James Emejo in Abuja
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has refuted insinuations that the ongoing TraderMoni programme facilitated by the federal government and the Bank of Industry (BoI) to empower petty traders, was a covert ploy to buy votes for President Muhammadu Buhari ‘s re-election, ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Speaking after an inspection and demonstration of the command centre of the Trader Moni programme at the BoI headquarters, he argued that there was no way the programme could have been set up primarily to secure votes as being alleged, adding that it was approved by the National Assembly before its implementation across the country.
According to him, “anybody who calls Trader Moni vote-buying is absurd. You can see it for yourself that this is a programme that has affected millions of lives.
“In any case, it was approved by the Senate and the entire National Assembly. If a programme is duly approved by the National Assembly and we are going out and implementing that programme and doing it as vigorously as possible; I don’t understand where anyone will get that kind of notion from. It is very weird notion”
Osinbajo disclosed that over 1.5 million petty traders had benefited from the programme, which targets to capture at least two million traders before the end of the year.
He described the programme as the largest currently running in Africa.
While noting that petty traders were the largest network in the commercial value chain, he revealed that Trader Moni was an offshoot and extension of President Buhari’s earlier project under the Katsina foundation, where petty traders were empowered with N2,000 to boost their businesses.
He said: “We intend to ensure that as many petty traders as possible get into this programme. It is a very important programme for us and the single reason is that petty traders are the largest number of people in our commercial value chain, and we want to be able to touch them.
“Nobody really wants to give petty traders loan; banks don’t want to give them loan; so, with the very innovative programme developed by the bank of industry, in association with the social investment programme by the federal government, we now have a huge opportunity to enrich a large number of petty traders in a systematic, credible and monitorable way that we can monitor and evaluate what is going on; this is exciting.
“I am very happy about the programme for the fact that it really does in essence what the president would want to do himself. He was chairman of something called the Katsina foundation giving very small traders N2000 as loans from the foundation.
“For him this was very important and he felt that it could be replicated in a national scale to find that people pay back and get more. What BoI has done is to give us a professional and commercial way of doing it in such a way that it will work and we will get the payment and millions of people will benefit.
“This is the largest of its kind in the whole of Africa, I don’t know if there is anything larger in the world – may be India. We are looking at something about 20 billion. We hope we will be able to spend that but a lot depends on availability of funds,” he added.
However, the Managing Director BoI, Mr. Olukayode Pitan, explained that the Trader Moni programme was designed solely to help traders who have difficulty funding small businesses, access to payable loans within a period of time.
He said:”It is their money directly, it is a scheme of the federal government but it is not for free. The idea is that government wants to help people who have been having issues raising small capital to do a lot of small businesses. It is not money you get and not pay back, but there are incentives when you pay back and you can get up to N100,000,” he said.