Mobilizing existing and burgeoning Cooperative Societies into one big and vibrant family in line with the popular philosophy, “all for each and each for all” remains an uphill task for many stakeholders. No thanks to scheming, greed, selfishness and unhealthy competition that have dogged the sector over the years, efforts at consolidating gains by cooperators and reposition the sector to engender sustainable growth and development in the polity have not yielded the expected results. Cobham Nsa looks at what is new in the horizon for Cooperators in Abuja, the nation’s capital
His passion for robust partnership to drive Cooperative Societies as engine room for sustainable socio-economic growth and development in Nigeria is quite infectious and commendable. Presiding over affairs as the Executive Secretary, National Cooperative Financing Agency of Nigeria (CFAN), Mr Emma Atama is an authority and a working encyclopedia on cooperative as an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled business. Carrying his huge body frame around with a sense of duty and commitment to cooperative activities, Atama insists that in line with present administration’s change mantra, the poor, self-seeking and uncoordinated state of affairs within the cooperatives must be urgently addressed if cooperators are to emerge as formidable stakeholders and play key roles in the task of partnering with government to diversify the economy away from oil. To this end, he said CFAN is set to create a unified and technology-driven platform that would capture over five million cooperators across Nigeria with a view to ensuring they have easy and seamless access to funds for their operations. Speaking at the recent one-day inaugural workshop on cooperative unified platform in Abuja, the CFAN Executive Scribe explained that the proposed arrangement would be typical of what is currently obtainable in the Money Deposit Banks (MDBs). According to him, the platform would be deployed to kick-start the National Cooperative Development Fund (NCDF) by September this year. “The NCDF is to serve as a guarantee fund for cooperatives intending to access funds for their members and we believe when this is in place it will solve the problem of access to finance for cooperatives”, Mr Atama said. The CFAN chief said Cooperatives must be encouraged to live up to their statutory responsibilities as “non-profit community organizations and businesses owned and managed by the people who use their services (a consumer cooperative) or by the people who work there (a worker cooperative) or by the people who live there (a housing cooperative), hybrids such as worker cooperatives that are also consumer cooperatives or credit unions, multi-stakeholder cooperatives such as those that bring together civil society and local actors to deliver community needs, and second and third tier cooperatives whose members are other cooperatives.” He said the time has come for co-operative societies to truly operate as voluntary associations meant for the service of their members rather than serving the interest of a privileged few, who usually hijack the activities and resources of the societies for their selfish purpose. Noting that Cooperatives have the potential to empower the poor people and weaker section people in the society, Atama said the challenge is for government and all stakeholders to ensure activities and programmes of Cooperatives reflect and promote the desire of the poor people to stand on their own legs or own merit. Addressing the workshop’s participants, Federal Director of Cooperatives, Mr John Zakariya Musa said cooperative societies must operate in line with global standard and best practices, adding that Nigerian Cooperators have no option than to imbibe technology in order to entrench transparency, probity and accountability in the system and win the confidence of stakeholders across the country. He said with Cooperatives being the current trend, CFAN’s partnership with MTN and Computer Warehouse Group (CWG) to establish and maintain sustainable technology-driven cooperative operations is quite commendable. For him, in the present era where the country is seriously focusing on economic diversification, robust cooperation among stakeholders was imperative to elicit trust from the government, organized private sector, donors and development partners towards attaining the United Nations’ set goals.