The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development in April 2020 activated the GEEP infrastructure for the purpose of providing urgent micro loans to petty traders and artisans nationwide to cushion the economic hardships of COVID-19. Recall that GEEP is the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, one of the social intervention programmes, comprising TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni, and executed by the Bank of Industry. GEEP is a completely digitised programme where all eligible traders are captured into a database, verified via phone and facial recognition technology, and receive disbursements in mobile wallets.
These urgent micro loans are reaching 500,000 petty traders and artisans nationwide. Small and micro enterprises at the bottom of the economic pyramid have been hit hardest by lockdown restrictions. These micro loans are to cushion the income losses experienced during the lockdown, as movement restrictions get eased nationwide.
All 500,000 traders benefitting from new GEEP loans nationwide, as well as all existing beneficiaries have a 3-month moratorium on their loans, as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
A number of beneficiaries shared their relief at getting these loans, just at a time when they weren’t sure how to restart their various businesses, due to a loss of income over the past months.
Blessing Mohammed, a plantain seller complained that business has literally stopped since the corona virus pandemic started. She said “I have not been able to restock my small plantain business because nobody was making any purchases. I was at the neighbourhood shopping place where we sell our goods to people in the community and I noticed the loan registration going on. I registered and I got the alert on my phone. It was a market day, so I was able to rush and buy plantain from the market. I am able to sell to people in our community and I will repay the loan quickly because there is no interest attached to it.”
Mrs Taiwo, a petty trader said
“we don dey inside since and we no fit sell market because we dey fear coro. As market dey open small small, we come see message say make we register for government loan wey go help us for this coro period. As I come register, dem tell me say I go dey pay am small small. I say no wahala. I don dey find how I wan take start my small provision business again because the money wey i get before from the business, we don use am chop as we dey inside house. Federal government una welldone for this una support. God go bless una.”
Mrs Isioma Otodo had words of gratitude for the government. “I sell groundnut oil, macaroni, indomie, maggi, pepper, salt and other things. You know we earn a living from daily buying and selling, but people have not been able to come out because of the coronavirus. We got a message from our local government to register for this loan. The loan will help our business now that the lockdown has been lifted. The good part is that the loan is interest free, so I can pay back within the 6 months period. We thank the Federal government for this loan.”