By Crusoe Osagie
The National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) has called on the Federal Government to reverse what it called an ‘outrageous’ exclusion of the Micro enterprises from most of the intervention initiatives aimed at bailing out the real sector.
NANTS stated that micro enterprises, which account for more than 70 per cent of the real economy and provide most of the nation’s employment opportunities, need more attention and support if they are to contribute significantly to the country’s economy.
The association commended the federal government’s efforts in stimulating growth in the real sector through various schemes aimed at improving the business environment and providing the necessary support for the productive sector of the economy.
Senior Commercial Officer of NANTS, Adenekan Adeshile, noted that while these efforts were laudable and provide some form of leverage for a privileged few, but for micro enterprises particularly, the various schemes do not appear to consider or deal with their existence.
“For NANTS, our bugging questions are; what has the informal, micro sector received in the overall scheme of the Federal Government? What kind of policies speak for the sector operators, and what crime has this sector committed to merit such neglect?
“We have only seen ‘terrible hand-me-downs’ and schemes that occur at the will of political class with no systematised process to give an identity and transformation of the informal to formal small businesses aimed at improving their management processes that can translate into improved economic well-being,” he said.
Adeshile stated that in the design of these funds, it was obvious that the small informal trader, small-scale farmer or local manufacturer or artisan providing services at the community/rural level were totally excluded.
He stressed that when reference is made to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) for instance, the fund anticipates investments in excess of N50 million (excluding land) and the employment of between 11 and 300 persons.
He said the questions are “what proportion of the real economy falls within the classification being affected? How many SMEs in Nigeria can have investment muscle up to this ceiling?
“Our submission is that because the vast majority of the productive sector is neglected by such interventions, it will be difficult to see meaningful shift in the economy.
“Moreso, for the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme, while reports shows that over 80 per cent of the funds have been disbursed to more than 180 beneficiaries including various State governments, we are yet to see what impact in terms of significant level of change in food security status and transformation in the agricultural sector can be traced to the fund itself”, he added.
He said that to worsen the situation, State governments that have accessed the funds are supposed to be able to lend to cooperatives; but in the face of such high value requirements, to be able to qualify, the vast majority of these informal operators have been excluded automatically.
According to Adeshile manufacturing and processing still depend heavily on imports of raw materials, which has negatively affected balance of payments, and has in fact only increased capital flight and untamed exchange fluctuations.