The Oyo State Government has begun the monitoring of beneficiaries of its N500 million Small and Medium Scale Enterprise Loan Support under the Sustainable Action for Economic Recovery (SAfER) initiative.
The state’s Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, who also doubles as the chairman of the SAfER Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) sub-committee, Professor Musibau Babatunde, led members of the sub-committee on a monitoring and evaluation visit to participating Microfinance Banks and some beneficiaries of the loan in Ibadan, Oyo and Ogbomoso zones of the state.
Speaking during the exercise, Prof. Babatunde explained the efforts of Governor ‘Seyi Makinde towards cushioning the effects of the hardship induced by the removal of fuel subsidy, stating that the SAfER SME Loan Support was introduced to support and boost small and micro business enterprises in the state.
He stated that under the loan scheme, N500 million was disbursed to partnering Microfinance Banks across the seven zones of Oyo State “to support and boost SME, which is the baseline for economic activities in the state and to bring succour to the residents during this economic hardship.”
According to Babatunde, SAfER as introduced by Governor Makinde, has proved to be a master stroke towards helping individuals and households in the state become stronger financially.
He said: “The Federal Government removed the subsidy for gasoline products and also unified the exchange rate and that led to the devaluation of the naira. These two policy shocks actually affected the general price level, as inflation shot up; and the exchange rate of the naira to the major currencies in the world depreciated to a very large extent.
“The interest rate was increased to stabilise inflation and as a result of that, an economic crisis ensued and it has affected the people of the state especially business owners.
“Governor ‘Seyi Makinde, in his wisdom, felt that there was the need to make a conscious attempt to actually help and enhance the activities of small and micro enterprises in Oyo State. This was how the SME Pillar under the SAfER programme came about.
“We went through the whole procedure, made it a single digit interest loan so that it is accessible and also the term of accessing was actually made flexible for the beneficiaries across the seven SME-supporting Microfinance banks in the seven geo-political zones of Oyo State.”
Prof. Babatunde further explained that the monitoring visit was to enable the committee to assess the level of operations of the Microfinance banks and their compliance with the operational framework guiding the disbursements of loan to the beneficiaries, since the state government had disbursed the loans in three tranches to the participating banks.
He expressed satisfaction on the repayment turnout of the beneficiaries, while he also assured applicants waiting to benefit from the laudable scheme that it would soon get to them.
He stressed that the loan is without collateral and that the beneficiaries have a three-month moratorium before the commencement of repayment.
In his words, the Director-General, Oyo State Investment and Public Private Partnership Agency (OYSIPA), Mr Olatilewa Folami, said Oyo State under Governor Makinde will always come up with poverty alleviation programmes that are impactful to support small and micro enterprises.
He charged the beneficiaries to utilise the loans as expected and repay within the stipulated period of time.
In Ibadan zone, the Managing Director, NUT Oke-Bola Microfinance Bank, Ibadan, Dr Paul Adu, who is also the coordinator for the seven participating banks across the state, lauded the good initiative of the government.
Similarly, the Chief Operating Officer, Full Range Microfinance Bank Limited, Adamasigba, Ibadan, said the loan support is viable towards alleviating poverty, creating jobs and boosting businesses, adding that the loan scheme is not propaganda as insinuated by some people.
The duo appealed to the government to increase the loans disbursed to the participating banks, as some of the eligible applicants have yet to be attended to.
Also speaking, the Managing Directors of Isale Oyo Microfinance Bank, Saabo Market, Oyo and Caretaker Microfinance Bank, Ogbomoso, Mr Salawudeen Oyedele and Mr Olayiwola Oladoke, said the beneficiaries of the SAfER loan cut across farmers, artisans, small scale manufacturers, booksellers, market men and women, among others.
They stressed that as participating banks, the programme has impacted positively on their banks and on the beneficiaries.
They all confirmed that most of the beneficiaries had started the repayment of the loan as duly stated.
Meanwhile, some of the beneficiaries have commended Governor Makinde for his problem-solving approach through the loan support, which according to them; has brought about a positive turnaround in their businesses.
In their separate reactions from Ibadan zones, Mrs Foluke Akinpelu, an event planner who got a loan of N1,000,000; Mrs Adedayo Adenuga, a caterer and Mr Adetunji Adeoye a barber/entrepreneur who got loan sums of N500,000 and N250,000 respectively, appreciated Governor Makinde for the timely intervention.
They added that their businesses have improved since they accessed the SafER SME loan support.
Also, Alhaja Rukayat Ayesoro from Oyo zone, who accessed N1,000,000 for her business, appealed to the state government to reduce the interest rate in the subsequent programme, while a farmer from Ogbomoso zone, Mr Michael Adewale, who got N750,000, also thanked the government for the opportunity.
For the two zones in Ibadan, NUT Oke-Bola Microfinance Bank Limited disbursed N75,000,000 to four hundred and nineteen beneficiaries, while Full Range Microfinance Bank Limited disbursed N50,000,000 to 300 beneficiaries.
In Oyo, 327 beneficiaries were given N70,000,000 by Isale Oyo Microfinance Bank, while a total sum of N70,000,000 was also disbursed to 300 beneficiaries through Caretaker Microfinance Bank, Ogbomoso.