Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has disclosed that, the federal government has so far spent the sum of N15 billion on interest free loans to the poor in the country. Osinbajo, who made this known yesterday at the 9th session of the Presidential Quarterly Business Forum at the Presidential Villa, also noted that a lot of difference would be made on the nation’s economy if the government could spend N1trillion directly on poor Nigerians annually. The government had through the Bank of Industry (BoI) and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) recently launched ‘Trader Moni’ as a product to reach small holder traders and poor Nigerians. The product provides traders access of loans of up to N10,000 at the first instance. Osinbajo however did not explain how N1trillion could be spent on the poor and whether a similar formula (Trade Moni) would be adopted. The Vice President said “If we spend N1 trillion to bail out the poor in this country every year, we will make a massive difference.” According to him, job creation has always been a top priority of the present administration. He noted that the surest way to create jobs was through provision of an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. Osinbajo said that the National Agency for Food Drug Administration And Control (NAFDAC) and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) are among government agencies that are improving on the ease of doing business in the country. He said “Job creation has been a priority of this administration and this I must say is not just in words. In analyzing the solutions, we were clear that the surest way of creating jobs is by enabling the private sector to do business easily, so that opportunities are created in Agriculture and the agro-allied industry, services, manufacturing etc but we realized that that would not solve the immediate problems of thousands of graduates who have no jobs or the millions who are at the bottom of the trading pyramid barely eking out a living. This, we believed created a compelling argument for direct intervention by government. “Our preferred approach has been a practical one. So while we worked through the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) to improve the business environment, and worked on several sector based incentivization schemes, we also undertook a hands-on approach to getting MSMEs working. “Our MSME clinics all over the country have been great successes. At those clinics, 20 States so far, I have been in attendance in no less than 18 States along with relevant regulatory or preinvestment agencies. “So, there are actual interactions with the small businesses. Our focus has been to ensure that the regulators understand their role as facilitators not an obstacle to business. We are also establishing one-stop shops in the States, where all regulators are under the same roof in the States,” Osinbajo noted. He continued that “We also took the view that since the largest number of small businesses in Nigeria are the market women and men and petty traders, we needed to expand the opportunities in these categories. First we decided that we would enhance environments in markets and commercial clusters. Our energizing economies project is putting power especially solar power in markets and commercial clusters. We have powered Ariara Market, Aba; Sabongari Market, Kano; Sura market in Lagos, Isinkan market in Ondo, Bola Ige market in Ibadan, Oyo State and Edaiken market in Benin, Edo State. “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, with 56% of the loans going to women.”
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