By Victoria Ojeme
The Bank of Industry has unfolded plans to empower a total of 110,000 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in the North-Eastern part of the country with the sum of N2.4bn.
There are six states that made up the North-East region of Nigeria. The states are Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba.
The move is part of strategies to reduce the level of poverty in the region which has been badly affected by the negative impact of the activities of insurgents.
Since 2009, nearly 15 million people have been affected by the Boko Haram conflict and the resulting military operations in North East Nigeria.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, an estimated 27,000 lives have been lost and 1.8 million people displaced; of which nearly 80 per cent are women, children and youth.
Speaking at a BoI round-table on investment in communities affected by the conflict, the Chairman of the bank, Aliyu Dikko said the impact of the crisis had made it imperative for the bank to come up with a North-East rehabilitation fund.
He described the BoI intervention fund as an innovative approach to supporting the sustainable development in the region.
Dikko said through the intervention, the bank would be able to transform the region by supporting businesses with easily accessible zero interest loans.
He said the fund is tailored to the peculiar needs of the region as it was being fashioned under the framework of the TraderMoni initiative.
He described the human, social and economic losses of the conflict and the investments needed for recovery, peace building and reconstruction of the North East as overwhelming.
For instance, he said damage to education and health facilities, markets and farms, infrastructure, loss of job opportunities and the psychological impact of the crisis have resulted in the region suffering an estimated output loss of ₦1.66trn, while also driving significant inflation.
He said with the loss of markets, damage to trade infrastructure and the impact on agriculture and livelihoods, the North East will continue to feel the economic impact of the crisis for years to come.
He said, “Given our mandate to stimulate economic growth and sustainable industrial development, Bank of Industry has embarked on an economic revival plan for the North East region.
“Our objective is to stem the spate of poverty and reduce the reliance of the indigenes on humanitarian aid.
“In the last four years, the bank has provided financial support amounting to ₦678bn to over two million enterprises in the country, creating over five million jobs.
“A major part of these jobs were created using the TraderMoni model which is a Federal Government scheme targeted at micro-businesses particularly petty traders.
“We would leverage this model to in the North Eastern states, specifically those sub-regions where the most impact can be made.”
He added, “We started with a plan to empower a hundred thousand micro small and medium entrepreneurs.
“BOI’s commitment is all encompassing and recognise the need to invest in all states where the economic activities needs to be revived.”
In her comments at the meeting, the Executive Director, Micro Enterprises, BoI, Mrs Toyin Adeniji said the North East has become a hotspot for conflict resolution and developmental interventions, which had reached almost six million people by 2018.
However, she said most of this support is in form of social and humanitarian aid, which serves as a palliative measure for dealing with extreme poverty but does little to actually stimulate sustainable economic activity within the region.
She said, “The North East Fund was designed as a base for kick-starting local commerce by providing access to credit, thereby empowering and re-establishing internally displaced persons and helping them regain their means of livelihood.
“Through this initiative, the Bank of Industry has committed N2.4bn worth of intervention funds to support.