The inter-agency Joint Regulatory and Enforcement Task Force (JRETF) are jointly investigating rights violations in the money-lending industry with initial enforcement operations by its Joint Task Force comprising of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, (FCCPC), National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, (ICPC).
This was contained in a statement signed on Monday by Mr. Babatunde Irukera, the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer on behalf of the Joint Regulatory and Enforcement Task Force.
TheFact Nigeria gathered that in furtherance, and pursuant to an Order of the Federal High Court procured by, and granted to the FCCPC, the JRETF executed a search and seizure Order on certain digital money lenders.
The JRETF) had on Friday, March 11, 2022, advanced investigations with respect to digital money lenders.
Other members of the JRETF comprised of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) and the National Human Rights Commission, (NHRC).
Irukera said that as part of the operation, the JRETF together with the Nigeria Police Force and Bailiff of the Federal High Court searched locations of the money lenders, extracted valuable evidence and in some circumstances prohibited or restricted continuing operations.
He said: “In addition to the physical operation noted above, the Commission entered and served Orders on multiple financial institutions freezing or suspending operations of certain accounts which some of the money lenders have used to conduct implicated business or transactions subject of investigation”.
He also said the Commission also entered and served wide ranging orders on Google LLC (Play Store) and Apple Inc. (App Store) to enforce the withdrawal of certain applications where evidence had established inappropriate conduct or use of the application in violation of the rights of consumers.
He further revealed that the Order of the Commission also prohibits acceptance and presentation of new applications for the same purpose without regulatory assessment and approval in the investigation which is still active and ongoing.
Irukera said that the JRETF expected further and similar action as it continued to gather additional intelligence to that effect.
Meanwhile, the FCCPC have invited consumers to support the investigation by continuing to provide actionable intelligence about persons associated with the businesses or practices, their telephone numbers and any other pertinent information.
The Commission therefore admonished all the businesses that were subject of regulatory intervention on Friday March 11 2022, to cease and desist the interest compounding and loan repayment/collection practices that are the objects of the investigation.
Irukera said: “In the event that any of these businesses continue in any of this conduct, or the Commission receives credible evidence of such, violators will be subjected to the full extent of the law including prosecution (without option of administrative regulatory resolution).”
He said that Orders of the Commission were without preudice to existing borrowers repaying any legitimate loans pursuant to fair and acceptable terms and conditions, or any modifications to previous terms and conditions that are considered onerous, inconsistent with prevailing law or general principles of transparency and fairness.
According to him, the obligation to comply with the above extends to all operatives, employees or agents of the affected businesses.
He said: “The JRETF welcomes any useful information that may assist this investigation.
“The same may be provided at the Commission as dedicated evidence gathering repository at: [email protected]”
The Commission/JRETF therefore said that they would continue to provide updates to the public.