Okonkwo: Nigerian banks can give loans at 9% interest rate

Nnamdi Okonkwo, the chief executive officer of Fidelity Bank, says Nigerian banks have the capacity to give out loans to certain sectors of the economy at nine percent interest rate.

Speaking on ARISE TV on Saturday, the Fidelity Bank boss said his bank is ready to take advantage of the new credit policy guideline released by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to support the growth of the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.

“The issue had long been about interest rates. Now, CBN has come up with this very ingenious way to address this challenge,” he said.

“In the Nigerian banking industry today, the capital adequacy ratio (CAR) averages show that banks have the capacity to lend to these sectors. There might be one or two players that might have challenges but the regulator at every point keeps an eye on them and makes policies that protect them.”

In July, the CBN’s monetary policy committee had announced that the apex bank would allow banks lend to the manufacturing and agricultural sectors from their cash reserve requirement (CRR) as an incentive for deposit money banks to increase lending to both sectors.

According to the apex bank, the loans will have a minimum tenor of seven years and a two-year moratorium.

Speaking on the strength of Nigerian banks, Okonkwo said the 2005 banking consolidation exercise and 2008 banking sector reforms made sure banks became diversified and reliable.

“Most of us running banks today started banking in the 80s and 90s when merchant banking was the in-thing. Merchant banks at the time lent to the real sector,” he said.

“The traditional banks in those days especially the big four were heavy on agriculture. They had the competence, track record and history of lending to those segments. Most banks have grown with the recapitalisation exercise. The industry is in a better position to lend now.”