MARGINALIZATION | FG leaves South East out of Empowerment Scheme

· 23,400 beneficiaries from 13 states receive N100,000 each
The Federal Govern­ment pressed on with its economic empow­erment and pover­ty alleviation programme on Monday, by disbursing loans to 23,400 beneficiaries in 13 states.
Shockingly, none of the beneficiaries came from any of the five states in the South East geopolitical zone. This is not the first time the region is missing in the development and economic packages unveiled by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
When the Federal Govern­ment unveiled a $29.96 billion foreign loan for the provision of infrastructure across the coun­try, none of the projects to be executed with the loan was lo­cated in Igboland.
 Similarly, when the gov­ernment recently paid N5,000 monthly stipends to some poor Nigerians under its Social Inter­vention Scheme, all the states in the South East were excluded.
The current loans are be­ing disbursed through the Fed­eral Government’s Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP).
The Presidency, which an­nounced this on Monday, list­ed the benefitting states as Ad­amawa, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Ekiti, Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Lagos, Osun and Ogun. Others are Oyo, Ondo, Rivers and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
It did not give reasons for the obvious omission of states in the South East from the scheme.
The micro-credit scheme, which is a non-interest loan scheme, with only a one-time 5 per cent administrative fee for costs, is targeted at micro-en­terprises: traders, artisans, mar­ket men and women, entrepre­neurs, as well as farmers, with the involvement of cooperatives and executed through the Bank of In­dustry (BOI).
Although over 23,000 people have benefited from the loans al­together, over one million people have already enrolled for the pro­gramme across the country and are expected to benefit this year, said a statement issued by the Of­fice of the Vice-President.
To facilitate the loans’ dis­bursement, four payment provid­ers have been signed-on for the programme mostly in the urban areas. The next wave of payment providers, coming on stream by March 2017, would provide a much wider coverage in the ru­ral areas.
The loans range from N10,000 to N100,000 per appli­cant. While the loans would be paid directly to individuals, the beneficiaries are expected to be­long to registered associations and/or cooperatives as the case may be, to ensure that they are peer-endorsed as credible, and to facilitate timely repayments.
All beneficiaries must have BVNs and bank accounts, said the statement, which further an­nounced that in continuation of the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme, actual feed­ing of pupils is expected to com­mence this week in Ogun and Oyo States, while Ebonyi State will soon follow suit.
“Contrary to insinuations in some quarters and inaccurate re­ports in some sections of the me­dia, there are no payment issues or any kind of food rationing taking place in states where the Homegrown School Feeding Pro­gramme has kicked off.
“While the Federal Govern­ment has paid all approved cooks based on the number of pupils al­located to each cook, it is the State that provides the number of pu­pils to be fed. And where those figures change, the next batch of FG payment would reflect it.
“Specifically, where the num­ber of pupils increase, the State will communicate the increase and approve the review. The numbers of the new pupils are then physically verified, before a commensurate number of cooks are engaged, trained and then paid”, it added.
Also, government has adopt­ed a system of paying the cooks 10 days in advance payment for feeding.
The programme is designed to ensure that no cook feeds more than 150 pupils a day, but in some cases, the numbers are as low as 35 children per cook.
The meal, which must be sufficient and nutritious, is cost­ed around locally sourced items and approved by the State under the N70 per child provision by the Federal Government.
Food quality is monitored at the school level through the head teachers, the Parent Teacher As­sociation (PTA), and the state monitoring teams.

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