*Urges judicious use of funds to grow economy
*Beneficiaries laud transparent selection process
By Adeyemi Robinson-Adefioye, Lagos
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode on Thursday presented cheques worth over N1billion to 705 beneficiaries of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (ETF) pilot scheme, charging them to utilise the funds responsibly to grow their businesses, create jobs for the unemployed youths and contribute to the growth of the Lagos economy.
Governor Ambode, who made the presentation at the LTV Blue Roof, Ikeja, Lagos, said his administration identified unemployment as a major socio-economic challenge facing Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole in the course of the electoral campaign, and thus prioritised job creation.
He said the setting up of the ETF was a direct response to address the challenge of unemployment as well as provide support to the youths, entrepreneurs, artisans and other unemployed residents of the State.
“We have kept our word. We created a dedicated Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment, whose mission is to promote and sustain entrepreneurship and employment,” the Governor said.
Governor Ambode, while commending the Board and Management of the Fund for embarking on a comprehensive review of the business environment and developing a strategic framework and operating guidelines to ensure the sustainable and successful management of these funds, said the successful disbursement was a product of the painstaking effort.
He said the funds are targeted at small and medium scale businesses and individuals including carpenters, hairdressers, electricians, automobile parts repairers, block makers, bakers, fashion designers, cake makers, food sellers, kerosene retailers, mobile money agents, painters, plumbers, photographers and light manufacturers of liquid soaps and water among others.
“These beneficiaries are making history as the first set of beneficiaries of this Employment Trust Fund, and my charge to you is simple: You must use these funds responsibly, grow your businesses, create jobs for our unemployed youths and contribute to the growth of the Lagos State GDP. The idea is that for every N1million we disburse, we should create a minimum of five jobs around that business value chain.
“These loans have been provided at a very affordable rate of 5% per annum, far cheaper than the prevailing bank interest of 25% per annum. This is our modest way of reflating the Lagos economy, creating jobs and getting our youths gainfully occupied. Those of you here today, the first beneficiaries of this initiative, will be the agents through which our country can overcome its current economic challenges,” Governor Ambode said.
The Governor also enjoined market women and female artisans to take advantage of the opportunity as his administration was particularly interested in supporting women in business.
“I also implore the Employment Trust Fund to pay special attention to the Entertainment Industry and the Tech Hubs in Sabo, Yaba area. These are new areas with huge potential for growth and job creation,” he said.
Governor Ambode also expressed optimism that the target by the Board to empower at least 100,000 micro, small and medium enterprises in due course was achievable and that the multiplier effect would be the creation of over 300,000 direct and 600,000 indirect jobs by 2019.
In her opening remarks, Chairman, Board of ETF, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru said the presentation of cheques to beneficiaries was in fulfillment of the promise made by Governor Ambode during the electioneering and a confirmation of many to come.
She recalled that while canvassing for votes, the need to provide jobs was clearly on the mind of the Governor, and according to her, he wasted no time in setting up the ETF Board made up of people with proven track record, as well as transferring N6.25billion for the initiative to kick off, while the Board ensured that the process was fair and transparent with no favour as to party, religion, tribe or faith, and covered all the 57 Councils in the State.
“While we were trying to come up with the necessary procedures, Governor Ambode kept telling us to hurry up to start disbursing the loans to residents which signified his good intention and he has also given us the mandate to make the disbursement a monthly affair to make the fund get to as many residents as possible,” Omoigui-Okauru said.
Responding on behalf of others, one of the beneficiaries, Ahmed Ojikutu thanked Governor Ambode for the initiative, saying that it was gratifying to note that the process was very transparent.
He said: “This is indeed a promise kept by the Governor. When next the Governor tells us anything, we will believe him and I want to sincerely thank him on behalf of all the beneficiaries.”