates the highpoints, challenges and support system that has characterized the leadership of the Cooperative and earned it commendation from the Chief Executive Officer, Lagos State Government as well as members of the Cooperative Society. Enjoy it:
How would you rate the just concluded virtual Annual General Meeting?
This AGM could go down as one of the most successful in the history of the Society because members were able to adhere to the protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chairman of the occasion presented a paper that was well researched and much higher than our expectations.
I was also excited with the fact all everything was brought before the members to deliberate, raise their concerns and objections before approvals. The event is historic because it was democratic, seamless and a complete success despite the pandemic.
The Cooperative recorded an increase in its finances in 2019, a feat which was also attained in 2018. How have you managed this and were there challenges?
There were lots of challenges encountered in the bid to achieve this success. I am so strict and I also had to discipline myself to the point that I had to forego certain statutory monetary benefit to attain this goal. I strictly abided by the bye-laws and I must also commend my team for their support and understanding.
We are glad to present the achievements recorded since we assumed office, but we must recognize the support of members as well as the NSC Management. Some of the achievements in 2019 include an increase in net surplus to N34 N34,185,389.67 up from N21,251,205.17 in 2018. This meant the Cooperative recorded 60.8% increase in finances despite the tough economic times.
As at today, the Cooperative is financially healthy. Our funds are carefully fixed in accordance with the bye-laws. We don’t have inert funds and no member owes the society above the legitimate credit limit,” the President said.
Over N150million was spent on Child Education Loan in 2019, leading as the most patronized loan package. How crucial is this relatively new loan package to members?
We introduced this Children Education Loan during the previous AGM in order to assist members struggling with the tough economic situation and the burden of children’s school fees and other educational responsibilities. We had to provide this palliative because going by the bye-laws, one is only entitled to 200 percent of what he or she has contributed to the system.
This special palliative is for everybody and the interest rate we charge is a very low figure to eliminate the burden of repayment. However, this loan has a ceiling of N1million. Within this financial year, we processed, approved and paid the sum of One hundred and fifty four million, five hundred and seventy five thousand, two hundred and fifty naira (N 154, 575,250.00) only as child education loan to legitimate applicants.
At the last AGM, members were encouraged to go into rice farming. How did that venture pan out?
We intended to go into rice farming in partnership with our regulatory body in Lagos State via the Apapa Area office at that time. However, we were unable to proceed with it as a result of multiple factors including some government policies.
The landed properties acquired by the Cooperative were hotly debated at the AGM. What’s the latest on these properties?
Mowe land development fund was contributed by Cooperators who have acquired the landed property at Mowe since 2005. The money was for the developmental project for the Cooperative’s Estate, we urged the financial members of the Estate to come together and appoint their Trustees so we can transfer their money to them.
It is not wise for the Cooperative to continue warehousing their fund, let the money be utilized for the purpose it was meant. We also hope that it would be judiciously managed and utilized. However, we strongly request that land owners should not be selling their plots or property to non-staff.
There is actually no issue with the Mowe land. We have the documents signed by the then Governor Gbenga Daniels at that time. Where we have issues is with the Ibadan land. It is situated in a place called Erumu. The land has several issues but I wouldn’t want to delve into them because we are being restricted by the audit team of Lagos State Cooperative. They insist that we mustn’t touch anything that has to do with landed properties and commodities. However, I can assure that the issues with Erumu land would be resolved soon.
The Executive Secretary of NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello delivered his speech commended your leadership for transparency and accountability. How have you been able to manage the backlash when you say no to certain demands for loans or fiscal recklessness?
To be honest, this success at the Cooperative isn’t just a result of the leadership style of the Cooperative Society. The Executive Secretary and his managerial team have been immense contributors to the recent success of the Cooperative. They are always behind us to avail us all the necessary support and counsel we require.
However, there have also been those who aren’t eligible to be given loans. Some of them have taken this in good faith, while others haven’t; but I would plead with them to be patient. We don’t want to get to a situation where there will be lots of bad loans. They have to be patient because we are here to ensure the system runs efficiently, not haphazardly.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left most Nigerians in tough fiscal conditions. What’s your advice to members of the Cooperative in managing their finances?
I would advise that everyone is very conservative in their spending because this era is very pathetic. The situation is affecting everybody, so the wise decision would be to manage your finances astutely.
How would you describe the state of affairs at the Cooperative Society today in relation to the time your team emerged?
We took over this administration on 19th of April 2017, with the sum of N30,442,770.89. With the understanding, support, cooperation of members, we have been able to wax the funds to N307, 370,446.93 in fixed accounts. This commendable effort could not have been achieved without the trust and confidence from all the cooperators and of course the improvement in the fortunes of our members.
We introduced financial palliatives in order to enhance member’s financial well-being. This palliative is different from Children Education Loan, (CEL). The account of the Cooperative is automated, members can log on to check, apply for loans 24/7. We urge members to utilize the platform for their respective financial transactions.
To further enhance accountability, transparency and integrity in the Cooperative, we pay electronically the actual amount appropriated to members as dividend. We are assuring members that payment of E-dividend in the Councils Cooperative has come to stay.
The NSC management has approved an office space for us on the 10th floor , which serves as our Secretariat, with a competent and dedicated staff who acquired a seal from Lagos State Cooperative Federation (LASCOFED) to manage our fund.
Members will attest to the speedy approval of loan requests across the country. Loan applications are attended to within a maximum period of twenty-four hours (24 hours). For this, we appreciate our proactive Cooperative Representatives in the Zonal Coordinating Offices across the country.