Broadening Opportunities of Government Funding of the Informal Sector

by Daisy Abiola Igaga

We begin by appreciating the Federal Government for the very laudable economic intervention programmes it has initiated in recent times. We consider these programmes as fundamental interventions towards the economic recovery of the Nigerian State. In spite of the sophisticated content of these programmes as well as the scope of delivery projected for the programmes, the criticism of government on economic progress and general development has not abated.

We do not intend to hold brief for the government. In a country where the insecurity situation is as abysmal as it is in Nigeria, the anti-government posture of the citizenry is given. However, it is important to avoid a narrative where we throw away the baby and the bathwater. It will be inimical to the interest of Nigeria if we do not applaud, and thereby seek to strengthen, the very laudable ongoing economic intervention programmes of the federal government. While the trader moni programme was laudable as an entirely Keynesian model for depressed economy, its investable amount for the individual was an absurdity. We hold that when you give a market woman or man the sum of ten thousand Naira to improve his business, you only help the said trader to pay part of his or her debt. The recent intervention funds earn our accolade as the amount loaned convey genuine capacity upgrading for the recipient.

To that effect, it became fundamental to put forward this interaction so that we can deepen public awareness of these programmes. As an extension of this, this discussion is considered imperative to avoid these programmes being hijacked by tie wearing city based red neck executives while the target recipients are alienated by lack of awareness that these programmes are ongoing. We also know that these programmes are many and the few persons who are minimally briefed in the public space are confused about which of these programmes are real. You will appreciate the dimension of falsified information and fraud being engendered in the social space presently. To that effect, most of the information being shared through social media are largely received with suspicion. Further to this, most of the peasant farmers and traders dwelling in the rural villages and communities have no access to WhatsApp compliant phones.

Part of the objective of this discussion is to benefit the public with direct insight from your office on the various programmes that are in the social space and how the people can have access to these programmes. Specifically, we are aware of the AGSMIES programme and would draw analysis from it. The AGSMIES programme is targeted at Agriculture, Small and Medium enterprises. As organs of civil society with the main focus of sharing in the pains and needs of the people, we inform that these programmes benefit the “city-based populace” rather than the real or integrated farmers resident in the rural communities.  We classify the former as “city-based populace” because many of them are not in the category of the full-time farmers in the rural settings.

Speaking from the perspective of political economy, we submit that when these funds are misapplied in this context, it constitutes a regression of the expected optimum output of the initiative. We posit that the mono product character of our economy is the most pathetic undoing of Nigeria presently. While building technological and industrial capacity is highly recommended by experts of development economics, the need to explore the benefit of our environmental advantage calls for maximum application of our lands and waters consequent to its rich endowment for agricultural purposes. The AGSMIES programme is targeted at effectively and concretely diversifying the Nigerian economy. We aver that industrialisation must recourse to secondary level conversion. To that effect, the symbiotic relationship between primary agricultural production and the evolvement of industrial manufacture is self-evident.

Thus, when we mismanage, misdirect or misapply the opportunities generated by the present government’s economic intervention project, we sustain or enlarge the already terrible circle of poverty in Nigeria. It is the vision of curtailing the very appalling dimension of poverty in Nigeria by strengthening the present programmes that necessitated this advocacy intervention.

Further to the wider audience provided by the cooperative/civil society model applied herein, we posit that the cooperative model provides a more effective perspective for debt recovery. The cooperative group have an institutional and corporate identity which the state can effectively apply in enforcing repayment of loans. The cooperative model will also reduce the number of falsified identities presently characteristic of some of the beneficiaries and applicants for these facilities. We are emphatic on a coordinated approach that effectively outlines a repayment plan as the final outcome of the programme is dependent on the recovery of the loans. This is critical to recycling the loans and sustaining the entire programme overtime.

We must appreciate the seriousness of purpose that underpin the implementation of the AGSMIES Programme. While we will urge for the inclusion of the cooperative model in the disbursement perspective, the expected delivery of this session is a more inclusive approach to implementing these programmes. We applaud the NAESA Bank in Edo State for the anticipated opening of extension offices in Edo Central and Edo North. With cooperative and civil society groups from both senatorial zones in attendance here, we trust that the information provided by the NAESA directorate will substantially guide the people of these zones on having access to the AGSMIES Facility. Once again, we argue that irrespective of the offices at Auchi and Ekpoma, we still have to contend with the rural, uneducated farmer being provided with access to these facilities.

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