Gov Otti inaugurates Abia State Co-operative Support Scheme for Nano, Micro-busineses 



…Targets women, youths and 100,000 small businesses in 3years


By Foster Obi


Abia State Governor, Dr Alex Otti today launched the Abia State Cooperative Support Scheme, and Disbursement of Credit Facilities to 10, 000 Nano and Micro businesses drawn from the 184 wards in the State at the International Conference Centre, Umuahia.

In a welcome speech titled, “Dreams Are the New Capital”, the Governor noted with a great sense of fulfilment, this very important event which marks yet another milestone in the community-oriented economic rejuvenation agenda of the present administration.

According to him, The Abia State Cooperative Support Scheme represents the practical commitment of the State Government “to support our army of nano, micro and small-scale entrepreneurs to build new levels of success on the strength of the leverage provided them by public-sector driven initiatives such as this.”

He highlighted that the Scheme will take off today with the disbursement of interest-free loan to 10, 000 individuals running productive nano and micro businesses across the 184 wards in the State, adding , “It is instructive to note that 70% of the beneficiaries in this present batch are women and young people who have shown great industry by doing so much with very little resources.”

The Governor said that through this Scheme, the State Government will, between today and the next few days, reach a minimum of 50 different entrepreneurs in every ward in the State, offering them the financial support they need to grow their businesses, earn money to support their families, and contribute even more to the economic growth of the communities where they live.

“The Abia State Cooperative Support Scheme has been set up to simultaneously address the financial difficulties owners of small-scale businesses in the rural and urban communities often face; and also send a clear message to everyone that the only way to draw the attention, and support of the Government is by engaging in productive ventures.

“Our administration is very particular about developing the business-consciousness of the people at the grassroots because it is the most effective way to tackle the crisis of endemic poverty, and worrisome unemployment rate. As we had said many times before now, Ndi Abia are very industrious and will move mountains if given the right support. Today, we are now matching words with action by identifying no less than 10, 000 hardworking individuals who shall immediately benefit from a one billion naira interest-free credit facility to support their enterprises in different parts of the State.

“Thousands of the beneficiaries selected for this batch are petty traders, farmers, and artisans who have over the years toiled on their own without the kind of structured support that their peers from other parts of the world take for granted. The Abia State Government has now taken the bull by the horn because what is good for the micro and small-scale entrepreneurs in South East Asia is also good for our people.

“Elsewhere, this money could have been disbursed as cash transfer to the same people. The effect on aggregate spending would be the same. However, the difference is that this kind of spending will only increase consumption without necessarily stimulating production. Our model is geared towards improving production, creating jobs and reducing poverty to the barest minimum. It is akin to the age-old difference between giving someone fish and teaching him how to fish.

“Our target, beyond the present number of beneficiaries, is to reach about 100, 000 businesses directly over the next 36 months because we are optimistic that today’s beneficiaries will put in honest effort to repay the loans in time so that others can benefit. Each of us must appreciate that the success of this scheme lies entirely in the willingness of beneficiaries to repay what had been borrowed, he affirmed.

He noted further, “I am, however, convinced that if programmes like this have worked successfully in more than 60 countries across the world over the last 50 years including Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia, it then follows that we can effectively replicate the success of the community-oriented microcredit scheme in our dear State.

“The use of community-based cooperative societies for the disbursement of these loans is very strategic for effective ownership and control of the scheme. Members are expected to have it at the back of their minds that when an individual deliberately defaults in repaying what had been borrowed, the resource pool is depleted and the chances of other members benefitting become thinner.”

Underlining his administration’s manifesto from inception and how words have been matched with action, Governor Otti said, “You may recall that at the inception of this administration over a year ago, we made it clear that the ultimate measure of our success as a Government shall be in how our projects, programmes and policies ultimately translate to improved living condition for the common people. This is why we are very strategic in our choice of infrastructural development projects.

“I am glad that in the last 13 months, great strides have been recorded in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of long abandoned roads in urban and rural communities. Economic activities have since resumed along the Port Harcourt Road corridor in Aba; and around the Osisioma-Ekeakpara axis, things are changing drastically just few weeks after reconstruction work began.

“Everywhere you go, many observers are in agreement that there is a genuine determination to remove the environmental constraints that inhibited the creative energy of our people for so long. Beyond what we are doing in the major urban centres, our commitment to bring succour to the rural populace through strategic-impact projects remains unparalleled.

“The reconstruction of Umuahia-Uzuakoli-Ohafia, Arochukwu-Ndi Okereke-Ozuabam Roads, and the construction of Nunya-Eluama Road bear eloquent testimonies to our determination to open new frontiers of rewarding opportunities for millions of people, especially in the agricultural sector.

“In all of these, our plan is to build a resilient support system for social prosperity. It is heart-warming to report that for many savvy investors, including Abia sons and daughters at home and in the Diaspora, our dear State has emerged as a top contender when investment destinations are being considered. We are glad that already, we are noticing some progress on many fronts especially in manufacturing, sports and retail trade.

“The Abia State Cooperative Support Scheme aligns perfectly with our strategic development agenda which is geared at improving the welfare of the general populace. Specifically, the projection is that the injection of about a billion naira into the economy of the various communities in the State through the interest-free revolving loan scheme will ultimately lead to a jump in the volume of agricultural outputs brought to the markets in the short to medium term, new orders for business inputs, and a measurable rise in the value of the gross domestic product of the local communities.

“We shall not just disburse the funds and walk away. Appropriate mechanism for monitoring the application of the funds, and the impact in the communities through periodic reviews and assessment has been set up. The Government is proposing to build a unique data-driven economic development model around this initiative so every feedback we get from the stakeholders shall be very helpful.

“As soon as we begin to see a measurable rise in business consciousness amongst our people at the grassroots, we shall go into partnership with international development institutions and agencies to increase the pool of funds available for borrowing so that instead of initial 100, 000 direct beneficiaries projected for the next 36 months, we can raise the estimate to about a million, or more.

“We shall continue to give special consideration to the women and young people because that is where we are projected to have the most impact especially in the areas of poverty alleviation and job creation. The expectation is that through these two very important demographic groups, we shall empower households economically and further unleash the creative energy of our young population.”

Encouraging those who worked on the scheme, Governor Otti said, “Let me specially appreciate the Coordinator of the Scheme, Hon Ishmael Onuoha, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Cooperatives, for his diligence and commitment to the success of this initiative. Commendations are also due to other stakeholder groups in the 17 LGAs and across the184 wards for their hard work that brought us where we are.

“I would like to encourage us to continue in the same spirit of collaboration so as to collectively fulfil our obligations to the people who look up to us to provide them the legitimate leverage to dream and thrive.

“It must be reiterated that we are building a new leadership culture in the State. Never again will it be acceptable for a tiny group to appropriate the wealth of an entire community to themselves while the majority wallow in lack. While I can guarantee that under my watch, every stakeholder would get what is legitimately due them, the administration shall be more favourably disposed to the creation of opportunities that our people can leverage on to grow, whether they are politically connected or not.”

“We are sincerely committed to doing everything humanly possible to close the development gap between the State and some of its peers in other parts of the world. We will never accept that we are inferior to those who masterminded the rapid socio-economic transformation of their societies across Asia and other parts of the world.

“To the beneficiaries, I congratulate you, and believe that you shall not block the path for others by refusing to repay what shall be lent to you. Do not forget that even within your cooperatives, there are hundreds of others waiting in the line to benefit.

“I can assure you that if you do what is expected of you, multiple windows of opportunities shall be opened for you. We shall be counting on your good judgement and hope that you do not fail us,” he declared.




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