By Folasade Akpan
Abuja – Alhaji Nuhu Sanusi, the Emir of Dutse, Jigawa State, has called on the Federal Government to give women loans at four or five per cent interest rates, to improve their economic well-being.
The Emir said this at the opening of a three-day conference on integration of Gender and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Perspectives in Nigeria’s Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) on Wednesday in Abuja.
The workshop was organised by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and the Australian government.
It has as its theme: “Strengthening Women’s Involvement in PPPs (SWIP 3): Delivering gender-responsive PPPs in support of the SDGs.”
Sanusi said that the National Assembly needs to enact laws that would compel banks to assist women, adding that what was obtainable in the banks would not in any way give women the chance to improve themselves.
“What is happening now in the mainstream banks is that women do not have the collateral to go and borrow and they do not have the educational capacity to fill the requirements that are basically unnecessary for women and small scale operators.
“I wish the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is here today. They keep boasting that they have supported particularly women in improving their economic well-being and I am yet to be convinced that they have really done so.
“They should tell us how much has been expended on small scale women sensitive programmes.
“They give loans to the mainstream banks at maybe two per cent and those ones give them at 18 per cent.
“Unless you are dealing in crime, there is no way you can borrow money in this country either for agriculture or manufacturing and be able to pay at 18 per cent interest.
“So if we really want to improve on gender and are serious in doing this, we will have to give women four or five per cent interest rate loans for their projects,” the Emir said.
According to the Emir, women represent more than 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population and yet represent about 10 per cent of the economy , which is definitely unacceptable.
He advocated for special priority to be given to girls up to secondary school level, adding that women’s level of education was still very low.
Mrs Aisha Buhari, the First Lady, while delivering the keynote address, said the integration of gender perspectives in infrastructure development especially in PPP design and implementation would greatly address many gaps in the nation’s infrastructure delivery.
Buhari was represented by Dr Hajo Sani, Senior Special Assistant to the Wife of the President on Administration.
Buhari also said it would have profound impact on the socio-economic growth and transformation of the nation to enhance the living conditions of women.
She said that gender disparities not only rob women of basic rights and opportunities but also impede’s the nation’s development outcomes.
“This event symbolises the premium we place on closing the gender gap and I will be delighted to learn that this gathering of eminent women leaders, professionals, heads of agencies and indeed all Nigerians will support the critical integration going forward.
“We must promote and imbibe gender-responsive infrastructure that supports the SDGs to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”
According to her, doing this will collectively address global challenges including those related to poverty, disparities, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace and justice.
Mr Chidi Izuwah, the Director-General, ICRC, said many infrastructure projects and programmes were gender blind.
“It is assumed that women and men will automatically benefit from new infrastructure, without due acknowledgement to the full range of social and economic impacts, both beneficial and negative.
“Too often, the positive outcomes experienced by women through infrastructural projects have been unintended and unplanned,” he said.
He said that infrastructure and PPP projects should be designed to increase women’s economic opportunities, provide appropriate services to women and actively involve and empower women.
Izuwah added that they must also encourage women to take up decision making and leadership roles and eliminate discrimination against girls and women.
Mr Ebrima Faal, Senior Country Director, Nigeria, African Development Bank (AfDB), said as at 2018, the continent had an infrastructure gap of 130 to 180 billion dollars , with an annual financing gap of 60 to 80 billion dollars.
He added that the fiscal space that was available to the governments to fill the gap was very small, so there was the need to find innovative mechanisms.
“Private partnerships are very critical to our work and the private sector needs to be deeply involved in making sure that the deficit gap is addressed in the continent,” Faal said.
Faal also said that gender perspectives in PPP were important entry points for advancing equity and within PPP frameworks, integrating gender was crucial.
This, he said, was because commitments in PPP could ensure that bankable projects promote equality and enhance women equal participation in and access to infrastructure services.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that ICRC was established to regulate PPP activities in Nigeria , to address physical infrastructure deficit which hampers economic development.