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Business owners lament inability to access support funds October 04, 2019
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Small business owners across the country have cried out that their firms are dying for lack of funds. They particularly lament their inability to access various loans and intervention funds created by the Federal Government for the sector.

Leaders of the business organisations gave this position at a media briefing in Lagos under the aegis of the Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria.

They stated that none of their members had benefitted from such government support over the years.

Those at the briefing were representatives of the Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, the Association of Micro Entrepreneurs of Nigeria and the National Association of Small Scale Industrialists.

Speaking through the National President, ASBON, Dr Femi Egbesola, the small business operators said even after they had submitted applications for the intervention funds and provided other things required, none of them had succeeded in accessing the funds.

He mentioned the N220bn intervention fund for SMEs initiated through the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2016 and the recent Agribusiness Small and Medium Enterprise Investment scheme.

He said with the latter, each MSME owner could access up to N10m from the intervention fund to boost their business, having satisfied prescribed requirements.

But the leader of the small business owners said having met all the requirements, none of their members that applied for loans last year December had been able to draw from the fund.

Egbesola said, “We have quite a series of government intervention loans fashioned towards the needs and in support of the SMEs. It is, however, sad to say that accessing them has been almost impossible even after meeting up with all the requirements, with its attendant cost and other resources.

“There was the N220bn intervention fund announced by the CBN for the sector in either 2015 or 2016, but none of members who applied had been able to benefit from the fund.

“ Now, we have another CBN intervention fund called the Agribusiness Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme, in which each member of the SMEs can draw up to N10m loan to boost their business.

“No fewer than 5,000 of our members had applied and submitted all the requirements. But since December 2018, they are yet to get any feedback. It is rather frustrating.

“We want the CBN to release the names of the SME owners who have benefitted from the scheme.”

The association also asked the government to jettison the idea of increasing the Value Added Tax from five per cent to 7.2 per cent, which was recently approved by the Federal Executive Council.

They said the government had hinged the decision to hike VAT on the claim that Nigeria charged the lowest VAT among the ECOWAS but it failed to mention that those countries had better living standards and their governments were supporting the SMEs.

Egbesola said, “Nigeria has one of the highest poverty rate in the world and an increase in a consumption tax like VAT would be a huge burden on the average Nigerian and the SMEs.

“To us in the MSME, the increment in VAT will shoot up the cost of doing business and force many of us to close shop. The increment will hurt small businesses more than ever envisaged.”

The association said there was no basis for such increment, because in Nigeria, business owners took care of their own electricity, funding and provision of infrastructure within the vicinity where they carried out their business.

By THE PUNCH