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Bank of Industry offers N380bn syndicated loan to support MSMEs — plans to save 1.3m jobs

Tunde Ayodele      |     

Bank of Industry (BoI) has concluded a N380billion ($1billion) syndicated term loan in conjunction with international partners to further support Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) in the country.

The loan will be given to beneficiaries under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment towards economic recovery and sustainable growth.

It was learnt that the general MSME grant which will provide 100,000 MSMEs with one-off grants of N50,000 each and the Guaranteed Offtake Scheme, would engage approximately 100,000 businesses across the country to produce items typically manufactured in their locality, targeting 300,000 beneficiaries.

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, said  that the loan was to improve the capacity of the bank to effectively support Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSME) across key sectors of the Nigerian economy  with affordable loans of medium to long-term tenor, alongside moratorium benefits.

The Minister said that survival fund was estimated to save at least 1.3 million jobs across the country, saying that the successful implementation of the scheme so far had contributed immensely to quickly pulling Nigeria out of the Covid-19 induced recession.

Also, he explained in Abuja that there was an ongoing discussion with Dunn & Bradstreet to establish an SME risk rating agency -the SME Rating Agency of Nigeria (SMERAN), to provide an empirical basis towards analysing the eligibility of SMEs to access credit.

Adebayo noted that the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) had launched the Export Expansion Facility (EEF) under the Nigerian Energy Support Programme (NESP) to support the resilience of new and existing MSMEs to respond to the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic to retain and create more jobs, especially youth and women businesses through the Youth Export Development Programme (YEDP) and promoting women inclusiveness in non-oil export.

The Minister noted: “I will like to reiterate that our Ministry fully supports MSMEs, as demonstrated by our MSME Survival Fund Initiative which was launched in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic by the Federal Government as part of the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP); aimed at protecting MSME businesses from the shocks the Pandemic.

“The Payroll Support Scheme which aims to support MSMEs in meeting their payroll obligations and safeguard jobs by paying up to N50,000 to a maximum of 10 employees in each MSME for three months.”

The Minister said the National MSMEs Clinics also support the growth of small businesses across the country through the provision of critical infrastructure, with twenty-six of such clinics having impressive results

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Fidelity Bank boosts local rice production with N34bn

Mrs. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, Managing Director/CEO, Fidelity Bank Plc,

Fidelity Bank has facilitated the disbursement of over N34 Billion in direct credit to players in the Nigerian rice value chain.

The bank’s interventions in recent years have helped to unlock spontaneous financing opportunities for a large swathe of paddy rice farmers with significant contributions to the expansion of national paddy rice output.

Only recently, the bank part-financed the construction of a 400 metric tons per day mega rice mill in Kano state owned by the Gerawa Group of Companies.

Commenting on the development, Mrs. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, Managing Director/CEO, Fidelity Bank Plc, said, “Through our interventions in the rice space, we have created a positive impact in rural communities by way of farmer empowerment and employment generation. This is also in alignment with the business sustainability imperative of our banking business.”

Shedding light on the bank’s activities further down the value chain, Mrs. Onyeali-Ikpe stated that the bank directly financed the construction and installation of several integrated rice mills across different geo-political zones in Nigeria. These rice mills have a combined rice milling capacity in excess of 500,000 MT per annum.

Recognizing the importance of the last mile traders in the value chain, she noted, “We have also provided low-cost funds to rice traders to purchase rice from indigenous rice millers for sale to the final consumers. This has helped in stabilizing the prices of locally produced rice.”

Whilst stressing the importance of imbibing sustainability practices, Mrs. Onyeali-Ikpe points out that the bank has modeled effective social and environmental sustainability frameworks into its agribusiness deal structuring workflow to address social and environmental sustainability requirements.

This, she said, follows the CBN’s Sustainable Banking Principles and Sector Guideline, IFC Performance Standards and Equator Principles.

The bank’s activities have continued to receive recognition by operators, funding partners and all other actors in the agribusiness space.

At the Bankers’ Committee meeting of December 2019, for instance, Fidelity Bank was awarded 2nd position in Sustainable Agriculture Transaction of the year.

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Stakeholders express concerns over continued closure of land borders

President Buhari
—- say action hurting economy
Agitated stakeholders in the maritime industry have expressed concern over the continued closure of some border stations in the country.
According to them, this action is already affecting the ease of doing business in the country, as many enterprises have shut down, throwing thousands of people out of jobs.
It could be recalled that while the Seme border has reopened, the Idiroko border is yet to be opened, among others land borders that were opened by the Federal government after the prolonged closure.
However, the disturbed stakeholders believed that the border closure has not achieved its aim, especially, as the rate of smuggling of prohibited items has increased, unlike when the border was open.

They argued that the Federal Government only opened its borders with Benin, Cameroun, Chad and Niger in December 2020 for the movement of people while the movement of goods remained blocked.

The stakeholders warned that if the borders are not fully opened, the economy would be negatively affected with impacts on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) as many African countries may blacklist Nigeria this year 2022.

President of the Association of National Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tony Nwabunike, said more than 3,000 businesses have closed, with over 300,000 jobs lost due to the closure of some land borders to trading activities.

According to him, the reduction in trans-border trade contributes to the weakness of the naira.

Nwabunike claimed that keeping the borders closed where there are no security issues is a sign of non-compliance with the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) and African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) treaties, of which Nigeria is a signatory.

“And as a country, we should not be signing treaties and agreements we won’t comply with, because compliance concerns all of us.

“Nigeria, her agencies and private business operators all have a responsibility to be compliant. Let us all build a culture of National integrity on all fronts at home and in the eyes of the global trading community,” he said.

The ANLCA president urged the Federal Government to reopen all approved borders, particularly, in the Southwest and other areas with less threat of insurgency, to allow trading activities to resume with its accompanying benefits of economic growth and job creation.

A lecturer at the Nigeria Maritime University (NMU), Okerenkoko, Charles Okorefe, said while Nigeria continues to shut its borders to trading activities, the Port of Lome currently records 30 percent higher cargo throughput than Lagos ports, as investors and importers prefer to do business in other neighbouring countries.

Okorefe, who is also the author of ABC of Shipping and ports operation in Nigeria, said such imports end up in the Nigerian market despite the continued border closure, which he said has multiplied smuggling.

“This act of “protectionism” itself negates the spirit behind AfCFTA.

“So, going forward for 2022 and to enhance our presence in the comity of African trading nations, the Federal Government must eat the humble pie by reopening our closed borders. It is hurting our economy,” he said.
A maritime consultant, Olayemi Abass, pointed out that while the government’s prime targets were agricultural produce, finished goods and petroleum products, there is no data to support that the border closure has helped the local industries, especially in terms of import substitution.

“We cannot continue to take extreme measures, which hurt genuine businessmen and run counter to the letter and spirit of treaties and agreements signed by Nigeria.

“There is a need for concrete inter-agency dialogue with the Organised Private Sector to have a short, medium and long term plan to ensure proper cross border trade facilitation, which will engender security of life and property, improve the ease of doing business and our economy,” he stated.

A former Assistant Controller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Baritor Kpagih, said the border closure has been counter-productive to its aim, especially, as smuggling still persists in Nigeria despite the presence of customs officials.

He said the Benin Republic records a high import volume of parboiled rice cargoes, which are sent to Nigeria for consumption.

He questioned why the 41 import prohibited items flood the Nigerian market despite the presence of the special border patrol.

Kpagih stressed that the border closure is contrary to the ECOWAS trade law and could hurt Nigeria in AfCFTA, suggesting that there should be an urgent reopening of the closure, which has outlived its usefulness.

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