The federal government yesterday in Abuja said it had given N15.183 billion interest-free loans to low income earners, including market women, artisans and farmers across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Making this disclosure at the quarterly meeting of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, said such interest-free loans range from N50,000 to N350,000, emphasising that 56 per cent of such loans were given to women.
The vice-president, who is the PEBEC Chairman, also said with the huge difference made by various initiatives of the government, spending whopping N1 trillion on the poor masses of the country would transform the lives of countless number of Nigerians.
Osinbajo said the loan disbursement was one of the initiatives conceived by the federal government with a view to expanding the frontiers of micro-credit provisions to small businesses under the Government Empowerment and Enterprise Programme (GEEP) of the Social Investment Programme.
According to him, Trader Moni programme of the federal government is one of the most important platforms for the expansion of the micro-credit disbursement to the smallest level of trading.
Describing this category of beneficiaries as the largest part of the country’s working population, Osinbajo argued that such traders are important and integral part of “the value chain of most goods,” adding that as many as 2 million persons will benefit from the scheme.
He said, “For the small businesses also we expanded the micro credit to small businesses under our Government Empowerment & Enterprise Programme (GEEP): N15.183 billion in interest-free loans ranging from N50,000 to N350,000 have been disbursed to more than 300,000 market women, traders, artisans, farmers across all 36 States of the country and the FCT. (By the way, 56% of the loans have gone to women).
“But I think the Trader Moni programme is one of the most crucial components of expanding opportunity for millions of Nigerian traders by giving micro- credit to the bottom of the trading pyramid.
“The smallest businesses; the one table trader; the bread or plantain seller or the Mai Shai. This is the largest segment of our working population; their inventory is no more than N5,000 – N10,000. But they are an important part of the value chain of most goods.
“They sell the single sachets of soap, sugar, and spices to the largest numbers of our people. But they are forgotten and ignored in economic plans and budgets, and considered too unwieldy and risky for micro credit loans. Under the Trader Moni scheme, we are giving microcredit to two million petty traders across the country,” he said.
Osinbajo who disclosed that the government had only spent half of the N500 billion budgeted for Social Investment Programme, observed that with just half of the budget spent, the impacts are laudable, wondering the volume of impact that can be made if more is spent.
According to the vice-president, if only the government could spend whooping N1 trillion to provide succour for the teeming masses of Nigeria, the output will be alarming, adding that once unemployment problem is resolved, investment is made in infrastructure and power problem addressed, massive breakthroughs will be experienced in the country.
“I am convinced that we can crack the jobs problem. And we are in the right direction. First, by Investment in infrastructure, solving the power problem, and generally enhancing the business environment.
“Also Government intervention can be improved. Today of the N500 billion for SIP we have only spent just over N250 billion. And the results are obvious. Imagine how farther we can go with more revenue? If we can spend N1 trillion to bail out poor people in one year, we will make a massive difference,” he stated