By Olasunkanmi Akoni

THIS could be celebration time to some individuals in Ikorodu as they are the lucky beneficiaries of a poverty alleviation gesture by the Lagos State government. As part of efforts to check youth involvement in crimes and other undesirable engagements which has been attributed to poverty resulting from lack of opportunities to engage in legitimate gainful endeavours, the state government has in recent  times taken steps to encourage individuals in various communities in the state to be legitimately self-employed. One way it has gone about this is to encourage the already thriving commercial tricycle transport business popularly known as Keke Marwa(or Keke NAPEP).

In fact,it has even gone ahead to finance the importation of an improved and safer type of the vehicle  which it shares out to some youths in selected rural areas of the state. One of the latest beneficiary of the government’s poverty alleviating gesture are youths in Ikorodu.

The recently imported tricycles before they were shared to beneficiaries
The recently imported tricycles before they were shared to beneficiaries

Government’s involvement in this regard entailed providing loans worth N7 million in an effort to provide access to financial services to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the city of Ikorodu.

The loan was said to have been facilitated by Ms. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, a member of the House of Representatives. During the presentation of cheques to some of the beneficiaries of the scheme, Ms. Dabiri-Erewa described poverty as “multi-dimensional” and called for effective implementation of microfinance schemes as a means to address poverty in Nigeria.

According to her, microfinance was a vital instrument for self-empowerment, enabling the poor to become agents of economic ‘change’.

On Friday, September 11, 2009, Lagos State government through the Ministry of Rural Development, as part of its ongoing efforts at alleviating poverty, distributed 200 additional tricycles to rural dwellers in Ikorodu Local Government Area of the state.

The state government had about three months ago, begun the distribution with 82 tricycles tagged, “Lagos Rural Transport Initiative” (LARUTI) in batches of two to the first short-listed beneficiaries in other to test run the tricycles and collate information from the beneficiaries on the performance of the scheme.

Making the distribution at the premises of  Ikorodu West Local Council Development Areas (LCDA), the Commissioner for Rural Development, Prince Lanre Balogun, said that the programme was an inter-ministerial effort with the Ministry of Transport, Rural Development, Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation (WAPA), conceived especially for rural dwellers who do not have a very good means of transporting their goods from their various farms to the market.

He said that the programme was also conceived to alleviate poverty in the state. “The tricycles are meant to assist the beneficiaries to become the managers of their own companies and not to become  employees of another person’s company,” he said.

The beneficiaries, he informed, were those who had paid N100,000 into their personal accounts with the Sterling Bank Plc, which was partnering with the state government on the scheme. “We received over 1,000 applications, but those receiving their tricycles today are those who had N100,000 in their accounts with the Sterling Bank Plc.

The money was paid by each beneficiary into his or her account with the Sterling Bank Plc and it serves as the down payment for the collection of the tricycles by each beneficiary,” Balogun said.  He said each beneficiary would pay N14,000 weekly to meet up with the N640,000 total amount for each tricycle before the bank could hand him or her the original documents.

 The new look tricycles.
The new look tricycles.

The Commissioner said the state government had imported spare parts for the tricycles and established 59 repair centres in the event of any tricycle developing fault. “We will soon commence the training of mechanics that would be repairing faulty tricycles,” he said. He assured the operators that no union would harass them over dues until they had paid the balance. “The state government had held meetings with the various unions on this issue,” he said.

Responding, the president of LARUTI beneficiaries in the state, Amoo Ola said: “With this programme, 200 Lagos residents will be empowered in the next few months and also deriving their daily income from the scheme”.

According to him, “the programme will improve access to easy, cost-effective rural transport scheme that can serve the need of inner communities.” He added that: “It will also improve and enhance economic opportunity of disadvantaged citizens through providing alternative livelihood and making unemployed but able-bodied men business owners”.

Alhaji Seibu Akande, one of the beneficiaries, said: “I paid the stipulated N100,000 about a year ago, but after some time nothing was forthcoming. I became apprehensive, thinking that it was a fraud”. Akande said he was happy that the government had fulfilled its promise by giving them the tricycles, adding that they would abide by the rules.

Another beneficiary, Mr Nurudeen Olagunju, said he would definitely remit to the bank weekly, the N14,000 expected of him. “I do not know which one would be allocated to me since we have the one for N640,000.00, N500,000.00 and N350,000 each. Whichever, I hope to make the best use of it so that others could benefit from the scheme,” he said.

Yet another beneficiary, Mrs Dolapo Dawodu, lauded the state government for making real its promise on the scheme. “It is a very good idea to help the poor people under the state government’s poverty alleviation programme (PAP),” she said.

CITY BRIEFS

Bill on building industry coming
A bill to bring sanity into the building industry by disallowing indiscriminate construction of buildings without approval has passed the second reading in the Lagos State House of Assembly.

The bill tagged the “Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning Development Bill, 2009”, according to lawmakers, would ensure that problems that led to demolition of structures in the state would be removed.

Mr Babtunde Ayeni, Oshodi/Isolo 1 constituency while making his contribution said that if the law had been in place, those whose houses and shops were demolished by the state government would not have fallen victims.

Ayeni explained that the law could have spelt out all the rules on where to build or not from the beginning and there would not have been cases of indiscriminate buildings.

He said that the law was timely in view of the mega-city status the state was working towards achieving.

Majority Leader, Mr Kolawole Taiwo while stating some merits of the bill said that there were no longer rural areas in the state, adding that, the law would help in planning the state as urbanisation continued to spread.

Civil Defence boss warns on vandalisation
As  Muslims continue with the Ramadan celebrations, the Lagos State Commandant Civil Defense Corps, Commandant Dauda Danladi Mungadi has called on the public to be vigilante and disagree with any act that would aid vandalisation.

Speaking through his spokesman, Wachin James, he said vandals may seize the opportunity of the festive period to engage in vandalisation of property. “There is need for us to be vigilante bearing in mind that vandals may use this celebration and the long break to vandalise public properties and pipelines, as well as make away with the properties and the vandalised products,” he said.

The Commandant who said some members of his Anti-vandal Cracks Squad have been deployed to various areas urged the general public to co-operate with them. “As at now, many of them have been deployed to various volatile areas where vandalism is most likely to take place.

The intelligence group has been redeployed to various parts of the state to watch out for criminals,” he informed. According to him: “This is aimed at making sure that government properties are protected”.

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