By Henry Umoru, Abuja

The Senate began a probe into the alleged uneven disbursement of loans to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the six geo-political regions by the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) to the tune of half a trillion naira.

The federal lawmakers yesterday threatened to issue a warrant of arrests on the heads of affected financial institutions for failing to honour its invitation.

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The Probe Committee chaired by Senator Sani Musa, stated that the threat became imperative over the absence of the agencies at the investigative hearing yesterday on the alleged uneven disbursement of the development fund. 

Not happy with their absence, the Chairman of the Committee who noted that out of the eight relevant government agencies needed for the investigation, five were invited to appear before the committee at the Wednesday session, said, “Out of these five, only two came.”

“Assignment before this committee is a very important one, requiring cooperation and compliance from all those linked to issues at hand.

According to him, Ministers of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo and Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouq, will appear before the committee on Thursday this week for required submissions on roles played in the alleged uneven disbursement of funds.

In his presentation before the committee, the Managing Director of DBN, Tony Okpanachi who denied deliberate lopsidedness in the disbursement of the fund, said that laid down criteria set by the CBN were used for fund disbursement, adding, “Our lending has criteria and they are the same with those set by the Central Bank of Nigeria.”

Okpanachi who explained that for a business to qualify for the DBN loan, it must have less than 250 employees and must not have done a turnover of more than N1.1 billion, said, “We do a risk assessment of the participating financial institutions (PFIs) before they begin to lend to businesses. We don’t want to give out money and the money fritters away. So we track the end users of the loans yearly.”

According to him, the location of the registered MSMEs in Nigeria also explained the reason for the loan’s disbursement, adding that out of the registered MSMEs across Nigeria, Lagos alone has 25%, South-West 23%, South-South 18%, South-East 10%, North-Central 10%, North-West 9%, FCT 4% and North-East 2%. 

The DBN boss who  informed the committee that DBN has asked participating financial institutions to build the capacity of small-scale businesses, and train them on how to structure their businesses for them to be able to access the loans, said, “For DBN, it’s a continuous process to get more businesses on board.”

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