Delta State Micro- Credit Programme’(DMCP) has in the last five years brought national and international recognition to Delta state, the state Commissioner for Poverty Alleviation Dr. Antonia Ashiedu tells VICTOR EFEIZOMOR
DeltaStateGovernment recognised that poverty is a threat to peace and security, to socio-economic development of the state and the human race in general. To alleviate poverty and drive socio-economic development at the grassroots, His Excellency, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan created the Delta Micro-Credit Programme. Also government acknowledges the contribution of microcredit delivery towards promoting productive self-employment , community development and diversification of the economy , especially to mainly an agro- based economy . To this end, the Delta State Credit Programme (DMCP) was established to address poverty among Deltans in rural communities and also the urban poor. Today, we thank God; we have made a very good impact in the state. I wouldn’t tell you it has been smooth-sailing since the beginning of the programme. It is important to note that since inception in December 14, 2007 to May 192011, a total of 85,776 persons, ( 7942 cluster groups ) comprising 54431 women and 31, 245 men were empowered in various micro enterprise. Indeed, if there was a big challenge we had, it was the cynicism of the people the programme was meant for. They were justifiably so, they thought this is another government arrangement, another formula for the government to use the name of the people. That kind of cynicism galvanised us to implement the blueprint, which we already had. And that blueprint was geared towards running the programme on a bottom-up , community –based approach model . It meant that you will not sit in the office to do the programme . You must go down to the people , you must relate with them , you must allow them to understand what the programme is . We did a lot of sanitisation to make them understand that they are principal partners of the programme . Once we were able to do this and with a lot of missionary zeal , they bought into the programme and it also proves what any development experts will tell you , that when people buy into any government programme , that programmev is very likely to success. This indeed has been why we had the kind of impact we had. This is actually the premise that guided this programme.
Disbursement to Deltans
We were very lucky in the programme office that when we presented the blueprint to the state governor, he accepted it. Essentially, that blueprint was the basis of what we wanted to do Number on, that governor should take itself away from the disbursement of the money , because once government begins to disburse money in this kind of programme, it gets misunderstood , if you don’t want government to start disbursing , what do you do? You have to go into partnership. we looked at the structures we had on ground. We consider the microfinance banks, which otherwise are just community –based banks. So we got the microfinance banks to partner with us based on mutually agreeable memorandum of understanding. One, they will become participating financial institution of the programme. And being participating financial institutions to the programme, they will work hand in hand with us as participating financial institution (PFI) . They will come along with us when we are organising the groups. We call these groups cluster groups, they will assist us in perfecting the groups, they will be with us when we are monitoring and mentoring the groups, the of course, there’s the capacity building of the groups , again , the disbursement is a critical aspect.
But after the disbursement, comes another major aspect and that is the monitoring and evaluation. If you don’t monitor all the time, if you don’t evaluate all the time, you are not going to understand when the groups run into trouble. Then you can prop them up , admonish them and get them back on track . So, the PFIs are with us because they are crucial in recovery because this is not a government largesse, it is not charity, neither is it safety net. What they recover gets back immediately into the programme fund and then re-injected, so that the volume of funds will enable us to reach out to more people. Every month we receive periodic reports on each cluster group, because we want to know how they are faring, if they are not doing well, we want to know. That is why in my office, everybody is busy all the time because the reports are coming in and we are analysing all the time.
As you very well know, this is the fifth anniversary of Uduaghan ‘s administration and it is only imperative that you that you get to a point as an administration when you must access your strengths and weakness with the view of charting a way forward in the delivery of democracy dividends to your people. We realized that there was the need to begin to project into the future and identify the best way to move our economy and development agenda to the next level and what became obvious to us was that the future would be dominated by Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME’s). Governor Udaugahn has always been passionate about diversifying the economy of the state away from our huge dependence on oil and this had motivated him to champion the initiative of Delta beyond oil as you know is a finite resources so we must begin to imagine what happens when the oil runs dry. In fact lets imagine what happens if even within our life time, a new source of energy was discovered. Where will we be with our huge dependence on oil revenue when this happens? In fact it has happened before when the price of oil fell and reduced what we have. In fact, we should not just be talking about Delta beyond but indeed Nigeria beyond oil. I refer you to a country like Singapore, which has no known natural resources but has leap frogged into its economy and development strides by looking at manufacturing as its major economic driver. Look at the Asian Tigers. They have become reference points in global economics success stories by what they have done with small businesses. There is the need therefore for us in Delta and indeed Nigeria to replicate the economic successes of these countries through our MSME’S. White collar jobs are gradually phasing out, the future belongs to the entrepreneur , so we decided that we must begin now to celebrate the SMSE’s and to do this we needed to create a platform through which they can be recognised and appreciated. These are people who feel very proud of their small businesses, and it really does not matter whether it is the women who fries bean cake( akara) in one small corner of her community or the young man who owns a barbing saloon , these are people who do their businesses with pride and have earned their livelihoods and become bread winners for their families. We needed to celebrate these proud and hard working Delta entrepreneurs and the best way to achieve this of course was to organise an exhibition for them where they would be giving the expose their occupation to the world.
Assessment of the scheme
It is better to start late than not to start all. Don’t forget that what we are talking about here is the future of our state, our children. Again, it is also about the vision and direction of the leadership in place. let me also tell you that up till now , the Micro and Medium Scale Enterprises have always been funded by government , but now we have a leadership which is bold enough to approach major financial institution like the World Bank because of the excellent track records we have of what we have done since we come on board , I am proud to say that we have a track record of discipline, commitment and hard work and we have put a structure on ground which cannot be easily dismantled , in fact , I make bold to say that it will be a political hara-kiri for any subsequent government to attempt to destroy or abandon what we have built.
I feel very fulfilled and elated, it is indeed a thing of joy to see a programme which one has labored for painstakingly and with complete dedication , coming to fruition like this. My Doctorial Thesis was on this very area. A lot of research and intellectual efforts has gone into this project, I must tell you that my work is based on comprehensive research and to see it been practicalised by any economist is indeed a thing of joy. The fact that I have been giving the opportunity to really transform my academic expertise into the practical realm of defining the economic direction of any state is indeed a thing of joy and I must express my profound gratitude to my governor , His Exellency for giving me the chance to accomplish this project , I feel fulfilled.
Interestingly, I must confess that the high point for me, contrary to what people may think , have not been the many awards we have won or the global recognition we have attracted for the state . What has actually giving me the most joy has been going to the communities severally and watching the metamorphosis of the programme. Most of the communities were largely uncharted areas when we started and our first mission was to sensitise them on the programme . Of course we met a lot of skepticism at that initial stage because the people were simply not interested , they had seen and heard so much talk like this in the simply not interested . They had seen and heard so much talk this in the past yet their communities were still moribund to say that least so they really did not give us a warm welcome. But then we heard a vision and as we went severally and out our structures in place the interest began to increase. We made our office accessible to them, set up a very simply and transparent procedure for registration through co-operatives and cluster groups and got the participating financial institutions which operated in the communities to make it easy for them to access the micro-credit. And from the initial small funding that we provided , we watched in amazements as entrepreneurs emerged and followed their transformation from small businesses to bigger businesses which now became employers of people . To have been a part of this transformation and seen the small businesses grow into big businesses from selling , milling and harvesting their brands to such heights that their products are now been displayed proudly and side by side with other highly regarded products, on the shelves of some of the biggest departmental stores and supermarkets in the land has indeed given me the greatest joy . This has been the real high points for me. Also, there have been low points for me and these occurred at inception . I was greatly disturbed by the initial cynicism of the very people for whom the programme was meant for , when we started . The people were disillusioned by the fact they regarded it as another government gimmick and this mind set actually justified their disillusionment . But we went about our work with missionary zeal and it was only a matter of time before the people themselves picked interest and even became apostles of our message. Thus by mid-2008, our programme took a life of its own and spread like wild fire as we moved in leaps and bounds to where we are today .
But, I still feel very low when I realise how poor our people , especially in the hinterlands really are . There is no glamour in poverty and I live through this day in day out . A lot of our communities , particularly in the riverine area have been degraded for so long and I do not feel happy about our hinterlands which are huge food basket just wasting away , undiscovered and unharnessed as a result of the difficult terrain that has made vehicules access to such food reservoirs practically impossible. I am very grateful to His Excellence Governor Uduaghan for making me the instrumentality of government to sow hope in the hinterlands.
Support from State Govt
The Delta State government is the driver of the programme and for His Excellency Dr. Emmnauel Uduaghan to declare a public holiday to celebrate the SMSE’s just tells you how much he believes and has been supportive of our efforts. I cannot remember any other state in the country which has declared a public holiday in recognition of the SMSE’s and this is indeed another clear manifestation of the tremendous support , goodwill and encouragement we have received from the governor since we came on board . Our gratitutde to him is immense and the fact that we have been working so hard to make the programme the success story it has become today is just our own small way of telling the governor that we appreciate all the support and goodwill he has giving us over the years.
Expectations of Deltans
I tell you that in a few months or years from now we will see net worth Deltans and corporate bodies coming to fund the SMES’s because they know it will become the catalyst to drive the economy. I was quit thrilled when I saw the great enthusiasm of Mr. Tony Elumelu for the SMSE’s during their tour of the exhibition stands. Like you very well know, Mr. Tony Elumelu is one of the success stories in the corporate world from Delta state. His track record in the banking industry and investment world speaks volumes. He is a proud son of Delta and Delta state is proud of him and for him to show that kind of enthusiasm for the SMSE’s is a clear indication that we are indeed on the right track and I have no doubt that in the not too distance future the SMSE’s will attract investments and attract capacity because we have put the structure in place to achieve this.
And let me quickly add that we have just two years to go. The last year is for mopping up and taking stock. The work has no doubt been hectic since we started, but it has been neatly structured and what we have hoped to achieve when we started has already has started unfolding. My philosophy in life is live and let live. I believe in touch lives positively and I know that there is enough for everyone, if only human beings would be less greedy. My final word to Deltans, especially those who have been with us from inception and those who intend to join us, is that they should remain focused, be disciplined and know that the sky is ceiling. I want to assure them that the small seed they have planted will surely grow to become abundant for them. You truly feel fulfilled when you know that people believe in you, I am fulfilled so far , but there is still more work ahead.