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FG distributes N66bn to 1.2 Nigerians— Minister

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FG distributes N66bn to 1.2 Nigerians--- Minister

The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Mariam Katagum, has said that federal government has disbursed the sum of N66 billion to 1.2 million Nigerians under its Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMES) Survival Fund and Guarantee Off-Take Scheme.

Katagum disclosed this at a town hall meeting of beneficiaries of the MSME Survival Fund and the Guaranteed Off-Take Scheme in Abuja on Tuesday.

According to the minister, the programme under the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) has disbursed the amount directly to the beneficiaries.

The purpose of the meeting is to highlight the scheme’s achievements in the country and to receive beneficiaries’ feedback on all tracks of the scheme.

The meetings which took place simultaneously in Lagos, Kano, Bauchi, Enugu and Edo, also served as a medium to sensitise the public to the advantages of the interventions.

Mrs Katagum said the scheme was borne out of the need to stimulate the economy post lockdown, especially for small and medium-scale businesses and self-employed individuals previously gainfully employed, NAN reported.

She added that it created production opportunities for MSMEs and provided conditional grants to distressed businesses and self-employed individuals who were strained with payment of salaries during COVID-19.

Mrs Katagum said that the anticipated impact of the programme was to directly engage 100,000 MSMEs in the production sector and save 1.3 million jobs, having self-employed entrepreneurs, and micro and small businesses registered in Nigeria as target beneficiaries.

The minister said that the implementation of the survival fund across the five tracks yielded positive results.

She named the tracks as Payroll Support Scheme, Artisan and Transport Scheme, Formalisation Support Scheme, General MSME Grants Scheme, and Guaranteed Off-take Scheme.

“Under the Payroll Support Scheme, the target was to augment the payroll obligations of MSMEs in the health, production, education, hospitality, and food production sectors.

“In total, 490,408 employees received between N30,000 and N50,000 as three months’ salaries in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“The Artisan and Transport Scheme was designed to provide a one-off N30,000 grant to 333,000 beneficiaries.

“We currently have 398,260 self-employed individuals and MSMEs who have benefitted across the 36 states and the FCT,’’ she said.

Mrs Katagum said that the CAC Formalisation Support Scheme had achieved 100 per cent as 250,000 businesses had been successfully registered across the 36 states and the FCT.

“The General MSME Grants Scheme gave a one-off N50,000 grant to MSMEs and the target was 100,000 MSMEs. A total of 82,491 businesses have benefited from the scheme.

“Similarly, the Guaranteed Off-take Scheme (GOS) recorded a total of 37,024 beneficiary businesses out of the target of 100,000 beneficiaries.

“Under this scheme, the off-take items were products such as face masks, hand sanitisers, food items among others from micro and small businesses across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT.

“These items were later handed over to the state governments and the FCT for onward distribution to schools, hospitals, NGOs, as well as other public and private institutions.

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“Overall, the fund has disbursed the sum of N66,000,020,000 directly to 1,258,183 beneficiaries, including those registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission,’’ Mrs Katagum said.

She, however, said that there was an initial lack of trust by the beneficiaries as it required obtaining their details, including BVN.

“The above is closely related to the initial apathy by Nigerians on government intervention programmes as they assumed that one needed to know someone to benefit from the scheme.

“There was a heavy reliance on the use of Information Communication Technology for transparency and traceability, which also left the programme susceptible to attempts at infiltration by internet scammers.

“There were also instances of multiple applications, using forged documentation, fake beneficiaries, and attempts to bribe officials to bypass the processes,’’ she said.

Mrs Katagum urged beneficiaries who failed to deliver their items to do so or face prosecution.

She said “under the Guaranteed Off-take Scheme, 19,928 beneficiaries failed to deliver their items after receiving the 30 per cent mobilisation fee, thereby breaching their contract with the Federal Government.

“At the national level, we had some deviant cases of 19,928, where MSMEs that were paid the initial mobilisation of 30 per cent for GOS failed to supply the items, thereby negating the bonds they signed with the Federal Government.

“It should be noted that despite mass text messages (SMS) sent at least three times to the defaulters and the opening of a dedicated account at BOI for the refund of the initial sum, many of the defaulters have failed to return the initial amount.

“The Steering Committee has directed the appropriate agencies to commence the process of recovering such monies and possibly prosecuting the defaulters, as they have blocked the chances of other MSMEs that would have benefited from the Scheme,’’ Mrs Katagum said.

Earlier, Tola Adekunle-Johnson, Special Assistant to the President on MSMEs and Project Coordinator MSME Survival Fund and Guaranteed Off-Take Scheme, said there was initial setback occasioned by initial public mistrust and apathy for the scheme.

He said this resulted in many several applicants failing to complete their registration.

Mr Adekunle-Johnson, however, said that it had set the stage for the second phase of implementation where more public interest was shown in the scheme.

Some of the beneficiaries of the survival fund commended the Federal Government for the scheme, noting that it provided the needed succour during the COVID-19 era.

Pius Nnamani, National Organising Secretary, Amalgamated Commercial Tricycle and Motorcycle Owners Repairs and Riders Association of Nigeria (ACTOMORAN) said the scheme helped their members to upscale their businesses.

According to him, the support which helped them during the COVID-19 pandemic, saw a lot of us improving our businesses.

Idoko Sunday, manager, Zuel Agro Business outfit, said that the grants received from the scheme assisted the company in paying the staff during the lockdown.

Adeyemi Osasuwaya, representative of National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), described the survival fund as timely in view of the nature of services the association rendered.

“We are happy with what the government is doing and we want them to continue to do more and pray to God to strengthen the Nigerian government to do more,’’ he said.

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