By Leonard Okachie
Umuahia, Sep. 21, 2018
Mr Gabriel Igboko, Abia Commissioner for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), says the State Government has concluded plans to establish SME microfinance bank in October to assist small scale entrepreneurs in the state.
Igboko disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Umuahia.
He said the bank was one of the three agricultural SME programmes of the state government already approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The commissioner explained that the government would, through the bank, do disbursements to other SME bodies, so that they could have soft loans that were not normally available in commercial banks.
He said: “by October, we would have completed all formalities to have Abia SME microfinance bank established.
“The governor has since given his approval. We have gone to the CBN and we have met all the conditions.
“We are just trying to tie all the necessary loose ends in terms of documentation.
“The microfinance bank identifies those businesses that would come for as small as N20,000 loans or N50,000 and even up to N500, 000 loans.”
He explained that the bank would be disbursing funds to other CBN approved programmes of government that included the Commercial Agricultural Scheme (CAS) and the industrial starch plant.
Igboko further said that the state government would engage over 10, 000 youths within six months in the commercial agriculture programme also billed to take off in October.
According to him, everybody in the state, including civil and public servants would be encouraged to have their own farms under the scheme.
He said that the state government had already made available about 10, 000 hectares of land for the scheme.
“Every person will have a farm of at least one hectare, but no individual is allowed to have more than three hectares, so that it is not monopolised,” Igboko said.
The commissioner also said that the industrial starch plant would be the first of its kind in West Africa.
He said the foreign partners had already done the feasibility study, adding that it would take the state to another level of industrialisation.
“We already have an off taker that is asking for 38 metric tonnes of cassava starch per annum. The whole of Southeast of Nigeria cannot produce up to 30 metric tonnes per annum.
“In fact, we will involve our neighbouring states like Akwa Ibom, Imo and Ebonyi. Abia alone cannot meet the demands for the kind of farming we are talking about,” he said.