The story of the year 2020 should be all about Covid-19 pandemic and the accompanying job losses, decline in global trade and the shutdown of industries across the globe. Many observers will readily claim that the impact of the pandemic both in terms of hospitalisation and the economic front have been minimal, at least in comparison to other countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas. The health part and why Nigerians are not falling ill as much as people in India or Brazil is harder to explain. But considering the fact that across the world, trade, manufacturing and even tourism came to a standstill for months on end putting one industry after another on life support, you have to ask why aviation in Nigeria did not collapse or why there was no retrenchment of workers in the oil and banking sectors. One reason could be that the economic plans of the government and those saddled with implementing them served their purpose.
And apart from how well the Bank of Industry is doing with its own profitability despite a marginal reduction, the story of why Nigeria has not experienced severe financial pains from the outbreak of a global disease, is in part the story of the 2020 Annual Reports and Accounts of the bank. Twenty-twenty was also the year the Bank of Industry was meant to hold its epic 60th Annual General Meeting. As it turned, the pandemic put all those plans aside instead it was held virtually. The bank itself didn’t have the luxury of slowing down its operations, activating its Business Continuity Plan as early as March 2020. It was barely a month after Nigeria recorded its index case. And from the government, BOI was tasked with an even heavier burden of implementing most of the government’s stimulus and economic recovery plans.
It was not by accident that BOI provided the platform for the World Bank’s $750 million Nigeria COVID-19 Action Recovery and Stimulus Programme. It has, the past few years been central to all of the Federal Government’s action plans to stimulate growth in the economy, lift millions from poverty and support MSMEs. Maybe the most important of those in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, is the MSME Survival Fund, which is part of the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan. The fund was set up as a conditional grant to support vulnerable MSMEs in meeting their payroll obligations and safeguard jobs in the MSME sector.
If you are wondering how successful the fund has been in safeguarding jobs, look at the absence of reports of mass job losses in virtually every sector of the economy throughout the most difficult months of the pandemic. And the numbers are impressive.
BOI, according to its 2020 financial report has disbursed N3.4 billion to 112, 241 beneficiaries through the Artisan Support Scheme and N27.5 billion to 296,232 beneficiaries in the Payroll Scheme. Beyond the programmes related to minimising the impact of COVID-19, BOI in 2020 disbursed N145 billion to 311,911 beneficiaries. Over the years, which has seen the bank working with the Central Bank of Nigeria, commercial banks, state governments and a number of federal ministries successfully executed programmes such as the Smallholders Finance Product. Overall, some N5.5 billion was disbursed to 28,700 rice and maize farmers.
With the N-Power programme, the bank disbursed N2.5 billion to some 300,000 beneficiaries in 2020 and N29.9 billion to 500,000 beneficiaries since it was launched. One of BOI success stories, which probably received the widest public support and participation is the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP). The bank has facilitated the disbursement of N38 billion to 2.4 million beneficiaries. For any institution, the sheer number of beneficiaries would have proved a logistical nightmare. The 2.4 million lives that were touched through the programmes such as TraderMoni, MarketMoni, and FarmerMoni included market women, food vendors, petty traders, artisans and farmers.
After holding its 61st Annual General Meeting, what can be gathered is that for the Bank of Industry and Nigeria at large, the coming years seem promising. The bank was selected as the implementing financial Intitution for the federal government’s National LPG expansion programme, which aims to improve the adoption and use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas. This is a project that was initiated by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Central Bank. The Bank of Industry is expected to take a front role seat in funding and infrastructure delivery through the N500 billion LPG Energy Fund. It wasn’t by accident that BOI has been selected to steer off the government’s most important programmes. Niyi Adebayo, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment believes it has been due to the success in the partnership between BOI and the government in the various initiatives. A sign of that is the fact that many enterprises, both small and large are still standing despite being ravaged by COVID-19.
As the global economies continue to come to terms with the realities of a global pandemic, the bank’s outlook and focus according to the board chairman, Abdurahman Dikko at the conclusion of BOI 21st AGM , will continue to be sustainable economic recovery and inclusive growth of 1.5% for the Nigerian economy in 2021.