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Raging storm over TraderMoni

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Osinbajo, Okorocha and others during the launch of TraderMoni in Owerri, Imo State

Upon the assumption of office in 2015 with a change mantra, the Muhammadu Buhari led-administration came up with a Social Intervention Programme (SIP) aimed at investing directly in Nigerians, especially the downtrodden and the less privileged.

The programme is the biggest social safety net scheme in the history of the country. The programme included N-Power, which the Buhari government inherited from the Goodluck Jonathan government.

Others include Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP), which is about the feeding of 8.2 million pupils in 45,394 public primary schools across 24 states.

The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) is a scheme through which the Federal Government pays a monthly N5000 stipend to vulnerable Nigerians.

According to the government, as at May this year, 26,942 beneficiaries had been paid the monthly N5,000 stipend in nine states and 84 local government areas.

The states were Borno, Cross River, Niger, Kwara, Ekiti, Kogi, Oyo, Osun and Bauchi. Another scheme is the TraderMoni.

According to the government, the scheme is a collateral-free loan programme created specifically for petty traders and artisans across the country.

On why government initiated the scheme, the government said: “Over 20 million Nigerians that are in petty businesses are in dire need of capital to expand, but are unable to access loans to trade. Trader- moni is for them. It is not Bank of Industry loan. But it is only being administered by the Bank of Industry.

Tradermoney


“Those qualified for the loan are petty traders and artisans. It is interest-free. You pay back the amount you took. One can collect first loan of N10,000 without BVN or bank account. After the first loan of N10, 000, BVN and bank account are required for the next loans of N15,000, N20,000, N50,000 and 100,000.

“On how to repay, don’t pay back to anybody outside of a commercial bank or a licensed mobile money agent, otherwise the payment will not be recognised by Trader-Moni and you will still owe. Also to repay your Trader-Moni loan, walk into any of the following commercial banks- GTB, UBA, Ecobank, UnionBank, Stanbic, Sterling, Wema, Fidelity, Heritage and Jaiz. ”

As laudable and people-oriented as the schemes appear, Nigerians are asking for more explanations on their conception, constitutionality, timing and implementation, considering that such schemes in the past were fraught with politics, cronyism, corruption and lack of accountability.

The Trader-Moni scheme in particular, came under public scrutiny recently, following the allegation on Wednesday November 7, by Senate Minority Leader, Biodun Olujimi, that the Federal Government is using the funds of the SIP to secure permanent voter cards ahead of the 2019 elections.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker said: ‘I Stand With Buhari’ is written on the forms given to recipients of the SIP funds… Right now the funds are being used for political reasons and they are being dispensed and given freely to people who can bring up their PVCs and signed several copies. The issuants are now in charge,” she alleged.

Since Olujimi raised the allegation, which has been denied by the APC senators, many Nigerians have been eagerly looking for the beneficiaries of the scheme, how they were selected and their true status as petty traders and artisans.

Getting accurate data on this will erase doubt, douse tension and confirm the transparency, accountability, motive and genuineness of the scheme and at the same time prove Olujimi wrong or right.

It will equally help in resolving the suit instituted by Hope Democratic Party (HDP) through its presidential candidate Ambrose Owuru, asking the court to punish INEC for allowing the All Progressives Congress (APC) to indirectly lobby voters with N10,000 through the TraderMoni scheme.

The party said: “The court should determine whether the disguise of TraderMoni during this period of election is not a plan by the APC and Osinbajo to upstage and disrupt Hope Party’s welfarism and wealth redistribution of N2 million grants to Nigerian families to end poverty.”

It Was Carnival-Like In Ikotun, Igando Markets As Hoodlums Hijack Registration

THE arrival of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who was accompanied by Lagos State Governor Akinwumi Ambode and the APC governorship candidate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at Ikotun and Igando markets respectively on Monday, November 12, elicited shouts of TraderMoni, TraderMoni, baba, baba, Osinbajo, Osinbajo from the cheering crowd made up of petty traders, APC members and street urchins, who thronged the markets to welcome him as he walked into the markets to activate the scheme.

Also in the VP’s entourage was the self-proclaimed ‘Ghetto soldier’ and Galala master, John Asiemo well-known as Daddy Showkey, whose presence added colour to the market tours, as his fans hailed and surged to exchange banters with him. The security operatives had a hectic day controlling the crowd.

Osinbajo acknowledged cheers, and had one-on-one interactions with the traders.

The Guardian learnt that officials of the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), who are saddled with the responsibility of capturing the data of beneficiaries of the TraderMoni, had on Friday visited the Ikotun and Igando markets to document the data of the beneficiaries with a promise that money would be disbursed to them on Saturday.

According to a crayfish and dried fish seller in Igando Market, who simply identified herself as Mama Esther, she was initially skeptical about the loan, as she had thought it would go the same way other government intervention initiatives usually go, as they are often turned into a party affair, where party leaders use it to settle their members. But to her surprise, the disbursement was devoid of the fear she held, as she got an alert of the money paid into her account following the details she submitted.

In her testimonial, Mama Esther said: “At first, I thought it would end up being like other government initiatives, that are often turned into a party thing, a reason I didn’t believe or trust the loan initially, because I was told they would demand my voter card (PVC) and APC membership card.”

According to her, there are instances where government brings things to support market women, but the leadership of the market, who are also members of the ruling APC, will hijack them and give them to those they like, thus not making it open for everybody to benefit.

“The people giving the money came to the market on Friday, November 10. They wrote our names, addresses, phone numbers and the type of business that we do. They told us that we would receive alerts on Saturday, and like they promised, many of us got the alerts on Saturday. There was nothing like PVC or party membership card. Even though I have my voter card, I don’t belong to any political party,” Mama Esther said.

For elated Raufiat Abanikanda, a soft drink hawker, she was full of praise to the government for the initiative.

“I’m happy about TraderMoni because it will help me to support my business. We face a lot of challenges to get loans, and since we cannot get from the banks, we resort to cooperative societies.

“With this TraderMoni now, I can grow the business. I was told that if I pay back the N10,000, I will be given N20,000 and when I pay the N20,000 I will be able to access N50,000. It is a thing we have been expecting. The government should continue to assist the masses especially we the petty traders,” she added.

Mrs. Clara Edward, a noodle, pasta, tomato paste and seasoning seller, commended the government for coming to the aid of the masses. She, however, said most people who are collecting the money are not petty traders, stressing they are endangering the chances of those who need the loan to support their businesses.

“Most of the people I saw in queue to register for the money are not petty traders. Some don’t have any business they are doing. The majority of them are housewives but because they are told government is sharing money, they felt it is an opportunity to collect their own share of the national cake,” she said.

The Guardian observed that some people, who had earlier registered, were giving out information on registration procedure to those seeking to be registered upon hearing the news of the disbursement that took place on Saturday, and the vice president’s implementation assessment on Monday, November 12.

It was learnt that people began to queue as early as 7:00a.m. on Tuesday, in anticipation that the officials of the TraderMoni would come back to capture their data and hopefully disburse their own money.

This was also the situation at Moshalashi and Ologufe bus stops, where there were two supposedly registration points along Ikotun-Igando Road. Scores of people were seen in long queue, not minding the intensity of the scorching sun, struggling to get registered for the TraderMoni.

According to a commercial cyclist (Okada) the queue began as early as 6:30a.m. It was discovered that those struggling to have a share of the TraderMoni were street urchins (area boys) and their female counterparts, who believe the money is a gift from the government.

One of the boys, who was simply identified as Saheed, said he was a welder by training, but he registered as a cobbler.

“I’m a welder but I registered as a cobbler. I came with some pairs of shoes that I collected from a friend’s shop,” he said.

On the SIP fund, the Executive Director, Bank of Industry, Toyin Adeniji, said: “The goal of TraderMoni is to take financial inclusion down to the grassroots. The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration recognised the contribution of petty traders to economic development and identified the fact that some of them may not have what the commercial banks may require to grant loan, hence, his support for this initiative to help them grow their businesses.”

For the Chief Operating Officer of GEEP, Uzoma Nwagba, the initiative is aimed at expanding financial inclusion, as there are over 23 million Nigerians that are financially excluded from the system.

He said: “This administration aimed to reach them so that they can grow their businesses. In addition to TraderMoni, GEEP has ‘FarmerMoni’ for farmers which avail them an opportunity to access up to N300,000 loan each. MarketMoni targets market women, traders and artisans to get between N50,000 and N100,000.

“Under TraderMoni, beneficiaries can access N10,000 and pay back N10,250 to qualify for N15,000. Once you pay back N15,375 you will qualify for N20,000 loan and when you pay back N21,000, you will get N50,000. All loan categories have payback duration of six months. Repayments can be made to BOI-GEEP loan account under PayDirect at banks,” he explained.

Traders In Mushin, Ikorodu, Oyingbo Accuse Market Leaderships Of Shortchanging Them

As the TraderMoni train hit the city of Lagos, unsavoury tales have dogged the programme right from the start.

When The Guardian visited the Mushin, Sabo and Odogunyan markets in Ikorodu where the scheme was recently launched, a petty trader at Sabo market said he was sad that the scheme had become a money making avenue for many.

Recounting his experience, he said some men came to the market where he sells a couple of weeks ago, informing them of an initiative by the federal government, wherein they would be given interest-free loans, starting from N10, 000.

“According to them, we would be given two to three months to repay the loan and if you did this successfully, you would qualify to get a loan of up to N50, 000 and depending on how faithful you are in repaying, you would get more as time goes by. Naturally, I was excited and happy to hear this and saw this as a good opportunity and though I knew the N10, 000 was a small amount, I was targeting the N100, 000. I come from a very humble background and nobody has ever helped me in life with anything. I was using LAPO loan initially and repaying it and when I heard this was interest-free, I was very happy because the interest on LAPO is very high and is affecting my business.”

“So, I registered as everyone else but what I noticed that day was that every Tom, Dick and Harry was registering, including street urchins and people that came to buy things in the market. They didn’t carry out any checks to see who is truly a trader or not, whether you had a shop or not, nothing at all, it was free for all. Shortly after, my friend came to me that they were sharing money and the crowd was unbelievable, everyone, including area boys were all scrambling for the money but I was told by a friend that it was N8,000 and not N10, 000 that was being distributed. Initially, they were distributing cash but they stopped that and started transferring into our accounts. When I got a call that N10, 000 was put in my e-wallet, I checked and saw it was N8,000 and N2,000 was removed for ‘logistics.’

“I didn’t say anything initially but then I decided to lodge a complaint with the TraderMoni and the Bank of Industry (BoI). I got a call from someone at BoI and they confirmed that indeed, N2,000 was transferred to another account (name withheld) and they were going to look into it and effect a correction. However, till today, I am yet to hear from them. I also got a call from Eyowo, the agents that facilitated the whole thing and they promised to come to the market to confirm the allegations but they never did.”

Michael went on to add that the agents were only interested in giving out money and paying back was never discussed.

“It is basically free money, everyone just took it, nobody is discussing how to pay back so we can scale. I don’t think this scheme would work or last, because there are no basic loan structures in place to sustain it.”

Another recipient of the money, Sloan Olakunle confirmed that the officials came to Odogunyan in Ikorodu and were handing out N7000, removing N3000 for undisclosed reasons. “They were just handing out money to everyone and anyone not even confirming who are the real traders amongst us. Of course, street urchins took over the whole thing and it became a free for all and the Baale had to send them packing because it was degenerating into violence. At the end of the day, very few traders benefitted while street urchins and petty criminals made away with the money.”

It was a slightly different tale in the Mushin market as traders said though the VP launched the scheme there and promised them all sorts of things; the reality has been vastly different. One trader who didn’t want her name in print and referred to herself simply as Alhaja said they were asked to collect the money from the Iyaloja (market leader) as she would be able to determine the true traders amongst them.

“However, when we went to collect it, they were asking us if we were party members and to show proof. Eventually, we were given N8000 after several back and forths. We don’t know what happened to the remaining N2,000 and when some people asked, they said the Iyaloja was the one that removed it. We are so dishonest in this country, I don’t know how anything can actually work seeing as we are always ready to steal from one another at the slightest opportunity,” she sadly lamented.

Another trader refuted the claim that they were asked to show party membership but said they all had N2, 000 deducted. “Eventually, we were told that the money was finished and most people had not even received. They just came to hand out free money, the money can’t do any form of business and we have all agreed that we are not repaying any money especially as we didn’t get the full amount and most of us did not even get the money.”

Also at Oyingbo market, traders alleged that the leadership of the markets popularly known as the Iya L’ Oja, was taking N2,000 from their N10,000 TraderMoni loan.

According to one trader (whose name cannot be mentioned here), the Iya L’ Oja dispenses N8, 000 cash to the traders after registering their names, phone numbers and taking their snapshots.

“Na so dem they do am. If you go up (Iya L’ Oja’s office) you go register (and) you go collect am for inside envelope. Na N8,000 dem go give you,” one of the beneficiaries confirmed.

“But if you register with the TraderMoni officials who dispense within the market and drop your account number, na N10, 000 go enter your account,” she said.

She explained that some of the traders preferred collecting money from the Iya L’ Oja, because they feared not receiving their money electronically due to poor network delivery.

A trader told The Guardian that she registered on Wednesday, but as at on Thursday, she was yet to see any alert, whereas she ought to have instantly received the credit alert transfer like other beneficiaries.

On a visit to the Iya L’ Oja’s office, the same trader who was waiting to collect her loan after having tried unsuccessfully the previous day lamented that the loan’s accessibility was improperly secured.

According to her, the trick is camouflaging to be a trader even if you are not.

“You go just find person wey dey sell market make hin borrow you hin market (wares) take snap picture,” she said.

Our findings also reveal that due to this loophole, some traders are also manipulating the scheme to illegally receive multiple loans.

Meanwhile, although the Iya L’ Oja could not be contacted, one of her aides debunked the claim, saying that it was N10,000 that was being given to the traders instead.

Mixed Reactions Trail Scheme In Cross River Markets As Some Registered Traders Are Yet To Benefit

WHAT seemed to be joy to traders in Cross River State three months ago when the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo visited the state capital markets with the federal government social scheme called TradeMoni, has become what traders in the popular Watt market described as a scam.

When The Guardian visited the market, most of the traders were surprised that such a thing was happening and claimed not to know while those who were aware described it as a scam. They said they were made to register online the day the vice president came with the scheme to Watt market but had not received or heard anything from the government.

A trader at the Market, Chibuzo Uzoma said the N10,000 TraderMoni scheme was a scam.

According to him, “That day of the event was funny, because I did not make sales the way I used to as all roads were closed because the vice president came to the market and all that was for nothing.

Again, because of the situation of the country, everybody wanted to benefit from free money so people that did not have anything to do with the scheme came to get their share of the national cake which I believe was a scam.

“We did an online registration. I even volunteered my shop as a point for registration that fateful day but up until now we have not seen anything thing or hear anything.

Even my wife registered, all the market people around here registered but nobody has come out to tell me that he or she has got an alert from TraderMoni.

So to me, I believe that they used it to gather crowd for the vice president to pass so that it would look as if everybody is supporting APC. I am not in support of APC.

“There is nothing like an office of TraderMoni in this market. To tell you the truth, since the day the vice president came, about three months ago, I have not heard that name TraderMoni again. I have not seen anybody who said he got the loan,” Uzoma said.

Nsa Nakanda, a little girl that sells sachet water said she was refused the opportunity to register.

“I sell sachet water here in the market and I am a student of College of Health Technology.

“I was here the day the vice president came but they didn’t register me because they said I didn’t have a shop. Well, I am not feeling bad because I am okay with the little that I have,” she said.

On his part, Sam who deals on fairly used clothes said: “Those of us that are here in this part of the market did not benefit from the TraderMoni. We were not given the opportunity to register and even most people did not show interest because they don’t believe in such a loan. What I heard was that the person that is in charge of the registration, a member of the traders in this market only registered people that are close to him. As for me, I don’t know anything that is going on about the TraderMoni.”

But Mrs Idara Okon, a businesswoman said: “The government has given me N100, 000 loan before which I paid back within the period of three months and it wasn’t for APC members only. So I don’t think they are trying to buy me off. Every government has its own plan for the people. I think this is the style of the present government in reaching and helping business men and women.”

According to a businesswoman, Cornelius Veronica, “I don’t know and have not heard about the federal government scheme.

As you can see, my shop is not really full, if I heard about the loan my shop would have been full. If government is planning such a thing, it would be good because it will improve my business. You know these days to buy clothes and shoes are expensive.

“I really don’t know if they are planning to buy my vote, because I am a PDP member. I can only vote to change the change.”

A trader, Mrs. Regina Ushie said that the federal government was actually doing its best to help them, but that the loan was not being given through the appropriate channel.

“I know how many of my friends who applied for this loan, but we’re not given. If business goes well I will certainly refund the money at the stipulated time. I just pray something should not go wrong with the economy or system that might affect my business.”

One Year After Registration, Traders In Akwa Ibom Are Yet To Receive Loan
From Inemesit Akpan-Nsoh, Uyo

Traders in Akwa Ibom markets are yet to benefit from the TraderMoni scheme. Most of the traders spoken to at the popular Akpan Andem and Itam markets in the city said they were yet to access the loan, almost a year after they submitted their completed forms to the person in charge of the office in the state.

Narrating her experience, a market woman at Itam market, who gave her name as Eka Affiong said she got information about the loan through the cooperative society she belongs to in the market.

“The president directed us to collect the form which we did, but the form is almost one year now and we haven’t heard anything again from anybody,” she said.

According to her, all enquiries at their office at the State Secretariat Annex along Udo Udoma yielded no result. The same responses were received at Akpan Andem market.

At the Social Investment Office in the State Secretariat Annex, efforts to speak with the focal person, (that is the officer in charge of the programme) was unsuccessful as The Guardian was told that the person had been transferred.

Of interest to note is that findings within the office proved that other social schemes run there are going on smoothly except the TraderMoni .

It was further learnt that those who collected the forms followed due process in filling in them and submitting them to the state office of the scheme, which same was returned to BOI in Calabar in Cross River State capital.

However, further investigation revealed that the programme might have been put on hold in the state, because most beneficiaries have refused to repay.

Mr. Inyang Ikpe described the programme as one that could make traders in the state become wholesalers, advising that it should not be politicised.

According to him, any programme of the federal government in the state should be received with two hands as it is from the oil money of which the state is the highest producer in the country.

Most petty traders along Udo Umana street by Akpan Andem market called on the federal government to come to the state at least for the N10,000 TraderMoni which the vice president is giving out in other states.

According to some of them, “Even if the money is meant for votes buying, let them not forget Akwa Ibom State, let them bring the money here.

“Our neighbouring state Cross River has benefitted from the gesture, they should come to Akwa Ibom since we have not benefitted from it yet. After all, voting is a game of the mind.”


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