The Federal Government has so far disbursed about N12bn to boost the businesses of 1.2 million petty traders under its Trader-Moni initiative.
The Executive Director, Micro Enterprises, Bank of Industry, Mrs Toyin Adeniji, gave the figure during a chat with journalists on Friday in Abuja.
She said the disbursement of the loan was part of the current administration’s drive to empower over two million petty traders across the country, with each state having a total of at least 30,000 beneficiaries.
The scheme being implemented by the Bank of Industry allows each beneficiary to get an interest-free loan of between N10, 000 to N15, 000.
The interest-free loan is one of the social intervention programmes under the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
Adeniji said the ongoing Trader Moni programme was not a vote-buying measure employed by Buhari ahead of the 2019 general elections.
She stated there was no way the programme could have been set up primarily to secure votes as alleged since it was one of the components of the Federal Government’ Enterprises and Empowerment Programme started in 2016.
She said, “Trader-Moni is a microcredit loan for petty traders designed to meet the need of the larger population of Nigerian micro-enterprises that do not meet the more stringent starting requirements of the bank verification number and bank accounts.
“Qualified petty traders start at N10, 000, they progress to N15, 000, N20, 000, N50, 000 and then N100, 000.
“As they pay back the preceding amount, they automatically qualify for the next loan. Over 1.2 million petty traders have benefitted till date and we have disbursed about N12bn.”
Adeniji noted that the need to come up with the GEEP initiative was borne out of the discovery that out of all bank loans given in the last five years in Nigeria, less than one per cent had gone to small scale business owners.
She said, “GEEP has two primary goals, access to finance and financial inclusion. We need to provide capital to these groups in a highly methodical manner. This is access to finance.
“GEEP results to date have been encouraging. Since launching the programme, we have provided these loans to over 1.5 million Nigerians in over 2,600 markets and clusters across the 36 states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory with over 4,000 agents.
“About 53 per cent of our beneficiaries on the GEEP programme are female and 46 per cent of our beneficiaries are below the age of 35.
She added, “GEEP leverages private-sector-driven agent networks that are spread across the 36 states to enumerate beneficiaries.
“Agents are prohibited from requesting any information not listed in the criteria for each facility.”
On what was being done to ensure proper repayments of the loan since some of the beneficiaries might see it as their share of funds from the government coffers, she said that robust infrastructure had been set up to enable payment and recovery of the loans.