The Federal Government of Nigeria introduced TraderMoni in 2018 purportedly to empower small-scale entrepreneurs. RAHEEMAH AROGUNDADE looks at the unsung sides of the scheme
Entrepreneurship is a necessity for developing countries like Nigeria, because of the pervading economic morass that birthed unemployment, poverty, inflation and recession.
Nigerians that are into entrepreneurial activities are growing by the minute, due to unemployment, interest or poverty, among others. The Global Entrepreneurship Index in 2018 ranked Nigeria 12th in Africa.
End of job search
It is quite gratifying to see that people are no longer waiting on the government give them jobs; rather they are beginning to take the bull by the horns, getting themselves gainfully employed by establishing businesses, size notwithstanding.
Most of the small-scale traders establish businesses with the meagre equity at their disposal since they do not have the wherewithal to apply for loan from any financial institution. Consequently, their businesses either remain stagnant or go under after a while.
The government seems to be recognising the contribution of entrepreneurs towards economic development, complementing their efforts through specialised programmes designed to better empower them and help grow their businesses. One of the programmes is the TraderMoni scheme.
Small business as targets
The TraderMoni loan scheme is created specifically to support small business owners, including petty traders and artisans, across Nigeria and give them the opportunity to expand their businesses.
Under the scheme, traders are given a collateral-free loan of N10,000 for a start. While targeting about two million beneficiaries across the country at inception last year, the scheme stipulated that the beneficiaries were eligible for a second loan of N15,000 if the initial loan was paid within six months.
“We looked at the whole commercial scale of Nigeria and observed that the largest number of people engaged in commerce are the petty traders that required little start-up capital between N2,000 and N5,000.
“We then felt it will be better to give these traders N10,000each as loan. Once that is done and refunded, we increase the loan to N15,000 each and keep increasing it, so long as they pay back.
“The scheme is designed to elevate those people at the lower ladder. I strongly believe that this is the right thing for our people, a way of empowering them,” said Prof. YemiOsinbajo at the inauguration of the TraderMoni scheme in Delta State.
The scheme not only serves to support traders and expand their businesses, it also confirms the genuine concern of government towards poverty alleviation, strengthening financial inclusion, improving standard of living, thus stabilising the country’s economy.
Small business owners are no less appreciative for the gesture.
“I will use the money to grow my business. I also intend to get another loan after repayment. The government is concerned with the plight of the poor; I will support it,” said Mohammed Shamsudeen, a beneficiary of the scheme, in an interview with Pulse.
Another beneficiary, Mrs. Regina Madisike, said, “I got the money the same day I registered. I have already invested it in my business, and as you can see, it is booming. I say a very big ‘thank you’ to the Federal Government.”
Similarly, Musa Habib narrated his excitement upon receiving the money and pledged to support the Muhammadu Buhari administration in any way he could.
Sustainable government policy
TraderMoni is part of the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) executed by the Bank of Industry (BoI). Since the inauguration of the scheme in 2018 across states in Nigeria, it has registered a huge number of participants and is veering into the second stage of cash disbursement to participants who have successfully paid up the initial loan.
A petty trader, Jennifer Iorfa from Benue State, who sells kunu (a local beverage made from guinea corn) and fried yam at a secondary school, described her experience with the scheme as satisfactory.
“When I was selected to be a beneficiary, I received a confirmatory text message and got N10,000 cash. I started buying ingredients for my business in larger quantity, which enabled me to sell more. I have made decent profit, enough to improve the living condition of my family and I also repaid my loan of N10,250, inclusive of the N250 administrative charges.
“Immediately after my repayment was processed, I received a text message informing me that I was qualified for the second stage of the loan – N15,000. With this N15,000 loan, I will be able to make more kunu, sell more and pay back,” she told The Guardian.
Government’s efforts to sustain this scheme and establish similar schemes as the N-Power, MarketMoni, FarmerMoniand a host of others is greatly commendable, as it portends progress of the country as a whole.
“It has been a wonderful programme. These traders have been ignored for too long, and access to loans for them is usually difficult. With access to these government loans, things have significantly improved for them. Most times, when we go to disburse the loans in the markets, you can see their joy,” Lagos State manager of MarketMoni, Doris Doosur, told The Guardian.
But critics, especially opposition politicians, see other sides of the scheme. Before the last presidential ballot, some alleged that the scheme was the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)’s subtle way of buying votes. They argued that a sincere government would not initiate such programme few months to a major election.
In fact, some of the critics maintained that the scheme would die immediately after the general election.
Others, like beneficiaries of the scheme, see it as their own share of the national cake.
Executive director of Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Rafsanjani, described the TraderMoni scheme as vote-buying.
According to him, the institution of the scheme was undiplomatic and precocious.
He further stated that if the government really cared about the traders’ predicament, the scheme would have been instituted much earlier and not close to the election period.
“It was not part of the manifesto of the ruling party, and it is not in the Nigerian constitution. It was not done three years ago. It was only started close to election time,” he said, adding that the allegation by many Nigerians that it was clearly a case of vote-buying using public funds might not be far from the truth.
“This is despite the statement by the president that public funds would not be used for his re-election campaign. Clearly, this is vote-buying, as far as I am concerned,” he explained to Channels Television.
Expectedly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, shared similar opinion in his petition challenging the 2019 election. According to him, the scheme was an attempt to improperly influence voters and make them favourably disposed towards the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket.
“Despite that there was no budgetary provision for this scheme and public outcry against it, the second respondent (Buhari), through Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, went to all the states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and shared N10,000 each to traders, thus using state resources to buy votes,” he stated.
Apart from the political angle, there is reported insincerity on the part of either the traders or government agents disbursing the loan, as the former allege that they were being short-changed.
One trader told The Punch that they were paid N8,000 instead of N10,000.
“We already knew that we were collecting N10,000 because that was what they told us when they came to sensitise us about the TraderMoni scheme and we had also heard in the news that that was the amount the government was giving out as loan to petty traders, so we were expecting N10,000.
“Initially, when the agents wanted to pay people, before they transfered N10,000 to anybody, they would first collect N2,000 cash from the beneficiary, which means that what they were giving out was N8,000.
“But after doing that for the first two days, they stopped collecting N2,000 cash and instead transferred just N8,000 to the beneficiaries,” he explained.
However, some traders reportedly collected the N8,000 in good faith because they were not planning to repay the loan. Most of them saw it as their own slice of the national cake.
“I can tell you categorically that most people don’t intend to pay back. That was why they eagerly gave up N2,000 to the agents,” a trader said.
The agents, it was gathered, seemed not interested in the repayment of the loan, as they left the traders in the dark of how to repay.
“Even the agents that came to give us the money did not seem interested in whether we would repay the loan or not. They did not talk much about it. Even if I want to pay back, I don’t know how I will go about it,” he added.