The Bank of Industry (BoI) have sealed a deal with Ebonyi State Government for a N2 billion matching fund geared towards empowering small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the state.
Olukayode Pitan, managing Director of BoI said at the signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that the bank would work with the state to ensure that it provided training for the SMEs.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted the BoI chief executive officer as saying that “This project is a starting point; N1billion from Ebony State Government and N1 billion from BoI, but if we are able to use this money very quickly, nothing is stopping us from having a phase two and three.
“Our people must be empowered, there are too many graduates moving around without jobs. Graduates without jobs are becoming dangerous armed robbers.
He said that the training would also be for some civil servants who were about to retire on how to form a company or private enterprise.
“Like in Ebony, where the emphasis is on solid minierals, we have a team that does that; we also plan to provide training for the miners.
“We are going to have joint assessment of the project to be financed because not every project can be financed automatically.
“This is what we are trying to ensure that it does not get to that point. Let us empower people and lift them up and we will work with Ebony state to do that,” Pitan said.
On process of accessing loans by young graduates, Pitan said that the bank would review its strategy, adding that the orientation of Nigerians needed to change, that “intervention funds are not their own part of the national cake.’’
“If the state wants to empower you, you can’t take the money and not pay back because once you are able to pay back, the governor will be encouraged to do more.
“So the mentality of Nigerians that take money for this kind of projects has to change,” he said.
David Umahi, governor of Ebony State said that it was challenging that BoI’s loan could only be accessed in six months, lamenting that the time frame of six months in accessing BoI’s loans was discouraging and therefore should be discouraged in the country.
“I don’t think that the way and manner we manage our financial institutions will assist this nation to grow the economy. The cost of borrow money from financial institutions is high, it is like you are passing through the eye of a needle to get funds.’’
Umahi called for the review of financial institutions operational policies if the nation’s economy must grow.
He said that the Federal Government’s talk of ease of doing business was not just about the ministries or state governments, but mostly about the financial institutions.
According to him, Ebony has natural agricultural farmlands and large deposit of solid minerals but lacks the capacity to grow them.