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Cameroon: 'Njangi'debtors facing public humiliation

It is almost end of year and most ‘njangi’ or savings and thrift groups have audited their accounts in order to pay members’ savings and dividends. While some members impatiently wait for the D-Day to purchase numerous items on their already conceived long shopping lists, others are thinking how to clear their financial records, considering the heavy sums they borrowed. Since most ‘njangi’ treasurers often illegally lend out members’ savings to those in need, the consequences of not reimbursing on time might lead to public disgrace. Already, ‘njangis’ that meet monthly have already taken drastic recovery measures while others that meet twice or four times a month had given defaulting members up to the first week of December to balance their records. 

In a case surety was not taken into consideration or the borrower’s savings are not up to the loan taken, members resort to seizing debtor’s property for sale on auction to recover the money borrowed. Kitchen utensil, chairs, carpets and flat panel television sets are some of the items that are often seized. Concerning huge loans, complaints are filed against defaulters at police stations or with gendarmes. Such people are often given deadlines to pay, failing which they can be detained. Though all ‘njangi’ groups have rules on borrowing and reimbursements, some members still attract sanctions on themselves by failing to pay on time.

Given that it is members’ savings that are lent, some of the precautions savings and thrift groups take to ensure that financial crises are averted at the end of year include insistence on low interest rates, sureties and collaterals for huge sums borrowed. In a case where a member is not trustworthy, a loan is given in proportion to their savings to make sure that this will pay back the debt upon failure to reimburse. Other debtors’ loans are recovered in the course of the year when it is their turn to ‘receive’ their ‘njangi’ (or special savings that are handed out to members in turns).

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