Beneficiaries of GEM scheme cry out over delay in funds disbursement
There was wide jubilation across the country, particularly among the youths, who were envisaged to be major beneficiaries, when the federal government, in partnership with the World Bank and Department For International Development (DFID) in November 2015, launched the Growth and Employment (GEM) Equity Window, a grant scheme designed to support micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria.
However, if seem this jubilation is now short lived, as beneficiaries of the scheme, which is being supervised by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, have called on the government to release the second tranche of the payment that was long overdue, to enable them revive their businesses that are on the verge of collapse.
The benefitting SMEs, numbering over 300, have expressed fears that their individual businesses, established last year with the support of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, may suffer total collapse, should government continue to withhold the second tranche of funds disbursement to them.
The federal government, had last year, through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, assembled the SMEs and promised to assist them set up cottage industries by empowering them through the World Bank/DFID funded scheme for SMEs. The essence was to provide them with seed funding and monitor their business growth over a period of time.
The SMEs, which were drawn from the YouWiN project of the Ministry of Finance, signed agreement with the Ministry Industry, Trade and Investment in March 2016, in order to benefit from the GEM project. PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) was appointed grant administrators, while KPMG as the monitoring and control body for the project.
Some of the benefitting SMEs who spoke to The Guardian about their challenges with the scheme, said the Ministry in July 2016, paid each SME between 25 per cent and 60 per cent of the total cost of funding their businesses, amounting to about N3 million to N10 million as the first tranche with a pledge to pay the second and final tranche after 90 days from the date of the initial payment.
According to them, the second tranche of the payment was supposed to be paid in October 2016, but 11 months after, it has not been paid. They expressed concern that the delay is threatening their businesses, as they have invested huge sums already.
They explained that due to the long delay in the payment of the second tranche, over 80 per cent of them borrowed from bank to invest in their businesses, pending when the second tranche would be paid.
Narrating their ordeals, they said they were already indebted, having invested in equipment and raw materials and could not continue with the business for lack of funds. Some said their rents for their cottage industry space had since expired and the landlords are threatening to quit them.
They also explained that they have lost contact with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, since their lines of communication were no longer going through, despite concerted efforts to reach the Ministry officials on phone. They, therefore, called on the federal government to intervene and compel the officials of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, to pay them the second tranche of the funds without further delay.
“The machines some of us already bought for production are wasting away and we are owing rents and salaries of employed workers. Based on what is on ground bow, it is like the federal government introduced us to the businesses only to abandon us midway to perish with their business ideas,” one of the benefitting SMEs told The Guardian.
“We will mobilise our colleagues for public protests in Lagos and Abuja next month, if the government fails disburse the funds meant for the SMEs,” the beneficiary added. Efforts made to reach the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, PwC and KPMG failed, as mail sent to them respectively, was not replied to as the time of press.
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