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The joy of the people of the Catholic Diocese of Oyo, especially those of Iwajowa Local Government and the entire Oke Ogun area, which population is roughly 1.5 Million knew no bounds with the recent news of the approval of the license in principle for the Ave Maria Microfinance Bank (Proposed), being promoted by the diocese. The approval, coming coincidentally during the pastoral visit of the bishop Most Reverend Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo to the Oke Ogun area is directly from the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The effort of the diocese, which is situated in the Yoruba South West, marshaled by the diocesan coordinator of the Justice, Development, and Peace Movement, (JDPM) Rev Fr. Gabriel Adeleke, is to address the people’s need for financial inclusion which is today widely considered a right of all citizens to social inclusion, to a better quality of life and a tool for strengthening the economic capacity and capabilities of the poor in a nation. This gives access to individuals and businesses for useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs transactions, payments, savings, credit, and insurance delivered responsibly and sustainably.

Unfortunately, the non-existence of commercial banks in Iwajowa Local Government had denied the people the right to pursue their dreams to the full, because they were so far excluded from the formal financial sector. This lack of access to financial tools impacts the socioeconomic mobility of the population. Sadly, it hinders them from escaping poverty. In the mire of all these challenges, the JDPM of the Catholic Diocese of Oyo, the diocesan organ which coordinates the social outreach of the diocese, continues to re-echo the voice of the Vatican II Fathers that the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Hence, cherishing deep solidarity with the people in the Oke Ogun area who have been substantially excluded financially, the JDPM of the Catholic Diocese of Oyo with her other empowerment interventions among the people, through her Legal Holder, Bishop Badejo,  and the JDPM  coordinator, Rev. Fr Gabriel Adeleke, came up with an idea to float a Microfinance Bank that can give people in the Oke Ogun area, access to basic financial services such as formal bank accounts, insurance, transaction services, loans, and other permissible services.

In his remarks, Bishop Badejo, citing Jesus’ words in John 10:10 I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness, acknowledged the financial exclusion of most of our people in the Oke-Ogun area, both Muslims and Christians alike, especially in Iwajowa Local Government Area. He stressed how this exclusion has denied them basic opportunities as children of God. He underscored the commitment of the Catholic Diocese of Oyo to collaborating with the government in its target of a 95% financial inclusion rate by 2024. He did not hesitate to call on different institutions and individuals to join hands with the Catholic Diocese of Oyo to make this laudable project more impactful.

In the same vein, Fr. Adeleke, the coordinator and speaking as one of the key promoters of the proposed bank, expressed delight with the reception of the Approval in Principle license. He disclosed that the proposed bank will bring a series of impactful interventions in the lives of the people in the Iwajowa Local Government area and of the Oyo Diocese at large irrespective of religion, race, or gender. According to him, these among others are the services the people will enjoy from the proposed bank:

Acceptance of various types of deposits including savings, time, target, and demand from individuals, groups, and associations; except public sector deposits.

Provision of credit to its customers, including formal and informal self-help groups, individuals, and associations.

Promotion and monitoring of loan usage among its customers by providing ancillary capacity building in areas such as record keeping and small business management.

Issuance of redeemable debentures to interested parties to raise funds from members of the public with the prior approval of the CBN.

Collection of money or proceeds of banking instruments on behalf of its customers including clearing of cheques through correspondent banks.

Agency services for the provision of mobile banking and micro-insurance services to its clients.

Provision of payment services such as salary, gratuity, and pension for employees of the various tiers of government.

Provision of loan disbursement services for the delivery of the credit program of government, agencies, groups, and individuals for poverty alleviation on a non-recourse basis.

He thanked the team of experts who made the feat possible in such a rural setting. These experts include Sir Femi Fapohunda, Mr. Kayode Aina, Mr. Anthony Ajekiigbe, Sir Felix Fapohunda, Sir Fidelis Dada, Barrister Clara Okusidi, and Mrs. Titilayo Sangotayo and Mr. Seun Folorusho. All in all, to God, be all glory!

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Written by Mercy ANURIKA

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