…warns against diversion

Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) has commenced training programmes to teach ex-agitators how to access the loan facilities offered by the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL). PAP facilitates the process through capacity building to help entrepreneurs in the region obtain the qualifications required to apply for the loans. On Monday, the first phase of the training, which had 60 delegates in attendance, kicked off in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

PAP Interim Administrator, Col Milland Dixon Dikio (rtd), said 3000 entrepreneurs had opportunities to benefit from the loans to expand their businesses. He explained that NIRSAL would select 30 youths for the pilot survey of the loan initiative after the training. Dikio, who was represented by his Special Assistant on Projects, Godwin Ekpo, emphasized that PAP was only acting as a guide to give qualified entrepreneurs from the region an opportunity to access the loans.

Dikio told the delegates that the loans were not bazaars and must be paid back within the terminal period to enable NIRSAL to extend the gesture to others. He explained that the loans offered by NIRSAL were free of collateral with low interests, but must be secured by guarantors to facilitate repayments. He said PAP decided to facilitate the loans because such an opportunity was in line with his vision to turn the youths, especially the ex-agitators into entrepreneurs. He said the loans were for those who were already running their businesses to help them to expand their ventures in order to generate more jobs for people.

He said, “NIRSAL is supporting the SMEs with soft loans to enable them to expand their businesses. As PAP, our vision is to help our delegates become entrepreneurs and/or employable citizens contributing to the economy. So, we look out for opportunities where they can access some level of funding to take their businesses to the next level.“We have other people that will be joining after this; this is just a pilot scheme. The partnership is one that will grow and we have a larger number. It must be stated again, that this is not a grant; these are low-interest loans, single-digit with no collateral that will be paid back after a while.

The tenure of repayment and other conditions are stated in the papers they will sign.“We hope that these delegates will become more successful entrepreneurs in the future as a result of this funding. Some of them are into agriculture, small scale businesses and we hope this fund will help them expand.”In his contributions, lead consultant, Paul Tyokosu, said the essence of the training was to enable the entrepreneurs to have access to funding and skills to promote their businesses.

He asked the trainees to think of farming, agro-businesses, and other agricultural value chains to expand their businesses and create more employment opportunities.“This is designed to boost your capacity to grow your business. When you expand your business, you will help solve the problem of unemployment. Always ensure that your income is more than your liabilities”, he said. One of the trainees, Amatari Ogon, who runs a poultry farm, commended Dikio for introducing Niger Delta youths to opportunities that would empower the youths.“This training has shown that the Amnesty boss has the passion for the empowerment and development of the Niger Delta region. It has exposed me to tips that will help me expand my poultry business”.

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