In Nigeria, a shiver of loan sharks is proving a formidable menace to many innocent but ignorant Nigerians who driven by despair pluck up their courage and take the plunge into Nigeria`s extremely charged financial waters.
The terms always seem fair and this is deliberately so to rope in the impressionable. Because they know that naivety can give rise to unbridled suspicion, they usually coat their poisoned daggers in honey until the unsuspecting is lured in. By the way they operate and run their business, there is no doubt that they are convinced that once they give out their money and it remains out there, they acquire a license to do what they want with the privacy and dignity of those they hold by the scruff of the neck.
Their antics are many and varied: from harassing so-called defaulters with needless calls to extending the mindboggling harassment to their contacts and even going as far as withdrawing money from their bank accounts indiscriminately, they lurch from the absurd to the outrageous, safe in the knowledge that the long but unwieldy arm of the law in Nigeria would struggle to reach them.
As things have continued to deteriorate in Nigeria plunging otherwise financially stable citizens into debt, many have found themselves reluctantly patronizing these loan sharks who readily give out loans safe in the knowledge that they can deploy whatever crude means they can pull out of their books as they seek a refund of their money.
In classic cases that redefine what invasion of privacy truly looks like, they go after not only their victims but also the contacts of their victims with the aim being to cause maximum embarrassment until the last money owed is squeezed out.
This is little surprise in a country where the law is obeyed mostly in breach. If it was the regular financial institutions giving out these loans and adopting this modus operandi, they would be easier to rein in because they have clearer structures on ground and they make an effort to deal legally and ethically in spite of their now well-established tendencies to abet money laundering or occasionally bin one or two regulations in search of the odd profit.
The biggest problem with these loan sharks many of whom operate entirely online is that they have very little compunction about colouring outside the line. They are the ones who take whatever law there is out there, turn it on its head and dare those affronted to do their worse. Specifically, because they are acutely aware of just how ponderously slowly the wheels of justice grind in Nigeria, they defy those they toy with to go to court.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to a question of the welfare of every day Nigerians. A resort to these loan sharks who would rip off bone and sinew is often a last resort – a final, desperate attempt of the truly desperate as austerity sinks its teeth deeper until hitherto stable sources of income disappear.
In Nigeria these days, it would seem that it is the illegal that thrives, richly rewarding the ability to swim against the tide. The illegal oil bunkering that recently threatened to suffocate Port Harcourt in a cloud of soot or the improbable amounts bandits collect from communities as taxes and levies which they use to oil their elaborate crime machinery.
There is no doubt that there is a need for regulation, a crying need to tighten the noose around these loan sharks who with leprous fingers dangle the carrots of loans to Nigerians only to ruthlessly invade their privacy at the slightest hint of default. There is no doubt that they cannot be trusted.
With the way they operate, they have woven for themselves the robes of the many fraudsters who have perfected the art of ripping unsuspecting Nigerians off their hard-earned money. Were the laws here clearer and firmer on the lines so-called lenders can and cannot cross, many Nigerians would be saved of the heartache many of them engineer.
Were Nigerians able to access more security which would necessarily include financial security, these loan sharks would not have been able to operate with the degree of chilling impunity with which they currently operate.
But as it stands, until things improve for the country, they will continue to haunt their victims and the contacts of their victims.