President Goodluck Jonathan should walk with his head low. It is unfortunate that he has betrayed millions of poor and average Nigerians who voted en mass to make him president. We all believed him when he begged for our votes by promising to change the plight of the poor having had a dose of extreme poverty. What has the one once without shoes done to better the lives of the poor after we put him in a place where he now enjoys an uncountable number of shoes?
The gap increases every day. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The systemic marginalization of the poor and less privileged is frustrating and has reached maximum crescendo. Our resources are being shared by the few in power while average Nigerians await the crumbs. From the Federal Government to State Governments and all over our government and non-governmental institutions, there is ignorance and frightening nonchalance to tackling the matter.
The government claims to know the danger of unemployment plaguing our country and understand the need for Job creation, yet role out programs that won’t make a difference. Successive governments keep making the same mistakes of their predecessors. The government will rather empower a Dangote with N50 billion than empower 5,000 people with N10 million each.
Considering the huge amount of money that has been tagged Intervention Funds voted for SME’s in recent years, I suppose the landscape of Nigeria should be dotted with industries. I cannot be proved wrong. I say it boldly that such funds are shared by people in power. Amongst all programs for youth empowerment, I see the Youwin program as the only sensible way to create employment and having had encounters with various institutions, I will share my findings.
The Bank of Industry: the bank of Industry was established by the Federal Government to promote the industrial sector in Nigeria. Perhaps they have done well in turning corrupt millionaire politicians into billionaires; they have neglected the average Nigerian and created bottlenecks to ensure that only the rich get richer. To reach such conclusion, I examined their loan packages and the conditional ties. In simple terms, anyone who wants N10 million to start a business must have collaterals worth N30 million. To get that, you must deposit 10% of desired amount (N1 million) to the bank. You have to wait for over 8 months to get approved for a loan. These are just a few out of many bottlenecks.
How on earth will a fresh unemployed graduate meet such conditions unlike the politicians that have our treasury at arm’s length? How would a man without shoes get N1 million to deposit and own a N30 million collateral to secure N10 million loan? The government is reluctant to provide us with capital; where else do we get it. Our oil and our natural resources are the government properties and all proceeds go to the Federal Government wallet. Yet the government won’t help us with Capital to start businesses.
If the reports were true, how on earth did Jimoh Ibrahim rout $200 million BOI loan into his privately owned company? Can someone please do the math in Naira? The government only pump money into BOI to feed corrupt politicians and not to empower the youths. N220 Billion was recently released as Intervention Fund and we suspect that it will find its way into private accounts owned by corrupt politicians. The Bank of Industry already has billions in its coffers that the officials of the Ministry of Finance put into fix deposits and shares the profits. We need to ask why the Rice Intervention Fund like many other funds lies fallow in the bank without being disbursed. The reason is not farfetched. It is a deliberate frustration of applicants by way of stringent conditional ties to ensure that the money remains in the bank coffers to feed their greed.
The Okonjo Iweala Youwin initiative is brilliant. If the Ministry of finance can adopt the Youwin approach in BOI, unemployment will be drastically reduced in no time. The system adopted in Youwin can be improved upon to ensure no one defaults, the government doesn’t have to worry about people defaulting and there won’t be need for inconvenient conditional ties aimed at discouraging people from obtaining loans. In fact, we should talk more of grants in our present predicament. We have reached a stage where the government must look beyond profits and assist the masses.
If our President was once without shoes, he would understand the sufferings of the masses. Whoever, occupies the seat of power come 2015 must assemble a team from the field and deliver Nigeria from the jaws of unemployment.
We have had enough of our resources enriching the pockets of a few. We have had our fill of preventable hardships. We have had enough of corrupt officials standing in the way of potential business owners. This systemic rot must end with the present tenure. We desire a change before the poor and hungry have the rich for food.
The writer of this opinion piece is Ken Oloye.