WHY SMEs IN AKWA IBOM DON’T GAIN FROM FG’S SUPPORTS
For over a decade, this Eket born blonde has distinguished herself in her career as a trainer and mentor to hundreds of entrepreneurs, particularly the micro and small scale entrepreneurs. Working with Small and Medium Enterprise Development of Nigeria, SMEDAN, has given her a wider scope to reach out to local business people and help brush up their skills and knowledge in their various aspects of enterprise. Lately, LUCY EKPENYONG has been involved in training of small business owners and assist them access Federal Government relief packages for entrepreneurs. Her worry, as expressed in this discourse, is that Akwa Ibom citizens are yet to wake up enterprise-wise. You will learn more from her experience here.
The Federal Government has given birth to so many support programmes targeting entrepreneurs. That readiness on the part of youth to take up on the program is not readily there. In Akwa Ibom today, only a few numbers of youth are beginning to show interest in MSME development. Akwa Ibom entrepreneurs have not totally embraced the MSE support programmes of the Federal Government.
However, the blame cannot be fully placed on them alone, government has shared in the blame also. Over the years, a lot of people have lost faith in what government could do to assist them. So when you go to the field and tell people, “This is what government wants to do to assist you,” they will not believe. I have been stoned, abused and cursed by the people because when they see you coming to talk to them, they see you as someone who has come to continue the deceit game.
Where it is the fault of our people is that they do not show seriousness in whatever Federal Government is doing. This attitude makes me really sad because a lot of people in Akwa Ibom State have missed so much. For instance, the Survival Fund which was designed to help cushion the harsh effects of the COVID 19 pandemic lockdown, was missed by so many here because they did not show seriousness about that opportunity. The energy I put in Akwa Ibom State to get my people to embrace the Federal Government programmes, my colleagues in the north or southwest do not put 5% of it to get results. It is not the responsibility of the Federal Government to take the information to the grassroots and get the people to participate, it is the responsibility of the state and local governments. We have information ministry in the state and information desk at the local government level who are supposed to take down information on these programmes to the grassroots. We shouldn’t have the issues we have now over poor participation of Akwa Ibom State people on Federal Government programmes, if established information channels function effectively.
I have had to spend my personal funds to mount sensitization activities to get the people registered on Federal Government programmes.
Our people are also lazy about seeking for useful information. The federal government has done a lot but the youths need to get involved and take advantage of these opportunities. I am aware some people have been scammed before, which makes many to be over-cautious. It is good to be cautious but being over-cautious robs you of so many opportunities. For instance, the COVID 19 relief fund is on now and people are over cautious about it. You will find people calling to find out if it is true; I asked them, “Did they ask you to bring money? No! If they didn’t ask you to bring money why don’t you just apply?” What does it cost you to apply? Nothing! So people are unnecessarily over-cautious, which also works against many.
Last year, for instance the federal government asked us to register the MSEs for COVID 19 because any MSEs not registered with a SMEDAN unique identification number cannot benefit from any assistance from Federal Government. When each of the northern states was recording over 10 to 12 thousand, the entire South-South could not register up to 200 SMEs. I was going on the streets begging people to register, I had to hire enumerators to register people, yet our people refused to be registered. And just after that, the COVID 19 Survival Fund came out and you have to have SMEDAN identification number to benefit. The payroll support was to help lift the burden of COVID 19 from employers. But you needed to have TIN or tax clearance but out people do not want to have TIN or do tax clearance, then how do you want to benefit?
Even to register with CAC as a company free of charge, our people still do not come out to register. I was running after people in the state until the free CAC registration ended.
We have a problem and, we have to accept that we have a problem and find a way to solve this problem. You still find people who have been in business for twenty years without a registered company, without tax clearance and no TIN.
Our people must know that nobody does business without a loan. You need a loan to grow and expand. The Federal Government is all out to touch MSEs with a lot of programmes. The covid-19 loan is open now and all you need is your BVN, Identification card and company name. We are helping people to register but it is something you can do yourself with your phone. Our people need to stop this laid-back attitude and get involved. I once went to the market here to sensitize traders about MSEs support programmes, only for someone to ask: “What is there for me?” We have to stop this attitude. We have a long way to go. Our political leaders should wake up and help their constituents get involved in these programmes.
Finally, there is a need for synergy. There’s no synergy here. The organizations here do not want to help anybody, no synergy between the Federal Government State and Local Government. When we go to work with some of the ministries, you will hear them say, “You’re Federal, what did you bring for us?”There has to be a synergy. Synergy is seriously needed to achieve much for the MSEs in the State.