By James Emejo in Abuja
The acting Managing Director, Bank of Industry (BoI), Mr. Rasheed Olagunju has said it would design a special capacity building and skills acquisition programme for ex-agitators of the Niger Delta who are currently under the presidential amnesty programme.
He said under the proposed initiative, which would be done in collaboration with the amnesty office, beneficiaries would be exposed to entrepreneurship development courses and mentorship scheme after which they could access funding in form of cheap loans to continue and own their businesses.
Speaking while receiving the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Gen. Paul Boroh (rtd), who paid him a courtesy visit to request the bank’s assistance in the reintegration phase for the ex-militants, Olagunju added that the request was quite in order as it fell in line with the bank’s standard operating procedure.
He said:”We know that we cannot achieve the transformation of Nigeria’s industrial sector without collaborating with partners-foreign and domestic as well as public and private sector-and incidentally, we both belong to the public sector. Your confidence in us is not misplaced when you talk of capacity building and skills acquisition. We’ve stepped up these areas particularly in terms of empowering our youths.”
The programme is being planned as an exit strategy for the now repentant ex-agitators so they could have a sustainable source of livelihood as well as create employment opportunities for themselves as government hands-off further assistance within the next two years of the amnesty lifespan.
The BoI acting MD said:”There’s always being the issue of funding being the major problem when it comes to micro small and medium enterprises; over the years, we’ve not paid attention to capacity building. So the debate is which should come first-is it capacity or capital.
“So it’s now clear to everybody that even if you make the money available, without building capacity, the money would be lost. So, the first thing to do is to build capacity for potential beneficiaries. So your sequencing is quite in order in that we need to build the capacity of those to be reintegrated; they need to be reorientated, they need to be sensitised to the business opportunities in their environment.”
He said: “We have a number of entrepreneurship development centers that are partnering with the bank of industry-they know our templates and they’ve been working with us. They have a way of accessing our credit in a way that the credit will be properly utilised because one thing is to access money and the other is to use it properly.
“One of the barometers of measuring a successful organisation is the extent to which it can honour its obligations which include debt service, because when you are not able to honour your obligations, it’s a red flag-it’s a signal that all is not well with the enterprise. So we want to ensure that the business is well managed, when it’s well managed, then you honour your obligation to debt service. And then, when you finished paying off your debt, the business becomes yours.”
According to him,”It’s going to be a win-win situation; we would train you on how to manage your businesses, you repay our loans and the business becomes yours forever.”
He said the bank would also seek to change orientation and mindset of the proposed beneficiaries as this is the “only sustainable attribute-free money is not sustainable.”
This opportunity should not be wasted. We would develop messages which would be targeted at these youths in these areas, he added.
Earlier, Boroh had sought the bank’s intervention, noting that “We feel that it’s proper we come to you as part of our development partners in the areas of critical and specific training and capacity building programmes and skills acquisition.”
He said: “The amnesty programme as it were has to do with reintegration…we’ve done the disarmament, demobilization-we are in the last and most critical phase of the programme which is the reintegration phase, where the ex agitators of Niger Delta need to be reintegrated back into the mainstream of the economy and the society.”