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21.12.2021 Featured Despite Gov’t Fine, Sokoloan Defames Debtors, Brands Them Criminals

Published 21st Dec, 2021

By Tola Owoyele

John Oloyede (not real name) is a cybercafé operator in Akure, Ondo State. During the lockdown in April 2020, his business suffered a huge loss as he was unable to open his shop.

Feeling the need to look for other means to cater for his family, Oloyede resorted to borrowing money from Sokoloan, an online quick loan outfit in Nigeria.

READ ALSO: Nairaplus, 9Cash… Quick Loan Apps Driving Nigerians to Suicide

“During that period, and being the sole provider for my family, feeding them became a problem. When things got worse, I had to resort to online money borrowing in order to feed my family,” Oloyede told FIJ.

SMOOTH BEGINNING

Oloyede said he initially borrowed N2,000 from Sokoloan, with an agreement to pay back N2,500 within two weeks. As time passed, and because his business was yet to experience a positive turnaround, Oloyede continued borrowing so his family would not go hungry.

READ ALSO: Two Months After Winning Sports Betting, Gambler Can’t Withdraw ₦226,000 From BigiBet

“As I was paying back, they started increasing my credit score and the amount I am eligible to borrow,” Oloyede said.

BORROWING GONE BAD

WhatsApp Messages sent

However, in November, the borrowing relationship between Oloyede and Sokoloan hit a brick wall, as he was unable to pay back the money he owed on time.

“Last month, they borrowed me N36,000 to repay N52,450 after two weeks. Unfortunately, I could not pay back the money on time,” said Oloyede.

Despite several pleas to the company to afford him additional grace period to pay what he owed, Sokoloan has been sending defamatory messages to his contacts.

READ ALSO: Buhari Rejects Electoral Bill, But Lawmakers Can Pass It

“They have been sending messages to my phone contacts, calling me a serial debtor and fraudster. This is killing me deep inside. It has never been my wish to borrow from anyone. I just hope and pray I am able to rise to my feet again and pay my debt. The truth, however, is that they have destroyed my image by sending those messages to my contacts,” he told FIJ.

A DEBTOR THAT IS NO LONGER WILLING TO PAY BACK

Messages sent by Sokoloan

FIJ also spoke with Fidelis, a cable television installer who no longer has the intention of paying back what he owes after defamatory messages were sent to his phone contacts.

“I had never defaulted in repaying my debt. However, in September, I borrowed N8,000 to repay N11,000 within two weeks,” Fidelis told FIJ.

READ ALSO: FLASHBACK: The Killing ‘That Triggered Bello Turji’s Attacks in Sokoto’

He said he was getting ready to repay the loan when he was robbed of the money he was banking on in traffic.

“When I explained my ordeal to one of Sokoloan’s agents, she called me a liar and criminal, threatening to destroy my image if I didn’t pay on the originally agreed repayment date,” Fidelis said.

After the conversation, he did everything he could do to find money to pay off his debt, but he was unable to come up with the required amount.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: Malami’s Justice Ministry ‘Mismanaged N113.2m’ in 2019

“On the day I was supposed to repay my debt, I started receiving calls from my contacts, mostly the people I worked for, telling me they had received unpleasant messages from Sokoloan,” said Fidelis.

“Some even forwarded the WhatsApp messages they received to me. The message had my photo and vital information. They also called me a wanted criminal and fraudster. I nearly committed suicide during that period.”

Days later, Fidelis said he determined never to pay the money back because his image had already been damaged as a result of the company’s decision to send out the messages to his contacts.

READ ALSO: Edo Boy Brutalised to Death ‘Not Under Alcohol Influence as Army Claimed’

“I am no longer willing to pay back that money. They have done their worst by sending out those messages to my customers, friends and loved ones,” Fidelis told FIJ.

“The only condition to pay back is if Sokoloan sends another set of messages to all my contacts, letting them know that I am not a criminal or a fraudster, and also letting them know that the previous message they had sent was an error on their part.”

DESPITE SANCTIONS, BREACH OF PRIVACY CONTINUES

Kashifu Inuwa Abdullah, NITDA DG

In August, Sokoloan was fined N10 million by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) for breaching its customers’ data privacy.

This decision was hailed by some, with the hope that such measures would prevent other money lenders from sending defamatory messages to the contacts of defaulting borrowers.

READ ALSO: 3 Days After IGP’s Warning to Senior Officers, Gunmen Kill 2 Policemen in Anambra

However, the fine made little or no difference.

FIJ made several calls to the service lines of Sokoloan, but they were not answered. A text message sent to them was also not responded to.

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Published 21st Dec, 2021

By Tola Owoyele

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