Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode made history on January 26 when he disbursed about N1 billion to 705 beneficiaries of the Pilot Scheme of the N25 billion Employment Trust Fund (ETh), an initiative of his administration to drive the growth of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
The disbursement ceremony, which was held at the LTV Blue Roof, Ikeja, Lagos, was attended by ETF board members who are men with proven track records.
Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, former Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), is the chairman, while Mr. Akintunde Oyebode is the Executive Secretary. Other Executive members include Mr. Dele Martins; Mrs. Bilikis Adebiyi-Abiola; Mr. Otto Orondaam; Mrs Olufunmi Olatunde Daudu; Mr. Tunde Bank Anthony; Mr. Micheal Popoola Ajayi and Lagos State Commissioner for Wealth Creation and Employment, Mr. Tunde Durosinmi-Etti.
The partners include Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), which verified all the applications and auditted the processes, Fate Foundation, LEAP Africa, Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI), Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBJZ), National Automobile Technicians Association (NATA) and Cooperative Societies, which provided applicants for the pilot scheme through their membership.
At the ceremony, Ambode urged the beneficiaries to utilise the funds responsibly to grow their businesses, create jobs for the unemployed youths and contribute to the growth of the Lagos economy.
On the setting up of the N25 billion ETh, the governor said his administration identified unemployment as a major socio-economic challenge facing Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole in the course of the electoral campaign, and thus prioritised job creation.
He said the setting up of the ETh was a direct response to address the challenge of unemployment as well as provide support to the youths, entrepreneurs, artisans and other unemployed residents of the State.
“We have kept our word. We created a dedicated Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment, whose mission is to promote and sustain en-trepreneurship and employment,” the Governor said.
Ambode, while commending the Board and Management of the Fund for embarking on a comprehensive review of the business environment and developing a strategic framework and operating guidelines to ensure the sustainable and successful management of these funds, said the successful disbursement was a product of the painstaking effort.
He said the funds are targeted at small and medium scale businesses and individuals including carpenters, hairdressers, electricians, automobile parts repairers, block makers, bakers, fashion designers, cake makers, food sellers, kerosene retailers, mobile money agents, painters, plumbers, photographers and light manufacturers of liquid soaps and water, among others.
“These beneficiaries are making history as the first set of beneficiaries of this Employment Trust Fund, and my charge to you is simple: You must use these funds responsibly, grow your businesses, create jobs for our unemployed youths and contribute to the growth of the Lagos State GDP. The idea is that for every N1 million we disburse, we should create a minimum of five jobs around that business value chain.
“These loans have been provided at a very affordable rate of 5% per annum, far cheaper than the prevailing bank interest of 25% per annum. This is our modest way of refiating the Lagos economy, creating jobs and setting our youths gainfully occupied. Those of you here today, the first beneficiaries of this initiative, will be the agents through which our country can overcome its current economic challenges,” Governor Ambode said.
The governor also enjoined market women and female artisans to take advantage of the opportunity as his administration was particularly interested in supporting women in business.
“I also implore the Employment Trust Fund to pay special attention to the Entertainment Industry and the Tech Hubs in Sabo, Yaba area. These are new areas with huge potential for growth and job creation, he said.
Ambode also expressed optimism that the target by the Board to empower at least 100,000 micro, small and medium enterprises in due course was achievable and that the multiplier effect would be the creation of over 300,000 direct and 600,000 jobs by 2019.
“Now the conversation is this and this is the most important aspect of it, the money we are giving to the beneficiaries is not Akinwunmi Ambode’s money. It is tax- payer’s money and so, beneficiaries must use the had for what itis meantfor and pay back as at when due. That is my charge to you because when you pay back on time, we have money to ive to others By doing that, this initiative will .get to many as possible people and that is our target.
“We want it to get to many Lagosians irrespective of your creed, colour or background, so far you apply and you are able to meet the requirement, then you have it” the Governor said.
The Chairman, Board of ETF, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, said the presentation of cheques to beneficiaries was in fulfillment of the promise made by Ambode during the election and a confirmation of many to come.
She recalled that while canvassing for votes, the need to provide jobs was clearly on the mind of the Governor, and according to her, he wasted no time in setting up the ETF Board made up of people with proven track record, as well as transferring N6.25billion for the initiative to kick off, while the Board ensured that the process was fair and transparent with no favour as to party, religion, tribe or faith, and covered all the 57 Local Government Areas and Local Council Development Areas in the State.
“While we were trying to come up with the -necessary procedures, Governor Ambode kept telling us to hurry up to start disbursing the loans to residents which signified his good intention and he has also given us the mandate to make the disbursement a monthly affair to make the fund get to as many residents as possible,” Mrs Omotgui-Okauru said.
One of the beneficiaries, Ahmed Ojikutu thanked Ambode for the initiative, saying that it was gratifying to note that the process was very transparent.
He assured that beneficiaries would reciprocate the forward-thinking gesture of the State Government by utilizing the fund judiciously to grow their businesses.
He said: “This is indeed a promise kept by the Governor. When next Governor Ambode tells us anything, we will believe him and I want to sincerely thank him on behalf of all the beneficiaries.”
Another beneficiary, Mr. Chike Charles Obi, expressed appreciation to the State Government, especially Governor Ambode for fulfilling his promise, saying that most of them did not initially believe that the offer was real, but just applied.
He said the development was a confirmation that Ambode has brought real change to governance, and thanked the Board of the ETF for being transparent and unbiased especially in choosing the beneficiaries.
“When I heard the news of the plan of the State Government to make funds available to the people to grow their businesses, I felt it was just one of the gimmick of government. But then, I said let me just try to. apply because it takes me nothing to apply and today, that bold step has become a reality.
“I want to sincerely thank Governor Ambode because throughout the selection process, there was no discrimination as to tribe or religion. This is a good day for Lagos and I thank the Governor once again,” Obi said.
Mrs. Modupe Shukurat Alausa another beneficiary, urged her co-beneficiaries to encourage government by using the fund for the purpose meant, saying that it is in paying back as at when due that government will be encouraged to continue with the laudable initiative.
Alausa who is a petty trader, also thanked Ambode for running an all inclusive government as exemplified by the N25billion ETF,saying that no doubt, the loan given to her would go a long way in boosting her business, as well as change her life positively.
Source: The NationLagos State Government Starts Plan to Create 900,000 Jobs by ngcareers