By Amby Uneze in Owerri

Determined to promote MadeinNigeria products capable of meeting international standards for both export and local consumption, the Bank of Industry (BOI) has provided the sum of N400 million to be made available quarterly for the benefit of over 300 members of the Leather Products Manufacturers Association of Abia State (LEPMAAS).

The funds would be disbursed through the Fidelity Bank Plc while the Ford Foundation would be providing other technical support.

This was in line with the Governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu’s determination to ensure that Madein Nigeria products through the Aba Finished Leather Manufacturers are marketed beyond the shores of the country.

Welcoming stakeholders to the formal launch of the Aba Finished Goods Cluster Financing programme, the Managing Director of theBOI, Mr. Olukayode Pitan, noted that the programme was designed to provide a tailored bundle of financial and non-financial services including capacity building to qualified members of the LEPMAAS.

According to him, the leather products which LEPMAAS remains a significant contributor accounts for 80 percent of the textile, apparel and footwear component of the manufacturing sector of the nations’ economy.

He added that the sector is a significant driver of job creation as it currently engages over 150,000 artisans to produce leather products sold both in the domestic market and to neighbouring West African countries.

Pitan, pointed out that taking a cursory look at the Aba Cluster and the contributions of the members of LEPMAAS to the leather sector, informal computations put annual revenue from the cluster at over N10 billion despite the competing volumes of similar goods being imported.

“It was this significant opportunity to substitute import volumes by supporting quality improvement of Made in Aba products, create additional jobs and improve the qualities of lives of the Artisans that led the Bank of Industry to design this tailored programme.

“By providing low interest, non-collaterised loans, the Bank has provided flexibility for qualified members of LEPMAAS recommended by their lines and zonal chairman to access up to N300,000 towards the procurement of materials to expand and improve their production activities”, he stated.

In his remarks, Mr. Obaro Odeghe, who represented the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, the official partner for the management of the money, stated that the programme was to commence a sustainable lending scheme to members of LEPMAAS, adding thatthe lending scheme involve; giving short term loans with maximum limits of N300,000 – N500,000 to qualified members.

He stressed that the intention was to disburse (through Fidelity Bank) up to N400 million every quarter to about 300 new target beneficiaries who would be members of the cluster.

“Essentially, under this scheme Fidelity Bank Plc would serve as partner commercial bankthe bank would open SME bank accounts for members of LEPMAAS to access the loansrenders the provision of tailored capacity building support to the Executive of LEPMAAS and the “artisan” members.

Ikpeazu called on Nigerians to continue to patronise Made-in-Nigeria products in order to promote the nation’s economy.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mr. Edet Akpan commended the partners for investing in the Nigerian content, while urging the beneficiaries to make good use of the loan.