By Chijioke Okoronkwo
Abuja – Mr Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, says any attack on the TraderMoni scheme is an attack on hardworking petty traders and Nigerians in general.
A group, Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, recently called for the suspension of the programme, one of the microcredit schemes of President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s Social Investment Programmes (SIPs).
Akande, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’s Spokesman, in a statement on Friday in Abuja, described the call as both unbelievable and unfortunate.
Akande, who was reacting to a news report credited to the group, noted that such an attack on the SIPs was a direct confrontation with the millions of Nigerians benefitting from all the schemes.
He said it would be deceitful for anyone or group to accuse Osinbajo of advance vote buying through TraderMoni, a micro-credit scheme designed to assist the bottom of the pyramid petty traders nationwide.
“This was the false claim contained in a communiqué jointly signed by the leadership of a group called Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum recently.
“We do not think the Nigerian people are up for sale, nor can they be bought. Such suggestions are an insult on our collective identity.
“And calling for the suspension of a scheme that improves the businesses of ordinary, hardworking Nigerians, like petty traders, is not only unfair, but an attack on the common man.
“The Social Investment programme of the Buhari administration started in 2016, and the TraderMoni scheme is a part.
“So, it is false to even insinuate that the scheme was meant for advance vote buying when it was conceived two years ago.
“TraderMoni, which is part of the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) under the SIPs, is designed to assist petty traders across the country expand their trade through the provision of collateral and interest-free loans from N10,000. The loans are repayable over a period of six months.”
Akande said that it seemed naysayers could not withstand the fact that the administration was fulfilling its promise.
He asked if they would rather share the funds among themselves instead of supporting petty traders.
“After all, in some few instances, a combined sum of N100 billion was shared under the former administration.
“If that N100 billion had been given to petty traders as loans, like the Buhari administration is doing now at N10,000, 10 million petty traders nationwide would have been beneficiaries.
“We will not choose to engage with the notion that Nigerians and their loyalty are for sale.
“This administration has proven over and over again that it is committed to the welfare of everyday Nigerians, the common man.
“That is why we started the largest Social Investment Programme in the history of our country. And we will not relent in staying connected with our people.
“This is a major reason why TraderMoni, which has since been formally launched in 33 states and the FCT, will continue nationwide as we intend to reach two million Nigerians by the end of the year.
Over 809,000 Nigerians are currently beneficiaries of the microcredit scheme.’’
Akande noted that it was a season of upcoming elections and desperate politicians resorting to desperate measures.
However, he said it was irresponsible for any group to play politics with the welfare of ordinary Nigerians.
“Besides the fact that petty traders are major contributors to the informal economy, most of them do not have access to loans from commercial banks which require collateral or interest, which would help them grow their business, and so the country’s economy.”
He said that through TraderMoni, the Buhari administration was empowering ordinary Nigerians by improving financial inclusion at the grassroots.
Akande clarified further that beneficiaries of TraderMoni were not required to show their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) or any document to qualify for the interest-free loans.
“This is why the enumeration is done in the open markets and wherever the traders ply their trade.
“The Social Investment Programme includes the Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP); Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT); Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) (MarketMoni, FarmerMoni and TraderMoni) and the N-Power job scheme.”
He said that Buhari’s administration remained committed to the welfare and upliftment of the common man and all Nigerians, regardless of party affiliations and that the SIP was one the major planks of the administration to improve the livelihood of Nigerians.(NAN)