By Anthony Areh
The Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) Oyo State Chapter has commended the federal government’s intervention funds to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on businesses.
The association is also requesting for an increase in the funds so that it can go round most of the MSMEs operators in the country.
Mr Tunji Aleem, the Chairman of the Association, said: “We thank the Federal Government for the N50 billion COVID-19 intervention fund to MSMEs like us.
“But it cannot go round taking into cognisance the number of MSMEs, even the registered ones not to now talk of the unregistered ones. “If the government can increase that fund it will go a long way to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our businesses.”
Aleem said the government should also ensure that the loans such be made more accessible to MSMEs than what it is now.
“When the government started with the intervention fund; they categorised the loan into three; Households, Mini MSMEs and the MSMEs plus.
“The minimum amount is between N3 million to N3.5 million while the maximum is N25 million “But when the government saw the response and request from MSMEs operators in the country the fund was reduced making the maximum amount to now be N2.5 million.
“This reduction cannot help our businesses considering the impact COVID-19 is having on our businesses.
“We are using this opportunity to request from the government to please increase that fund to triple or more so that it can go round and be substantial to help our businesses,” he said.
Aleem noted that it was in the area of funds that MSMEs are mostly challenged.
“We need funds to improve our businesses, we are requesting and begging the government as an association to make it more easy.
“Though it is easy the way their going about accessing the funds now but we want government to make it more easier to access and to ensure it go round,” Aleem said.
The Oyo State NASME Chairman also noted that the cost of production is higher even with the little production they are doing, hence it has reduced their profits.
“What we did as response to this was to reduce our workforce. Some were forced to close down operations.
“The rest of us are unable to support the capacity of the workforce we have with the current trend.
“So we retrenched and left the size of the workforce we could manage with the little resources that we have. It has had a negative effect on MSMEs,” he lamented.
He also stated that the impact of the situation has been so challenging on their inputs because nobody wants to die and with COVID-19 that came to us unaware we need to first of all protect our lives.
“So it has prevented us from doing our normal activities many of our members closed their businesses as a result of that and after some time we are doing partial business activities, we open one day and at another time close the other day.
“And majorly we depend on the inputs that are coming from outside this state particularly Lagos state which is the business hub of Nigeria.
“Many of what we used as our inputs are coming from Lagos even though this is Oyo State chapter but whatever happens to other states of the country affects us definitely,” Aleem said government is all we look to for survival at this time. We commend the government’s efforts on COVID-19 especially the lockdown.
“Whether it is partial or total lockdown, this is essential because it is only when one is alive that one can prosper in whatever one does,” he said.
He however wants the activities of the security agencies to be curtailed and made to follow the government’s order and not hinder the smooth running of business.
“We want the security people to stop harassing our workers who bring in vital goods; these goods are part of those that government had exempted from prohibition of movement from one place to another.
“We want the government to educate the security people not to harass our drivers when they are moving our goods from one part of the state to another. This will reduce the effect of COVID-19 on our businesses.
Aleem said some of our members are being called to access these intervention funds which is a loan. So we are on it and we are hopeful that we will get it.
“If all state governments can replicate federal government initiatives in their various states and localise it to make it accessible it will support MSMEs.
“And solve the problem of unemployment and retrenchment of the workforce being experienced now. ‘’