For the 2,160 beneficiaries of Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency (SMEDAN) grant in Sokoto State, the N50, 000 given to them meant everything. Majority of them should thronged the city metropolis that day with little or no premonition of what awaited them, but they were soon saturated with joy after realizing that they were there to meet with Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko.
For these locals, coming from such a distance to meet the senator whose generosity is said to be beyond comprehension meant everything to them.
Little wonder therefore that a handsome number of the beneficiaries came to the city a day before the fateful.
Narrating her expectations, at the venue of the event, one of the beneficiaries, 58-year-old Ummi Habibu, who came from Illela local government area of the state said her reason for coming was connected to the fact that she wanted to see Wamakko and to be blessed by him. According to her, she undertook the journey as an adventure despite efforts by her children to discourage her, saying the whole programme would not be any different from the numerous political gimmicks of politicians.
Desirous of making it to the metropolis at all cost, Ummi said she had to come prepared with her transport in anticipation that things would go sour.
Ummi also divulged that despite all attempts to discourage her from making the trip failed, her children gave up and advised that she goes with one of her grandchildren, a condition she accepted with ease.
Continuing, she said, while in Sokoto, the first thought that came to her mind was to visit Senator Wamakko’s house, hence she has heard on several occasions that the place is open to all irrespective of age, status and sex.
“After much thought, I gave up the idea because I was told the crowd in the house will be very much for me to see him. I was however comforted by the fact that, I will certainly see him at the SMEDAN programme the next day.”
Filled with such optimism, Ummi said she went to bed with her eyes widely opened as she awaited the breaking of the day. Like an expectant bachelor, Ummi woke up very early the next morning and headed straight to the venue with her grandchild only to be initially disappointed with the multiple crowd at the venue before her arrival.
She, like every other expectant beneficiary, quickly joined the queue of those from her local government to be registered. And after that, she eventually took her seat right inside the Sultan Maccidio Institute of Quranic and General studies, venue of the programme.
While she awaited the arrival of Senator Wamakko, her appetite was aroused on hearing that the programme was aimed at empowering them. “You see, I have been in the business of making groundnut oil for decades. But at a very small level because I have no money to buy large quantity of groundnut. Therefore, on hearing that they were going to give us money, my mind went back to how I’d improve on my groundnut oil business.”
The story of 30-year-old Hajara and mother of three from Tureta local government area at the venue was no different from that of Ummi. She too narrated her plans for whatever she was going to get from the programme.
However, the long wait at the venue because of registration became a thing of joy for them immediately the director general, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) Dr Dikko Umaru Radda, said no fewer than 2,160 persons in the state will get N50,000 each from the schemes conditional grant.
Radda, who noted that MSMES is one of the most important subsectors of the nation’s economy, stressed that graduating informal enterprises to formal sector will help the drive towards developing rural economy.
According to him, MSMES currently account for a majority of the enterprises in Nigeria, hence no doubt creates more jobs in the economy than any other sector. “As you may be aware, the micro enterprises sub-sector is a critical sub sector in the Nigerian enterprises development space. They collectively account for a majority of the enterprises in Nigeria and account for the highest number of jobs created in the economy.
“The findings in the National MSMEs Survey of 2010 and 2013 revealed that micro enterprises represent 99.8 per cent (N17, 261,753) and 99.80 per cent (N36, 994,578) of total enterprises respectively.”
“In terms of employment, the total number of persons employed by micro enterprises in 2010 was 15,641,460 (representing 90.41 per cent of total number of employed persons). In 2013, the total number of persons employed by micro enterprises was 57,836, 391 (representing 96.88 per cent of the total number of persons employed).
In his displeasure, Radda said, over 90 per cent of the micro enterprises in Nigeria are informal and populated by those at the bottom of the pyramid, hence the reason for such gesture by the President Buhari’s led administration to touch the lives of those at the bottom through such initiatives.
According to him, the conditional grant scheme was conceptualised as a practical means of making meaningful impact on the lives of beneficiaries. “The present initiative (Conditional Grant Scheme) looks to promoting the activities of micro enterprises across the country in the areas of capacity building and delivery of post-intervention support services such as access to finance (conditional grants) markets, workspace, technology etc.
“The pilot phase of the project was conducted in 2017 in the following six states: Katsina, (34 LGAs), Gombe (11 LGAs) Ebonyi (13 LGAs) and Benue (23 LGAs). This makes a total of 145 LGAs.
“Over 13,000 micro-enterprises shortlisted across the local government areas in the pilot states were impacted with entrepreneurship training, finalisation of businesses through business name registration with Cooperate Affairs Commission (CAC) provision of micro insurance and access to finance through grant of 50,000. In addition, the scheme has a provision for performance award for the best performing enterprise in each local government area and post intervention activities (Business Development Services Follow-up).
Radda further divulged that having seen the successes of the scheme in those pilot states, SMEDAN conditional cash grand would now run in the three states of Lagos, Sokoto and Bauchi respectively.
On possible speculations of favouritism in the selection of beneficiaries, the SMEDAN boss noted that they adopt chains of process to ensure that only those within the bottom of the pyramid get assisted.
This, according to him, further explains why the objective of the conditional cash grant scheme is to, amongst other things, move micro enterprises from the informal to the formal sector, create jobs, wealth and help alleviate poverty in the society.
Other reasons also include, enhancing competitiveness of these enterprises towards meeting national, regional and global standards, thus helping to improve the internally generated revenue of the three tiers of government across the country to reduce overdependence on oil revenue.
Radda also divulged that the initiative would help the improvement of human, technological and financial capacity of operators of micro enterprises.
Speaking earlier, immediate past governor of the state and senator representing Sokoto North, Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko noted that the MSMEs conditional grant scheme initiative remains a unique and profitable scheme that is capable of up lifting the living standard of the beneficiaries
Typical in his nature, every moment of his speech was greeted by cheers from all participants. However, the joy in the hall got to its peak when Senator Wamakko began to appreciate nursing mothers who were there with some personal cash.
Majority of the women, including Ummi said, little wonder everybody in the state always derive pleasure in coming to see Senator Wamakko because of his uncommon generosity.
Earlier, the minister of state, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar, represented by Badamasi Bello, said growth in the micro enterprises sub-sector could lead to growth in the economy as a whole.