Barely two years after the Bank of Industry and the Gombe State Government jointly launched a N1 billion Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSME) which was soon after Alhaji Ibrahim Dankwambo emerged as the Governor of Gombe State in May 2011, the two development partners launched the second phase of the Scheme in April 2013 by increasing the size of the Fund to N3 billion.
The ceremony was a huge success as it was attended by all sections of the society including traditional rulers and current and potential beneficiaries. It also featured an exhibition of the products of the projects financed under Phase I. According to observers, the occasion marked a turning point in Gombe’s march to becoming an industrial hub in the North East.
In their remarks at the event, the highly enthused Governor Dankwambo and the Managing Director and CEO of BOI, Ms Evelyn Oputu, said they decided to effect the quantum leap in order to meet the ever rising enthusiasm for entrepreneurship in the state and because of the highly positive responses by the people of Gombe State to the programme which were both phenomenal and unprecedented.
Within eighteen months of its launch, application for loans in excess of N5.2 billion Naira were generated by 497 cooperative groups that engage solely in value addition activities.
The demand was five times more than the volume of the available resources. With the approval of 20% of the applications more than 12,000 direct and indirect jobs were created with potentials for many more. The impressive 100% recovery rate was also described as quite remarkable in that environment.
According to Governor, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, the matching fund was necessitated by the need to diversify the state’s economy, and to shift emphasis to the state’s strengths, and do a lot in the area of improving agriculture and boosting production of exportable commodities and products from the state. He canvassed for the support of the private sector by showing them the availability of credit and the opportunities available in the country, which will help them expand their skill, capacity, and the state’s economy. Tackling the concern of high youth unemployment was also a major objective of the state government, he said.
The commitment of the state to its development, the Governor said, has also been strengthened with the provision of mini-industrial centres for rice and groundnut clusters, its major agricultural exports, to give conducive atmosphere for MSMEs in this sector to thrive. These centres he went on, will address some of the structural problems which had constituted a stumbling block to the progress of MSMEs in the state.
In her own address, the Managing Director of the Bank of Industry, Ms. Evelyn Oputu, said the Bank had targeted Gombe State as a partner because of its potentials and tremendous natural resources. The state, she said, has all it takes to be at the forefront of agricultural and industrial revolution in the country. The Bank’s contribution to the matching fund was an attestation to this belief, which has since been adopted by the indigenes of the state, she added.
To ensure compliance with the scheme, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has set up a high powered monitoring team led by a former Senator U. Dukku to ensure the funds were used as intended.
Senator Umar Dukku, Head of the Monitoring Team for the BOI/Gombe State Fund commented that ninety-nine percent of the progress made is an improvement in the lives of the people of the state. Particularly in the area of employment, he said unemployment is being tackled and young people, who would have been used as thugs, are now off the streets.
Not only has the Scheme created an opportunity for positive engagement, it has also boosted the profile of the state, as the state is now being referred to as the industrial hub of the North East due to the upsurge in industrial and commercial activities. High patronage for the products like groundnut oil, rice, metal fabrications, print jobs, fertilisers by other states reflects the new dawn in the state.