By Suzzy Tolofari
The Bank of Industry (BoI) and Ebonyi State Government have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of N2 billion matching fund to empower Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the state.
The Managing Director of BOI, Mr Olukayode Pitan said this at a meeting between the bank and Gov. David Umahi of Ebonyi on Friday in Abuja.
Pitan said that the bank would work with the state to ensure that it provided training for the SMEs.
He said that the training would also be for some civil servants who were about to retire on how to form a company or private enterprise.
“Like in Ebony, where the emphasis is on solid minierals, we have a team that does that; we also plan to provide training for the miners.
“We are going to have joint assessment of the project to be financed because not every project can be financed automatically.
“This project is a starting point; N1billion from Ebony State Government and N1 billion from BoI, but if we are able to use this money very quickly, nothing is stopping us from having a phase two and three.
“Our people must be empowered, there are too many graduates moving around without jobs. Graduates without jobs are becoming dangerous armed robbers.
“This is what we are trying to ensure that it does not get to that point. Let us empower people and lift them up and we will work with Ebony state to do that,” Pitan said.
On process of accessing loans by young graduates, Pitan said that the bank would review its strategy.
He said that the orientation of Nigerians needed to change, adding that “intervention funds are not their own part of the national cake.’’
“If the state wants to empower you, you can’t take the money and not pay back because once you are able to pay back, the governor will be encouraged to do more.
“So the mentality of Nigerians that take money for this kind of projects has to change.
“With the type of training and curriculum that we have in universities, some have to be amended and they need to begin to teach entrepreneurial classes so that graduates do not have to work for formal organisations as employees.
“We are making sure that we support all the states of the federation on macro, medium and small enterprises,” he said.
The Executive Governor of Ebony State, Mr David Umahi said that it was challenging that BoI’s loan could only be accessed in six months.
Umahi said that the time frame of six months in accessing BoI’s loans was discouraging and therefore should be discouraged in the country.
“We in Ebony feel very strongly that we need your help but about two weeks ago, something frightened us when we met with one of your financial consultants that told us that it takes about six months to access your fund.
“I don’t think that the way and manner we manage our financial institutions will assist this nation to grow the economy.
“The cost of funds are high to borrow money from financial institutions, it is like you are passing through the eye of a needle to get funds.’’
Umahi called for the review of financial institutions operational policies if the nation’s economy must grow.
He said that the Federal Government’s talk of ease of doing business was not just about the ministries or state governments, but mostly about the financial institutions.
According to him, Ebony has natural agricultural farmlands and large deposit of solid minerals but lacks the capacity to grow them.
He said that the state with the large deposit of Lead and Zinc, could only cover 10 per cent of its landmark.