The Presidential Amnesty Programme has prepared an additional 1,500 ex-agitators for single-digit interest loans offered by the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending.
NISRAL is a Central Bank of Nigeria backed programme targeting entrepreneurs in the agricultural value chains.
This comes at a concessionary interest rate of nine per cent.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the training, which took place at designated centres in Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom States, was in continuation of a programme for NIRSAL loans, which PAP commenced in November 2021.
The initiative was part of the efforts of PAP to raise the economic prospects of people in the Niger Delta region by attracting financial support for small and medium scale enterprises.
The Interim Administrator of the PAP, retired Colonel Milland Dikio, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Neotaobase Egbe, on Sunday, counselled the beneficiaries to judiciously use the loans to become successful entrepreneurs.
Dikio cautioned the beneficiaries against misuse of the facility, adding that diverting the loan would create more hardships for them and further plunge the region into extreme poverty.
The statement quoted the interim administrator as saying in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State that the focus of the training was to facilitate and enhance single-digit interest loans for entrepreneurs in the region.
Dikio, who was represented by the Head of Reintegration, Alfred Kemepado, said that the training would help the beneficiaries to grow their businesses and mitigate risks.
At the Yenagoa and Port Harcourt centres, Dikio, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Projects, Godwin Ekpo, asked the beneficiaries to form cooperatives and focus on agriculture.
He said: “The facilitators were very engaging and it just gives us hope that once we are done with this set, and we go into the next batches, the subsequent things we will do with these people will yield results.
“We have asked them to form themselves into cooperatives, look at the agriculture value chain, production; processing, packaging and logistics, to see where they fit in.
“A lot of them have shown interest and I am hoping that maybe, by tomorrow they will form themselves into different clusters in the value chain of several products.
“What we are saying to everybody that cares to hear is that the Niger Delta is ready for development.
“Come back to the Niger Delta, come back and invest here. We are ready to receive you and we are ready to support you.”
A senior Reintegration Officer in PAP, Benjamin Appah, who stood in for Dikio in Warri, explained how the beneficiaries were selected across the region for the various training centres.
He said: “The names were compiled across impacted communities, PAP success stories, PAP cooperatives, and the documented bona fide beneficiaries of the amnesty programme.
“We received the names through their camp leaders, their cooperatives, and the post-training units.
“We also gathered from the success stories of people who have been previously empowered by the amnesty office and are doing well in their businesses.
“The office of the Interim Administrator thought it wise that since they are doing well in their businesses, we should help them expand. This loan is a scheme organized by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“However, PAP decided to bridge that gap and facilitate training by engaging a consultant, who would train the beneficiaries and show them the prerequisite of accessing the loan and also guide them through developing a credible business plan.
“In a nutshell, the current PAP administration is trying to facilitate access for the beneficiaries so as to benefit from the Federal Government’s single-digit collateral-free loan programme.
“All the beneficiaries have to do is come down to their training centres, receive their training, and the office is responsible for all the other expenses that qualify them.”
Some of the facilitators told NAN that the training, besides giving them access to funding and skills to promote their businesses, would also make them good employers of labour.
Certificates of participation were issued to the beneficiaries across all the centres at the end of the five-day workshop.
The certificate qualified the beneficiaries for other CBN accredited loans, grants and credit facilities.