July 10, 2024

Senate panel seeks clarifications on BoI’s $300m local content funds

Senate panel seeks clarifications on BoI’s $300m local content funds

…querries ITF’s N15,000 SIWES stipend

By John Alechenu, Abuja

The Senate Committee on Local Content, has sort clarification on the utilization of $300million domiciled in the Bank of Industry (BoI) for manpower training in collaboration with the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) especially in the oil and gas sector.

Chairman of the Committee, Senator Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan, raised the issue during a meeting with representatives from the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) and Bank of Industry (BoI), in Abuja, yesterday.

The committee explained that the meeting was designed to enhance the operational synergy between government agencies in order to maximise the impact on Nigerian beneficiaries.

Akpoti-Uduaghan also expressed displeasure with the N10,000-N15,000 stipend paid to students for participating in the Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) which lasts for up to six months.

The Committee chairman equally faulted government agencies and institutions as well as private organizations, who reject students seeking to undertake their industrial training
in their respective establishments.

To address this challenge, She called for greater synergy between the organisations and ITF to ensure students are accepted whenever they approach any organisation for their SIWES.

She further urged the ITF should consider digitisation of the SIWES programme where SIWES opportunities available in organizations will be listed on the ITF portal.

In addition, the federal lawmaker revealed that she was considering working with relevant stakeholders to produce a policy or regulation that will compel organisations to make provisions for a minimum number of SIWES students in their organisation at all times.

She stressed the importance of a joint effort by all stakeholders in promoting local content, particularly in the oil and gas sector, where $300 million is dedicated for Nigeriana to access through the Bank of Industry.

During the meeting, the senator also sought updates on the agencies’ activities, training programmes, and performance reports. She also requested a breakdown of the fund’s utilisation and the number of Nigerians who have benefited from it.

Senator Akpoti-Uduaghan took note of the strong relationship between local content and the Bank of Industry and stressed that the committee had previously written to the Bank of Industry to inquire about the performance of the fund and the amount available to be accessed by Nigerians.

In its response, the ITF team explained that the agency is self-funding, with a 1 percent annual payroll of the workforce drawn from private organisations and government agencies involved in commerce, with a yearly budget of N48 billion.

It highlighted the process of working with state governors to select participants for training and subsequent empowerment.

The team also mentioned plans to create a channel for trainers to print their certificates online based on their geographical locations.

The team also appealed to the committee through the Chairman to rally support for a new law or regulation that would compel government agencies to patronise the services of the ITF for the training of their employees.

The ITF team mentioned the various training and empowerment programmes available in ITF.

They include: the ongoing Skill-Up Artisans (SUPA) aimed at empowering artisans through tech-enabled skills training, licensing, access to essential toolkits, and promoting industry-standard excellence where the trainees are opened up to employment opportunities both locally and internationally.

Others include: the Technical Skills Development Project (TSDP) in conjunction with the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP).

According to the ITF, the NISDP will not only train the participants to industrial standards but shall equally empower the participants in form of start-up funds.

The representatives of the Bank of Industry in their response said the bank is run by Nigerian funds from the private sector but managed by the Nigerian government, with an annual project of $617.7 million.

They also clarified that BoI does not receive direct funding from the federal budget and highlighted the bank’s success in attracting $5billion within the last five years.

They disclosed that their programmes include; YES-P, GEEP and iDICE. The Youth Entrepreneurship Support Programme (YES-P), is BOI’s effort at addressing the worrisome phenomenon of youth unemployment in Nigeria by building the capacity of the youths and funding their business ideas.

The YES programme is aimed at equipping young people with the requisite skills and knowledge to be self-employed by starting and managing their businesses.

Speaking further, they explained that, the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) Fund was established by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Social Investment Unit in the Office of the Vice President (OVP) to provide financial assistance to market women, artisans, women cooperative societies, enterprising youths, small scale farmers, agro-allied processors, and other MSME categories for small and medium businesses in Nigeria.

While iDICE is aimed at building capacity and upskilling Nigerian youth (from ages 15-35), in technology and creativity to increase their employability, foster innovation, and support the emergence of more entrepreneurs. iDICE is co-funded by the African Development Bank (AFDB), Agence française de développement (AFD), Islamic Development Bank (IsDB),and other private investors.

BOI team also disclosed that they visit NYSC camps where they educate the corp members about GEEP programme and provide capacity building for them. They promised to invite the Senator during its YES-P programme.

In response, Senator Akpoti-Uduaghan called on the Bank of Industry to include physically challenged persons in their programmes.

The Kogi lawmaker had earlier partnered with CAC to register 2,500 SMEs in Kogi Central, this measure will up the businesses and also enable Small Business owners access funds like Single digits loans, grants & government funding for their businesses.