Based on his promises to change Nigeria for the better, and empower citizens, President Muhammadu Buhari rode into power. With total faith in his competence to achieve the promises, the Nigerian populace at large voted him in, believing that Buhari would be the Moses of the present generation, who had been anointed to take Nigerians to the promised land.

To his credit, since the President Buhari-led administration took over the country’s governance, some empowerment programmes have been introduced. The Federal Government has often expressed its commitment to provide funding for businesses, a move which is unarguably to drive the nation’s economy.

Under the Federal Government’s introduced Social Investment Programmes (SIP) is the Government Enterprises Entrepreneurship Programme (GEEP), which was established as an intervention programme to tackle lack of funding to the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

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The Federal Government, under GEEP, has ‘Tradermoni’, ‘Farmer Moni’ and ‘Market Moni’.

While Tradermoni is an interest-free loan scheme created especially for petty traders and artisans, Market Moni was established to provide financial aid for the underbanked and unbanked at no interest rate, besides a five per cent administrative fee.

Farmer Moni, like the other programmes, is ongoing in the country’s 36 states. This initiative is targeted mainly at disbursing loans to farmers.

Are the programmes effective?

There have been claims by the Federal Government, applauding itself for the intervention programmes, which it believed had tackled unemployment and lack of funding to Nigeria’s businesses.

Contrary to the Federal Government’s claims, the intervention programmes introduced so far have done little to tackle the main purpose of their establishment. Unemployment under the incumbent administration has been on the rise, more so, lack of funding to MSMEs.

When our correspondent visited some markets in Lagos, he gathered that the Federal Government’s intervention scheme, as against what was publicised in the media space, didn’t circulate. Petty traders, artisans and market women, lamented bitterly how they struggled to register but none of them got the funding.

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A trader who simply identified herself as Iya Basira, said that in the entire market of Ile-Epo, she was yet to see any of her colleagues who had benefitted from the scheme. This claim was corroborated by other traders in the market. They only had tales of disappointment to tell.

It is almost similar at Oshodi market. Out of the many traders our correspondent spoke to, only one claimed to have got a N10,000 funding. The trader even lamented that she got the money at a time she had forgotten she even applied for the scheme. She said the money had remained in her account ever since she got it.

Also, at Obalende market, traders shared their frustrations, though about ten traders out of those spoken to by our correspondents claimed to have got the money.

In view of the highlighted experiences with those whom the intervention schemes are targeted at, it won’t be erroneous to say that the programmes failed woefully to address the pressing needs of small business owners and Nigerians at large.

Any repayment plans? 

While the government is more concerned about adequate funding to drive Nigeria’s businesses, it is pertinent to note that the funds are not giveaways. Rather, they are intervention loans expected to be paid back by beneficiaries in anticipation of being given more loans.

However, all the traders spoken to by our correspondents, claimed that they were yet to be briefed on how to return the funds. Some even claimed that it is “Abacha’s looted money” which the Federal Government is sharing to Nigerians.

If you are curious to know whether those who got the N10,000 loans, stand chances of getting access to further loans upon reimbursement, you may have gotten the answer you need, as so far, the beneficiaries claim that they haven’t been briefed on how to make the refunds.

Experts’ verdict

One of the experts, who preferred to be anonymous, said that it is too early to tell if the program has had the desired impact. According to him, there are issues with the way the program was designed and rolled out.

“I think they should have done a smaller pilot before rolling out nationwide. While the intentions are good (access to finance for SMEs), only time will tell if it has been relatively successful or a complete failure.”

Feyi Fawehinmi, an economist, stated his misgivings about intervention schemes.

“They are giving traders loans to expand in an economy that is not expanding and has weak demand. The greater likelihood is that they’ll simply pocket the money.”

As far as Ojebola Matthew, Managing Director of Cibo Prima Farms, is concerned, there is nothing like empowerment by the incumbent administration. Ojebola said that as an Agric investor, he has strived to be a beneficiary of the intervention programme, and all his efforts have proved abortive.

“They will claim they are empowering farmers, train people for poultry farming and after all the trainings, you give them 1 or 2 feeders each. Is that empowerment?”

CEO of Owambe Group, Emmanuel Ola Abraham, is confident that Buhari’s intervention scheme isn’t positioned to drive the nation’s economy. Abraham, who is a beneficiary of YouWin, a youth development programme, established by the Former President Goodluck Jonathan to empower Nigerian Youths, said the incumbent administration has failed to empower the Nigerian populace.

Abraham mused that unlike how the YouWin fund helped him get his feet on the ground, many beneficiaries of Buhari’s intervention programmes cannot afford to pay tax and expand their businesses in a way that requires the employment of staff.

He maintained that since he got the fund, his contribution to the country’s GDP, just like his other colleagues, can’t be swept under the carpet.

The laudable aspect of Buhari’s intervention programmes

While it is pertinent to acknowledge that this is not the first administration to prioritise the empowerment of citizens, this is arguably the first time that the Federal Government is involving the very bottom of Nigeria’s economic pyramid for direct financial stimulus which is aimed at creating wealth within the informal sector of the economy. Previous regimes had targeted mostly big economic players, i.e. corporate Nigeria and the middle class.

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