N25B FUND: Why I am empowering MSME operators – Gov Ambode
“By 2019, we hope to empower at least 100,000 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and create at least 300,000 direct and 600,000 indirect jobs totaling 900,000 jobs through the N25 billion Employment Trust Fund (ETF) initiative.”
Those were the words of Lagos State Governor, Mr.Akinwunmi Ambode when he made history on January 26, 2017. The day was indeed a great day in the annals of the State of aquatic splendor as the Governor disbursed about N1billion to 705 beneficiaries of the Pilot Scheme of the N25billion ETF, which is an initiative of his administration designed to drive the growth of the MSMEs in recognition of their critical role as the engine of growth and leading creator of jobs in any economy.
The disbursement ceremony held at the LTV Blue Roof, Ikeja, Lagos, was greeted with fanfare from the elated beneficiaries and indeed many residents of the State, realizing its import on the economic well-being of the State.
The successful implementation of the loan scheme was indeed an eloquent testimony of the readiness of the State Government to support the thriving youths and residents of the State as promised by Governor Ambode during the electioneering when he promised to set up a fund to address the difficulties MSMEs were facing to start and sustain their businesses.
After the Governor announced his decision to commence the loan scheme, he initially set up a board comprising of individuals with proven track records to manage the fund, and same signaled the intention of the government to ensure the success of the initiative. Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, former Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service was made the chairman, while Mr. Akintunde Oyebode was appointed the Executive Secretary. Other Executive members include- Mr. Dele Martins; Mrs. Bilikis Adebiyi-Abiola; Mr. Otto Orondaam; Mrs. Olufunmi Olatunde Daudu; Mr. Tunde Bank Anthony; Mr. Micheal Popoola Ajayi and Lagos State Commissioner for Wealth Creation and Employment, Mr. Tunde Durosinmi-Etti.
Then, the board began by putting in place necessary procedures to ensure a solid process with transparency and impartiality as the key watchwords.
To start with, the board engaged reputable and established partners to help with the selection, verification and disbursement of the loans to beneficiaries. The partners include Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), who verified all the applications and audit the processes, while others are Fate Foundation, LEAP Africa, Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI), Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ), National Automobile Technicians Association (NATA) and Cooperative Societies, who provided applicants for the pilot scheme through their membership.
Speaking at the presentation ceremony, Governor Ambode charged the beneficiaries to utilise the funds responsibly to grow their businesses, create jobs for the unemployed youths and contribute to the growth of the Lagos economy. Explaining the rationale behind the setting up of the N25billion ETF, the Governor said his administration identified unemployment as a major socio-economic challenge facing Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole in the course of the electoral campaign, and thus prioritised job creation.
He said the setting up of the ETF was a direct response to address the challenge of unemployment as well as provide support to the youths, entrepreneurs, artisans and other unemployed residents of the State. “We have kept our word. We created a dedicated Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment, whose mission is to promote and sustain entrepreneurship and employment,” the Governor said.
Governor Ambode, while commending the Board and Management of the Fund for embarking on a comprehensive review of the business environment and developing a strategic framework and operating guidelines to ensure the sustainable and successful management of these funds, said the successful disbursement was a product of the painstaking effort.
He said the funds are targeted at small and medium scale businesses and individuals including carpenters, hairdressers, electricians, automobile parts repairers, block makers, bakers, fashion designers, cake makers, food sellers, kerosene retailers, mobile money agents, painters, plumbers, photographers and light manufacturers of liquid soaps and water, among others.
“These beneficiaries are making history as the first set of beneficiaries of this Employment Trust Fund, and my charge to you is simple: You must use these funds responsibly, grow your businesses, create jobs for our unemployed youths and contribute to the growth of the Lagos State GDP. The idea is that for every N1million we disburse, we should create a minimum of five jobs around that business value chain.
“These loans have been provided at a very affordable rate of 5% per annum, far cheaper than the prevailing bank interest of 25% per annum. This is our modest way of reflating the Lagos economy, creating jobs and getting our youths gainfully occupied. Those of you here today, the first beneficiaries of this initiative, will be the agents through which our country can overcome its current economic challenges,” Governor Ambode said.
The Governor also enjoined market women and female artisans to take advantage of the opportunity as his administration was particularly interested in supporting women in business. “I also implore the Employment Trust Fund to pay special attention to the Entertainment Industry and the Tech Hubs in Sabo, Yaba area. These are new areas with huge potential for growth and job creation,” he said.
Governor Ambode also expressed optimism that the target by the Board to empower at least 100,000 micro, small and medium enterprises in due course was achievable and that the multiplier effect would be the creation of over 300,000 direct and 600,000 indirect jobs by 2019. “Now the conversation is this and this is the most important aspect of it, the money we are giving to the beneficiaries is not Akinwunmi Ambode’s money. It is tax payer’s money and so, beneficiaries must use the fund for what it is meant for and pay back as at when due. That is my charge to you because when you pay back on time, we have money to give to others. By doing that, this initiative will get to as many as possible people and that is our target.
“We want it to get to many Lagosians irrespective of your creed, colour or background, so far you apply and you are able to meet the requirements, then you have it,” the Governor said. In her opening remarks, Chairman, Board of ETF, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru said the presentation of cheques to beneficiaries was in fulfillment of the promise made by Governor Ambode during the electioneering and a confirmation of many to come.
She recalled that while canvassing for votes, the need to provide jobs was clearly on the mind of the Governor, and according to her, he wasted no time in setting up the ETF Board made up of people with proven track record, as well as transferring N6.25billion for the initiative to kick off, while the Board ensured that the process was fair and transparent with no favour as to party, religion, tribe or faith, and covered all the 57 Local Government Areas and Local Council Development Areas in the State.
“While we were trying to come up with the necessary procedures, Governor Ambode kept telling us to hurry up to start disbursing the loans to residents which signified his good intention and he has also given us the mandate to make the disbursement a monthly affair to make the fund get to as many residents as possible,” Omoigui-Okauru said. Responding, one of the beneficiaries, Ahmed Ojikutu thanked Governor Ambode for the initiative, saying that it was gratifying to note that the process was very transparent.
He assured that beneficiaries would reciprocate the forward-thinking gesture of the State Government by utilizing the fund judiciously to grow their businesses.
He said: “This is indeed a promise kept by the Governor. When next Governor Ambode tells us anything, we will believe him and I want to sincerely thank him on behalf of all the beneficiaries.”
Another beneficiary, Mr. Chike Charles Obi expressed appreciation to the State Government, especially Governor Ambode for fulfilling his promise, saying that most of them did not initially believe that the offer was real, but just applied. He said the development was a confirmation that Governor Ambode has brought real change to governance, and thanked the Board of the ETF for being transparent and unbiased especially in choosing the beneficiaries.
“When I heard the news of the plan of the State Government to make funds available to the people to grow their businesses, I felt it was just one of the gimmick of government. But then, I said let me just try to apply because it takes me nothing to apply and today, that bold step has become a reality.
“I want to sincerely thank Governor Ambode because throughout the selection process, there was no discrimination as to tribe or religion. This is a good day for Lagos and I thank the Governor once again,” Obi said. On her part, Mrs. Modupe Shukurat Alausa, another beneficiary, urged her co-beneficiaries to encourage government by using the fund for the purpose meant, saying that it is in paying back as at when due that government will be encouraged to continue with the laudable initiative. Alausa, who is a petty trader, also thanked Governor Ambode for running an all-inclusive government as exemplified by the N25billion ETF, saying that no doubt, the loan given to her would go a long way in boosting her business, as well as change her life positively.
For sure, this move by a governor who is increasingly being pragmatic in his approach to governance, would go a long way in reflating the state economy and putting it in good stead to face the challenge of a global world.
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