President Bola Tinubu said on Monday that his government would energise the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector with N125 billion as part of measures to cushion the impacts of petrol subsidy removal.
Announcing the measures during a national broadcast, he said: “We are also monitoring the effects of the exchange rate and inflation on gasoline prices. If and when necessary, we will intervene.”
He said his government will spend N50 billion on Conditional Grant to 1 million nano businesses between now and March 2024. “Our target is to give N50,000 each to 1,300 nano business owners in each of the 774 local governments across the country,” he added.
He said this programme will further drive financial inclusion by onboarding beneficiaries into the formal banking system. “In like manner, we will fund 100,000 MSMEs and start-ups with N75 billion. Under this scheme, each enterprise promoter will be able to get between N500,000 to N1 million at 9 percent interest per annum and a repayment period of 36 months,” he added.
The president recalled his signing of four Executive Orders to address unfriendly fiscal policies and multiple taxes stifling the business environment.
He said N75 billion will be spent between July 2023 and March 2024 to strengthen the manufacturing sector and increase its capacity to expand and create good paying jobs.
“Our objective is to fund 75 enterprises with great potential to kick-start a sustainable economic growth, accelerate structural transformation and improve productivity. Each of the 75 manufacturing enterprises will be able to access N1 billion credit at 9 percent per annum with maximum of 60 months repayment for long-term loans and 12 months for working capital,” he said.
Tinubu noted that as part of his commitment to improve the welfare and living condition of Nigerians, he approved the Infrastructure Support Fund for states.
According to him, the new infrastructure fund will enable states to intervene and invest in critical areas and bring relief to many of the pain points as well as revamp the decaying healthcare and educational infrastructure.
He said the fund will also bring improvements to rural access roads to ease evacuation of farm produce to markets.
He said that with the fund, the states will become more competitive and on a stronger financial footing to deliver economic prosperity to Nigerians.
According to him, part of the administration’s programme is to roll out buses across the states and local governments for mass transit at a much more affordable rate.
He said: “We have made provision to invest N100 billion between now and March 2024 to acquire 3,000 units of 20-seater CNG-fuelled buses.
“These buses will be shared to major transportation companies in the states, using the intensity of travel per capital. Participating transport companies will be able to access credit under this facility at 9 percent per annum with 60 months repayment period.”
Tinubu also affirmed that government is working in collaboration with the labour unions to introduce a new national minimum wage for workers, saying. “I want to tell our workers this: your salary review is coming.”
“Once we agree on the new minimum wage and general upward review, we will make budget provision for it for immediate implementation,” he added.
Tinubu said it is important that citizens understand the reasons for the policy measures he has taken to combat the serious economic challenges of the nation.
He said: ”For several years, I have consistently maintained the position that the fuel subsidy had to go. This once beneficial measure had outlived its usefulness. The subsidy cost us trillions of naira yearly.
“Such a vast sum of money would have been better spent on public transportation, healthcare, schools, housing and even national security. Instead, it was being funnelled into the deep pockets and lavish bank accounts of a select group of individuals.
“This group had amassed so much wealth and power that they became a serious threat to the fairness of our economy and the integrity of our democratic governance.
“To be blunt, Nigeria could never become the society it was intended to be as long as such small, powerful yet unelected groups hold enormous influence over our political economy and the institutions that govern it.
“The whims of the few should never hold dominant sway over the hopes and aspirations of the many. If we are to be a democracy, the people and not the power of money must be sovereign.
“The preceding administration saw this looming danger as well. Indeed, it made no provision in the 2023 Appropriations for subsidy after June this year. Removal of this once helpful device that had transformed into a millstone around the country’s neck had become inevitable.”
Tinubu said the multiple exchange rate system that had been established “became nothing but a highway of currency speculation”.
“It diverted money that should have been used to create jobs, build factories and businesses for millions of people. Our national wealth was doled on favourable terms to a handful of people who have been made filthy rich simply by moving money from one hand to another. This too was extremely unfair,” he said.
He said it also compounded the threat that the illicit and mass accumulation of money posed to the future of the country’s democratic system and economy.
Tinubu said the defects in the economy “immensely profited a tiny elite, the elite of the elite you might call them”.
He said: “As we moved to fight the flaws in the economy, the people who grow rich from them, predictably, will fight back through every means necessary.
“Our economy is going through a tough patch and you are being hurt by it. The cost of fuel has gone up. Food and other prices have followed it. Households and businesses struggle.
“Things seem anxious and uncertain. I understand the hardship you face. I wish there were other ways. But there is not. If there were, I would have taken that route as I came here to help not hurt the people and nation that I love.
“What I can offer in the immediate is to reduce the burden our current economic situation has imposed on all of us, most especially on businesses, the working class and the most vulnerable among us.”
The president said: “Fellow Nigerians, this period may be hard on us and there is no doubt about it that it is tough on us. But I urge you all to look beyond the present temporary pains and aim at the larger picture. All of our good and helpful plans are in the works. More importantly, I know that they will work.
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“Sadly, there was an unavoidable lag between subsidy removal and these plans coming fully online. However, we are swiftly closing the time gap. I plead with you to please have faith in our ability to deliver and in our concern for your well-being.
“We will get out of this turbulence. And, due to the measures we have taken, Nigeria will be better equipped and able to take advantage of the future that awaits her.
“In a little over two months, we have saved over a trillion naira that would have been squandered on the unproductive fuel subsidy which only benefitted smugglers and fraudsters. That money will now be used more directly and more beneficially for you and your families.
“For example, we shall fulfil our promise to make education more affordable to all and provide loans to higher education students who may need them. No Nigerian student will have to abandon his or her education because of lack of money.”