Hundreds of people besieged the premises of Sikaman Money Lending, a microfinance company operating at Tabora Number 5 in Accra, after news spread that the company had locked up one of its customers for defaulting in the payment of a loan.
The number of curious spectators kept increasing after the workers of the company refused to allow policemen who had arrived on the premises upon a tip-off to enter the place.
Plain-clothes policemen from the Tesano District Police Command kept knocking at the doors of the company after announcing their presence. The workers did not even change their mind after the policemen had shown their identity cards. The workers rather exchanged words with the policemen.
The doors were opened after a reenforcement team from the Tesano District Police Command arrived about an hour later.
One of the microfinance company’s workers who identified himself as Mr Emmanuel Asamoah, a Credit Officer, who opened the doors, claimed he was acting under the instructions of his superior, the Branch Manager, Mr Isaac Bruce.
The customer, Mr Cash Abbey, a 50-year-old mobile phone dealer, who was locked up in one of the offices, had his clothes drenched in his sweat due to the heat in the room. All the windows had been locked and air-conditioners switched off as a result of a power outage in the area.
The police arrested Mr Asamoah after he opened the doors and Mr Bruce was arrested later.
Narrating his ordeal, Mr Abbey, who was panting for breath, said he was locked up on the orders of Mr Bruce after he honoured the company’s invitation to discuss his loan repayment schedule.
He said he secured a loan of GHc2,500 from Sikaman Money Lending in July 2015 at the interest rate of eight per cent per month. The company in addition withheld GH¢500 out of the loan amount as collateral which would be refunded after the last payment.
Mr Abbey said though he had informed the company that he would repay the loan before the end of the month, “I was hit by a misfortune as my goods got missing so I could not honour my promise.
“I managed to pay the money by instalments and I have so far paid GH¢2,600. After meeting with the new manager, who was not the officer at post when I took the loan, I asked him to indicate the amount left to be paid and he said my debt was GH¢2,496,” he lamented. Mr Abbey said he was bewildered when Mr Bruce handed him a piece of paper with the amount GHc 2,496 written on it.
“I asked him to explain and he said the company had been calculating an eight per cent interest rate on the amount borrowed every week since I indicated that I would pay my money in less than a month and I failed to pay,” he said.
He said while he was negotiating with Mr Bruce to “do something about the amount, since it was too high, Bruce ordered his subordinates to lock me up until I pay the amount. But that was not the agreement at the initial stage”.
Mr Bruce explained that he took the decision to lock the customer up since his loan was long overdue and “he has been playing hide-and-seek with us. He doesn’t answer our calls and when we go to his house his children tell us he has travelled”.
Resort to the court
The Tesano District Police Commander, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Mr Edward Tetteh, told the Daily Graphic that the complainant and the workers of the company had given their statements and added that two workers of the company were being held on charges of unlawful detention of their client.
He said the microfinance company had the option of resorting to the law courts to recover its money from customers who defaulted payments. “The company’s officials shouldn’t have taken the law into their own hands by locking up the customer for non-payment of loan,” he said.