The Nigerian community in the United States has put measures in place to establish a community bank.
The proposed bank would serve the interest of the Nigerian community in that country and those at home.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the proposed bank – Nigeria Federal Credit Union – is being promoted by the Nigeria National Association, a non-profit organisation in the U.S.
The credit union, when fully established, would be a full-fledged financial, banking, and investment initiative, in service for all, especially Nigerians resident in the U.S., including members of the Nigerian diplomatic corps.
NAN reports that credit unions provide banking services nationwide, loans, mortgages, credit cards, checking, mobile banking and more, and many have broader eligibility requirements that include individuals from a location or other broad-ranging characteristics.
The steering committee of the proposed bank was inaugurated in April by a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, during the U.S.-Nigeria Investment Summit in Washington DC.
The steering committee of the proposed bank, at a meeting at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC, had said the initiative would advance the credibility of Nigerians in the U.S.
The chairman of the committee, Kazeem Bello, said a community could not realise its full potential without access to banking services and capital at a favourable interest rate.
According to him, it is the prerequisite for economic emancipation through home ownership and business financing among others.
Mr Bello said: “What we are attempting to do is to create a platform for all Nigerians, young and old, men and women, businesses and every Nigerian resident and non-resident in the U.S. to have an opportunity to have a community-based bank that will be tended to our needs.
“We’ve been in a society where opportunities abound all over the place but you only accrue those opportunities when you are a direct member of that community.
“Sometimes, a lot of us (Nigerians) have gone through the pains and hassles of being able to just open a bank account.
“So the project that we are unveiling today is called Federal Credit Union, and by the grace of God, it has been tagged as a proposed Nigerian Federal Credit Union.
“This is a banking and financial institution that we are putting together to be fully chartered and the members are you and I who are Nigerians.
“Nobody is owning this bank; the bank is membership-owned.
“Nigerians own this bank. We call on all Nigerians across the four corners of the United States territory to join in this efforts to bring this bank to fruition.”
Mr Bello said a bank for Nigerians, the largest group of African immigrants in the U.S., was long overdue.
According to him, the Kenyan community in the U.S., among others was already at an advanced stage of establishing its own Kenyan community bank while Turkish community has had a bank since 1948, in addition to Poland.
A member of the committee, Felix Obi, said Nigerians could not have economic growth and emancipation if they did not have financial independence and access to capital at a competitive rate that reflects their creditworthiness.
“As you know, by law, anybody can go to any bank and open an account or apply for credit yet statistics tell us that minority communities, especially immigrants, are disproportionately pushed into bad financing – high-interest rate financing.
“This would explain why when the federal housing crisis happened, more minorities have their property foreclosed than non-minorities.
“These numbers can be even more challenging when it comes to immigrant populations,” he said.
Bayo Idowu, minister, Economic, Trade and Investment at the Nigerian Embassy, said the establishment of a Nigerian-based bank had been nursed previously.
He said taking the critical step of moving forward and making it work had, however, been always challenging.
Mr Idowu said Mr Sanusi, a respected community leader and an accomplished banker, in launching the steering committee had worked to energise the members to ensure that the vision of a Nigerian-based community bank succeeds.
“It is important to the Nigerian community in the U.S. for identity, for economic empowerment and for investment in the Nigerian economy because we would have established a direct link with banks at home through this credit union,” he said.
Remi Duyile, a seasoned financial professional in the U.S., said owning a federal credit union by Nigerians in the Diaspora was a phenomenon.
“I am on the board of this committee that is working tirelessly to ensure that we birth something great, just like other nationalities have done, and this is our time; let’s do it,” Mrs Duyile said.
Earlier, the Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S., retired Justice Sylvanus Nsofor, had pledged his support to the steering committee to ensure that the establishment of a Nigerian-based community bank becomes a reality.