A few days ago, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was at Iwo in Osun state to launch Trader Moni, a social investment programme of the Federal Government, even as anticipation builds towards the state’s governorship elections just three weeks away. Osinbajo made the case that Trader Moni was the Government’s way of “ensuring that we give whatever support to people to alleviate their businesses”. That would seem harmless and of good intention if it has not come so perilously to an election in a state where there is an absolute interest for the APC to retain control.
As one of the projects of the National Social Investments Programmes, Trader Moni is purposed to cater to entrepreneurs at the lowest end of the business ladder. Petty traders dealing in varieties of goods perishable food produce and household consumables, to utensils and stationery are the pool of small businesses expected to benefit from the scheme. There are about seven requirements for eligibility to benefit from the Trader Moni scheme, including a mandate to belong to a market cooperative union. Those who meet the requirements qualify to receive a first loan of N10,000 and becomes eligible to receive N15,000 upon returning the N10,000 within six months after collection. No information is available on what could be done to those who do not return their loans at any stage.
With the elections coming up in Osun, the launch of the programme is, without a doubt, strategically positioned to rouse the populace. Osinbajo’s word “support” can be replaced with “stomach infrastructure” and it will not be any more cynical than the fact that Trader Moni is a scheme designed to give money out to people without accountability. Little questions will be asked by a group of beneficiaries who are not as literate as the civil servants who Governor Aregbesola have failed to pay salaries for months, and it works in their favor that the Government will only ask little of them.
Beyond the election season politricks in Osun, here is a broader reason to question the Trader Moni scheme: “The Bank of industry only finances enterprises or companies and not an individual person or group of persons. The company / enterprise must be duly registered and you will be required to provide the registration number for a Limited Liability Company or business name for an enterprise before you can proceed with your application”. This, one of eight rules for eligibility for loans from the Bank of Industry, is from the Bank’s website. It is necessary to know how the BOI has turned around to accommodate the management of loans from individuals and groups whose enterprises are both registered.
For now, the Osun launch of Trader Moni raises a moral question on how the Federal Government uses its programmes not as genuine empowerment mechanisms but also as measures for influencing states. The structure of the administration between the tiers of government where states depend on the center for its survival seem to encourage it but perhaps it is not too much to expect that a band of progressives would do things differently.