‘Resolving Challenges Of Social Infrastructure Is Best Way To Encourage Private Investors’
THE Executive Director of Self Reliance Economic Advancement Programme (SEAP), Pastor Olatunde Oladokun, remains a silent quintessential investor and a philanthropist, who at present has in his employment over 400,000 workers at 220 branches of SEAP spread across 22 states of the federation.
Oladokun, a devout Christian who turned 50 few days ago, has imparted in the lives of many Nigerians through sacrificial giving and issuing of soft loans at ridiculously low collateral to the less privileged in the society.
Among other challenges confronting private investors in Nigeria, Oladokun, while speaking on other sundry issues, identified insurgence and lack of social infrastructure as the greatest. He therefore urged the relevant governmental bodies to resolve the crises.
He was born in Ibadan Oyo state in the middle 60’s to the family of Late Pa Joseph Ayoola Olatunde and Deaconess Modupe Victoria Olatunde. The parents hailed from Okeho, Kajola Local Government Area (LGA) of Oyo State, Nigeria but later moved to Ibadan for greener pasture.
Oladokun (JP) started his elementary school at Salem Baptist under the leadership of late Mrs Adelaiye and Brother Lasun, he then crossed to St. Paul’s Anglican Primary School, Yemetu, Ibadan. During his primary school days, he had opportunities to represent his school at various outings and activities.
After his primary education, he got an admission for his post primary school at Adventist Grammar School Ede now Osun State. During his secondary school days, he was an average student and he single handedly started Boy’s Scout in Adventist Grammar School, Ede, with the support of his Principal, Late Mr. Afolayan and Mr Afolabi (Teacher) who were scout masters.
He engaged in different sporting activities in his school days. When he was in Form 3 (three) in 1978 to1979, he lost his father and when he finished his secondary education, he proceeded to secure a job due to financial constraints to further his studies.
With the help of his uncle Chief Adejumo, a retired Permanent Secretary, he was able to secure a job in the Oyo state civil service as a Clerical Officer under the administration of Late Chief Bola Ige and posted to the State Security Office (SSO) and later worked in the Audit Department, Cabinet office and Registry before he resigned his appointment to further his studies.
In 1984, he resigned to further his studies and graduated as an NCE holder in 1987 from St. Andrews College of Education Oyo after which he taught briefly at the following schools: Soun High School Ogbomosho; St. Luke’s Grammar School, Molete, Ibadan; Methodist High School, Ibadan and Ife Girls Grammar School, Ile-Ife.
In between the waiting time, he engaged in the following skills so as to make ends meet; a cab driver, skin leather business and dried fish business.
He later got another job as an Assistant Social Mobilization Officer with Mass Mobilization for Self-Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER) and posted to Okeho, Oyo State under the leadership of Pa Adebayo Faleti (JP).
He also worked in Iseyin area of Oyo State before he resigned in 1998 from National Orientation Agency (NOA) as a Principal Orientation officer.
In 1994, he graduated from Adeyemi Campus of Obafemi Awolowo University, now University of Education as a graduate of History with (B.A Hons).
He joined an organization called Farmers Development Union (FADU) an NGO as a Consultant and later as a full time staff with mandate to recover debts and form more groups for FADU projects in Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Oyo states, he succeeded with these assignments and sent a proposal of his vision to the Programme Coordinator and Financial Controller which was rejected.
As a result of the rejection of his proposal, he resigned in the year 2000. He started his vision, an organization known as SEAP “with nothing but with the help of God,” he was able to pass through all the challenges faced at the initial stage.
Today, SEAP has clocked 15 years with over 400,000 members nationwide, 220 branches in 22 states of the Federation including FCT Abuja and 2000 youths employed as full time staff.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has recently licensed SEAP to operate as a Microfinance bank in Oyo State with license reference number FPR/LAD/DIR/MFB/01/014. Also, on August 18, 2014, SEAP was awarded “the most innovative Microfinance Institution in Nigeria for the year 2013” by the CBN.
He has been honored with various awards. Speaking on SEAP he noted, “it is very much committed to the reduction of poverty, empowering and sustaining lives and livelihood.
It is our desire that the nation achieves its goals by becoming one of the top economically advanced countries in the world.
We at SEAP are doing our best to make this happen.” Lauding the Federal Government’s/ Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) initiative, setting up the Small and Medium Entrepreneur (SME) Fund, boosting the capital base of the concerned industrialists’ cadre, sharply criticised the alleged existing bottlenecks assessing the funds.
“If you look at the CBN- SME funds, primarily designed to take care of the private sector, you will ordinarily see it as a very good idea but is laden with numerous bottleneck.
Look for instance at the issue which states that there must be certain stringent collateral before assessing the funds. We would not have loved it that way.
Again, if you want the true growth of private investments in a developing nation like Nigeria, the existing high interest bank rate onb loans must be drastically reduced. Besides, if you critically look at the existing loans, you tend to ask that how many Nigerian investors can have access to the loans? Government should not only favour the private investors by way of political patronage, the granting of the loan must be on its merits.
If we truly develop this sector, it is a veritable way of reducing unemployment in our country. We have started somehow, I know we shall get there one day.” On the reasons for his expansive employees’ pool, he said, “at times, you need to employ based on compassionate ground.
I mean, when you see what some people are passing through in life, you can not but offer them the needed employment. But majority of our staff are employed on merit.
We are still employing because we need to.” For Oladokun, unless the Federal Government provides the infrastructure needs of the local investors, to break even under such a yearning gap would be a tall dream for such investors. He said, “availability of basic infrastructure grows virtually all the sectors of private economy.
For instance, where we have to rely on 24 hours power generation from diesel propelled engine, is not too healthy for industrial growth.
It leads to a serious discouragement for would be investors as well. We have not seen changes in this respect, we are still in business because we have no choice than to continue.
“I recently confronted the body responsible for electricity supply in Ilorin over some of its policies I considered too far from modern reasoning.
You bring in a transformer at your own expenses, you still pay higher tariffs that go to the electricity body. This policy has not given room for investors to make the much needed profits.
To get water, you still need to dig your own bore holes. I think, the government should look into all these issues and probably back them up with relevant legislation.”
He believed that if “the hype” on the improvement of the nation’s economic indices as alleged by the Federal Government should be measured with the present foreign exchange capacity of Naira with currencies of strong economies of the world, it would be “a misinformation” to claim that Nigeria’s economy has increased.
Speaking on the production capacity of the nation’s infant industries and their competitive capacities with those of the foreign industries, Oladokun canvassed better packaging and labelling of the made in Nigerian products after the pattern of the imported goods towards elevating them to international standards.
The SEAP boss who rued some of the loans of the company trapped in some of the Nigerian states at present under the siege of the dreaded ‘Boko Haram’ sect, said the insurgency has crippled the activities of many micro financial institutions in Nigeria.
He however canvassed due diligence, “and not undue influence” by the micro financial institutions transacting businesses with their loanees as the surest way to remain in business, citing his over 15 years experience on the business to justify his claims.
Speaking generally on life experiences and goals in life he noted, “in life you will always have your plans to be somebody but most times God changes the plans to suit His own purposes. Whatever I am today is not due to my power or strength but by the grace of God.
However, I will advise that one should not loose one’s focus in life. One must be determined in order to succeed. God is the only Architect to greatness. I could recollect during my NCE days, with about 28 courses I vowed not to go back to school after the programme.
But suddenly, the Ministry of education started treating us as second rated teachers below our colleagues who were Universities’ graduates, then I decided to move up. In a nutshell, it is only God that has the final say.”
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