Southwest MSMEs yet to benefit from N50b Covid-19 bailout funds


SOUTHWEST stakeholders operating micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have expressed outrage over their inability to access the N50 billion bailout funds released by the federal government to cushion the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on small businesses.

The Chairman of Lagos State branch of the Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME), Dr. Adams Adebayo who disclosed this to The Nation stated that none of his members got the loan, stressing that the process was not transparent enough.The N50b Covid-19 bailout fund is the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) targeted credit facility/stimulus package to support households and MSME; that were affected by the pandemic.

According to him, majority of its members did received alert that the Covid-19 loan have been approved for them but was yet to receive the fund thus raising suspicions among their ranks that something may be amiss.

He pointed out that the only loan some people received in Lagos was the household loans, which is between N300, 000 to N750, 000.

“All our 1,600 members in Lagos are dully registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), and have BVN which is the most important requirement, though majority of us received alert that we are qualified for the loan. But ever since, we have been waiting for disbursement, which is not forthcoming. I still find it difficult to identify what went wrong. Majority that I know in Nasarawa, Kebbi, Borno, Jigawa and a couple of other states have told me that their members got the money, but my question is why is it that none of my members got the money.”

Echoing similar sentiments, the Chairman of NASME, Ogun State chapter, Dr. Longe Akinwunmi also revealed that none of the registered members have been able to access the Covid-19 loan for MSMEs. “I am aware that most MSMEs from Gombe, Niger states have gotten the money. However, we have notified the national headquarters of NASME that none of us in Ogun state benefited from the funds and this is not good enough.”

Also reacting, the Chairman of NASME, Oyo State, Afolabi Akeem Abolade said the situation is different as a couple of SMEs in Oyo were able to access the funds, though no specific number of persons were mentioned.

It would be recalled that the CBN had through the Director for Corporate Communications, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, recently announced that the apex bank had made a disbursement of over N49 billion out of N50 billion targeted facility for households and small businesses to over 80,000 families and households across the country.

In a related development, the federal government has announced plans to empower over 333,000 artisans across the country with its MSME survival fund.

Speaking at the launch of the MSME Survival Fund, the Vice Chairperson of the steering committee, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, said the fund is one of the Buhari-led administration’s efforts to cushion the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on MSMEs and the business community in the country.

The fund, she revealed, is under the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) to support business operators with a N30, 000 grant, stressing that the scheme aims to provide for 9,009 beneficiaries in each of the 36 states of the federation and the FCT by leveraging duly registered and recognised associations and clusters of registered artisans and transport organisations.

She said there is also a guaranteeing off-take priority products of the federal government across the country to purchase certain products directly from small business owners and a payroll support scheme expected to assist about 500,000 vulnerable MSMEs in meeting payroll obligations of between N30, 000 to N50, 000 per employee over a three month period.

In his remarks, the Managing Director, Bank of Industry (BOI), Kayode Pitan, said the bank is working tirelessly with the federal government to get this fund on the way, saying that the fund divided into three streams would see the first stream disbursing funds to only artisans beginning on the 1st of October, 2020 till 15th of October, 2020.

Some of the states covered by the first stream according to him include, FCT, Lagos, Ekiti, Kaduna, Borno, Kano, Bauchi, Anambra, Abia, Rivers, Plateau and Delta while the second stream taking off on the 19th of October, 2020 till 31st of October 2020, would cover Edo, Ogun, Ondo, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Enugu and Ebonyi state with the third stream expected to take off from 19th- 21st of October, 2020 covering Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Zamfara, Yobe, Sokoto, Nassarawa, Niger, Imo, Oyo, Osun, Jigawa, Gombe and Benue states respectively.

He said 45 percent of the fund would go to women in businesses while 5 percent would be reserved for people with special needs.