By Chijioke Okoronkwo
In the ever-increasing web of economic activities, petty traders provide a buffer between the `haves and the have nots’.
Despite the pivotal roles they play in the economy, petty traders are often neglected even as they struggle to eke out a living and meet their financial obligations.
Undoubtedly, the society will suffer a dislocation if that garri, yam, pepper/tomato, soup ingredients, vegetables, local beverages sellers, food vendors, okada rider inter alia are not there.
Over the years, various intervention programmes targeted at micro-businesses seemed not to have captured the plight of this category of low income people.
In the light of the aforementioned, the Federal Government recently rolled out a scheme –TraderMoni, under which two million petty traders across the country will get N10, 000 collateral-free loans this year.
This Bank of Industry (BOI) supported initiative was recently launched by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo in Lagos.
Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President, Office of the Vice President, said that the new initiative would be implemented under the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP).
He said that the gesture was part of Federal Government’s efforts to further enlarge its financial inclusion agenda for all Nigerians regardless of social class and economic status.
“The scheme will grant a minimum of 30,000 loans in each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
“Altogether, the two million mark is expected to be attained on or before the end of this year, with petty traders in Lagos, Kano and Abia States set to be the first round of beneficiaries to draw the collateral free loans.
“In addition to the 30,000 loans per state, states with larger populations like Lagos and Kano are expected to get more than 30,000 loans. Across the country, especially in the pilot states, about 500,000 potential beneficiaries have so far been enumerated.
“In order to identify the beneficiaries, no less than 4,000 enumeration agents have been engaged by the Bank of Industry which is deploying the new scheme.
“TraderMoni is designed to help petty traders expand their trade through the provision of collateral free loans of N10, 000.
“The loans are repayable over a period of six months,” Akande said.
Akande said that under the scheme, beneficiaries could get access to a higher facility ranging from N15, 000 to N50, 000 when they repaid N10, 000 within the stipulated time period.
He said that President Muhammadu Buhari administration would use TraderMoni to take financial inclusion down to the grassroots, considering the contribution of petty traders to economic development.
He said that the Federal Government was also aware of the fact that many of the petty traders did not have what the commercial banks required to grant them loans.
The special assistant said that the administration was keen to ensure that traders at that level were able to build their businesses and grow.
“TraderMoni was launched recently in five markets in Lagos State, with tens of thousands beneficiaries already.
“The Lagos markets already reached are Mushin, Ikotun, Agege, Ketu, and Abule Egba markets.
`The scheme will soon be taken to other states in the country, with Abia and Kano states next in line.
“Beneficiaries are already heaping praises on the Buhari administration for this initiative that will improve their businesses,’’ he said.
Akande said that beneficiaries in Lagos were highly appreciative of what the Buhari’s administration was doing to assist the masses, especially petty traders.
“I sell clothes. This N10, 000 would do a lot for me and my children. I like this programme so much.
“ I will pay the loan before six months’ time. Before I didn’t believe it; but now that I have received my money I believe,” A trader in one of the Lagos markets, Anna Enwerem, said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mrs Mufiat Adewumi, a market women leader in Lagos, said it would help ordinary Nigerians who could not have access to commercial banks’ credit facilities because they don’t have collateral.
“We are happy about the TraderMoni because this is what we have been expecting for long, that the Government should assist the masses, especially the traders. We thank the Federal Government so much,” Adewumi said.
On her part, the Executive Director, BoI, Toyin Adeniji, said the bank would not relent until every Nigerian who was willing, had access to loan irrespective of their status or level of education.
Adeniji said that TraderMoni was targeted at enabling low cadre people- pure water, bread, food sellers and Okada rider, among others to access collateral-free loan to expand their businesses.
“The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration recognised the contribution of petty traders to economic development and identified the fact that some of them may not have what the commercial banks may require to grant a loan, hence, his support for this initiative to help them grow their businesses.
“The ‘Trader Moni’ initiative is a mobile phone-driven technology.
“After your details have been captured by the agent and sent to BoI system for validation, within 48 hours you will get cash notification in your mobile wallet account. You can either transfer the cash to your bank account or cash it out at any mobile money agent.
“For a starter, you can access N10, 000 and pay back N10, 250 to qualify for N15, 000. Once you payback N15, 375 you will qualify for N20, 000 loan and when you pay back N21, 000, you will get N50, 000. All loan categories have payback duration of six months,” she said.
Speaking recently at a townhall meeting in Bariga/Somolu LCDA in Lagos State to felicitate with Lagosians on the Sallah celebrations, Osinbajo said that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration would continue to focus on the common man and taking Nigerians out of poverty through National Social Investment Programmes(NSIP).
The vice president said that NSIP was geared towards improving the welfare of ordinary Nigerians.
“The President’s focus has always been on the common man.
“So, when we came, we decided on a few things to tackle youth unemployment; first, the N-Power programme to engage as many young people who are graduates as possible.
“We started with 200,000, and just this month, we have employed another 300,000.
“So, in our N-Power programme, we have 500,000 young graduates who are employed in the programme. Now every local government in Nigeria has N-Power graduate.”
He listed other interventions as GEEP, a micro-credit scheme for market women and TraderMoni for petty traders, of which at least 100,000 would benefit in Lagos and two million across the country.
According to Osinbajo, one way of checking poverty is to incrementally improve capacity and put money in the hands of the poorest which is what TraderMoni scheme is doing.
Observers say that TraderMoni is a laudable initiative which should not only be expanded but sustained in order to root out grassroots poverty.