Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The Bankersâ€™ Committee has begun the disbursement of the N26 billion fund accruing from the Agribusiness Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS), an initiative designed to improve access to affordable financing for medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs), particularly those operating in the informal sector of the economy.
The Committee, at its 331st meeting of February 9, 2017, had initiated AGSMEIS with all deposit money banks, voluntarily agreeing to set aside and contribute five per cent of their profit after tax (PAT) annually to finance eligible projects under the Scheme.
Speaking at the commencement of the disbursements to the first set of beneficiaries of AGSMEIS fund in Abuja thursday, the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele said: â€œAs at today, the size of the Fund stands at about N26 billion and this is expected to exceed N60 billion by June 2018. I am therefore very delighted that we have come to this stage where we are ready to begin the disbursement of these funds to deserving beneficiaries.
â€œThese beneficiaries are youths who have been trained on various entrepreneurship, vocational and management skills across the country by Entrepreneurship Development Institutions and Centres, such as Fate Foundation, Lagos Business School, House of Tara and Thrive Agric. Upon completion of their vocational training, the specific implements needed to practice their vocations, are procured under the scheme.
â€œThe beneficiariesâ€™ details including their Biometric Verification Numbers (BVN) are forwarded to the deposit money banks to confirm that they are their customers before accessing the fund. It is indeed an auspicious occasion as the outcome of todayâ€™s engagement is expected, in no half measures, to significantly, reduce youth unemployment and restiveness, increase social cohesion and drive inclusive economic growth.
â€œIn Nigeria, the challenges of youth unemployment and restiveness must be confronted with strategic innovative thinking to provide sustainable solution. No matter how daunting the challenge might seem, I believe that with unity of purpose we can fight this scourge together.â€
Emefiele noted that on his assumption of office in June 2014, his resolve and vision was to create a professional and people-centered central bank, with a focus on development financing, adding that the core of that vision was a CBN that will act as a financial catalyst by targeting predetermined sectors that can create jobs on a mass scale and significantly reduce the nationâ€™s import bills.
â€œThe disbursement of funds under the Agribusiness/Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS) is in line with that vision and a further testament of that resolve. I implore all beneficiaries here today and all youths that will key into this Scheme, to take good advantage of the opportunities made available to them and to utilise the funds judiciously, according to the terms of the loan agreements,â€ he said.
Yesterdayâ€™s flag off saw the disbursement of materials worth N133 million to the first set of 358 beneficiaries to start businesses in their chosen fields.
Emefiele stressed that the money was not free, and admonished that the beneficiaries should be strictly monitored to ensure repayment.