By Laurence Ani
Monday, November 6, 2017, was a special day in the diary of events in the Jumbo Major House of Grand Bonny in Rivers State. It was the day the Federal Government of though the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing interacted with the Major House in Port Harcourt
Loosely fashioned after the UK National Sport Lottery, the Enugu State Traders Empowerment Scheme is proving to be a potent micro-economic spur. Its success derives in part from the fact that winners reinvest the N50,000 won into their businesses, and largely due to the transparency that has characterized the entire process since its launch in February.
Various economic indices showing the policyâ€™s success have emerged since its launch in February, dousing scepticism some might have nursed about the programme that benefits one hundred traders monthly. Such statistics offer a strong sense of validation. Yet, none can be more reassuring than the personal experiences of individuals whose lives are impacted by social and economic policies.
For traders in Enugu, the raffle that produces one hundred winners monthly couldnâ€™t have come at a better time. And you could, in fact, glimpse that on the beneficiariesâ€™ faces. â€œI was very happy when I got a call that I had won fifty thousand Naira,â€ said Agbaedo Ignatius, a carpenter at Obolo Afor, beaming as he held his dummy cheque aloft and noting his surprise when he arrived and was issued a cheque for the amount. â€œMy prayer is for God to bless the governor the way he always remembers the poor.â€
It was a similarly ecstatic story for Ifeanyi Ugwu, a trader at Orie Orba Market, one of the 37 markets hosting the raffle. â€œThis sum will help boost my stock of goods. You canâ€™t imagine how happy I am,â€ he said, urging the writer to visit his groceries store to gauge how the earning has impacted his business. He had lately been exceeding the grace period to pay for items supplied to him on credit, prompting threats from the suppliers to discontinue such gesture. The fifty thousand naira raffle prize helped him offset previous deficits and gain fresh supplies.
For Ginika Omeke, a 26-year-old seamstress, the story was no less remarkable. Erratic public power supply means disruptions to her daily operations. Such disruptions are often costly as her customers, frustrated by the long wait resulting from the frequent outage, simply move to other shops whose owners have back-up power generators. Her determination to procure one with whatever little savings she could muster never came to fruition. Until now. â€œThe governorâ€™s initiative will help businesses grow,â€ she said, flashing a demure smile. â€œThis money would enable me to buy a generator and also some important materials that I could hitherto not afford.â€
Ten months later, the initiative has been held in 10 markets across the stateâ€™s three senatorial districts and produced its one thousandth winner as the draw moved to Afor Awkunanaw at Garki Market, located on the southern fringe of Enugu metropolis on November 24. And the beneficiary, Mr. Onyeka Ogbodo, remains just as exultant as the raffleâ€™s first winner had been. â€œThe N50,000 cash prize will enable me to grow the stock in my shop ahead of Christmas. This is a huge surprise,â€ he said.
It is in light of this capacity to target and transform small businesses that Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyiâ€™s tradersâ€™ raffle programme finds its greatest appeal and resonance, a point underscored by a massive rally organized by traders few months ago in the governorâ€™s honour. â€œThe scheme was designed to empower our market men and women and also boost economic activities in the state,â€ the governor noted during the flag-off at Ogbete Main Market, Enugu.
The rally, said Mr. Temple Udeh, president-general of the Enugu State Amalgamated Market Traders Association, was organised to thank the Enugu State governor for his policies that have helped businesses flourish and in appreciation of the harmonious relationship he has so far had with traders in the state.
The traders who praised Governor Ugwuanyi for enthroning peace and security in Enugu State and working hard to end the fractious relationship that typically exist among leaders of various market unions, also pronounced a unanimous endorsement for him ahead the 2019 elections, saying that â€œnothing will make us change our standâ€.
Although some may consider it absurd to laud elected officials for performing their statutory responsibilities, however in a clime where the capacity to carry out such function is on a perpetual decline the gesture takes on an increasingly compelling tone. The traders realize this too, a point evident in Udehâ€™s statement that â€œtraders have never had it so goodâ€.
But more good times lie ahead, apparently, with plans for a credit scheme for traders being contemplated by the Ugwuanyi administration. The governor disclosed at a forum with traders held mid-year that his administration is currently discussing with financial institutions and international corporations on ways of extending easier and more convenient lines of credit and other facilities to traders in the state to assist them grow their various businesses. Gov. Ugwuanyi also added that the government is also making efforts to upgrade the capacity of the Enugu State Marketing Company to arrange special import services for traders in the state.
So the tradersâ€™ raffle is by no means a populist programme. It is consistent with the governorâ€™s vision to create wealth and boost private enterprise in the state which had long lived with the unflattering tag of a civil service economy. That, plus the desire to transform Enugu into the South-East regionâ€™s economic hub are goals the governor has pursued passionately since his inauguration, a dream brought closer to fruition with the landing of the first international cargo aircraft at the Enugu Airport a little over one year ago.
Itâ€™s worth stating that the remarkable development seen so far in Enugu has occurred despite the allocation from the federation account where it receives one of the least amount disbursed to states each month. The governor in modesty, attributes the stateâ€™s economic stability to providence as highlighted in his popular quip: â€œEnugu State is in the hands of God.â€ But there is no doubt tooÂ that the impressive indicators stem from prudent deployment of resources and sheer genius of creating wealth.
â€“Ani, formerly editor of ThisDay, TheÂ SaturdayÂ Newspaper and laterÂ SaturdayÂ Telegraph, lives in Enugu