Now the poor have hope in Delta — Ashiedu

Ashiedu, who holds a doctorate in political science, was before her appointment as a commissioner, a special adviser to the governor. In this interview she speaks on the impact of the micro-credit programme on the populace. Excerpts:

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor

Delta State Micro-Credit
Programme (DMCP) was actually launched in December 14, 2007 but took off effectively in 2008. You would wonder why micro-credit?
This was one of the cardinal programmes in the governor’s manifesto when he was campaigning to be the governor of Delta State. He was always emphasising on the need to touch the ordinary person, on the need to stimulate the economies of our communities. You cannot talk about stimulating the economies of our communities if you do not look in carefully and in detail to the financial inclusion of these communities. That was how this programme came about. Hitherto, while strategising, he being the candidate of the party, there were these issues of poverty which is prevalent all over Nigeria, it is not just in Delta State.
I am not saying that micro-credit will at once address the many components of poverty, but it is one way in which ordinary citizens can get soft loans, small capital to start business.

Capital to start business
When this programme started, it met with a lot of cynicism from the same ordinary man who the programme was meant for and justifiably so. Why were they cynical? They were cynical because programmes like this had been talked about in the past, but they never came to reality. So, when we came on board, they didn’t really believe, hence we had to go into the field with missionary zeal to sensitize them.

Mind you, we didn’t invent micro-credit, it was a model that had worked elsewhere that we incorporated to suit our own purposes and so, we decided to cluster them, and when we have them in clusters, if you are a plantain farmer, a fish farmer, a trader, seamstress, hair dresser, or whatever, be it any we deal with you in groups. We don’t create the groups, we allow them to create the groups of not lesser than 10 and not more than 25.

In doing that, our aim was to make them to share their successes and their failures. In no time, we saw moribund communities and there were quite a number when we started, they started picking up life.
So, what the Delta State Micro-Credit Programme has done is actually stimulating the economies of our rural communities, addressing the issues of the rural and urban poor, and also the issue of unemployment.

The unemployed are critical to us because those who fall into that bracket are youths and we keep on churning them out from our universities, polytechnics and even from secondary schools. There are a lot of them in this programme who have seen that what is happening in terms of unemployment is global and that the future belongs to the entrepreneur. Many of them have caught up with this zeal of being entrepreneurs and they are doing fantastically well.

In doing that, they have also helped us in being resource persons for the programme, because I hardly sensitize people anymore now, rather, it is the cluster groups in those communities that we now give the responsibility to sensitize the community for us. It is a programme that has given the ordinary man hope, it is a programme that has made the ordinary man walk with springs in their footsteps, it is a programme that has provided soft loans for our citizenry. It is a programme that has created a platform for the eventual industrialisation of Delta State because we are even amazed by the number of products that are being churned out from this programme.

How has this programme impacted on the populace?
Hitherto, it was very difficult for a lot of people in Delta State to get little loans. Those magic doors of those big financial institutions were closed to them. They get there, but there are never attended to and even when attended to, they are dismissed with the wave of the hand. But here is a programme that is their own and it is my great joy to tell you that they have actually taken ownership of the programme.

Do you give loans to individuals?
No, we have never given loan to individuals. Never. We give only to cluster groups.

How many persons have accessed the loans?
So far over 113,000 persons with the majority of (67,000) being women.

Is it the same amount that is provided to all?
What the barber needs is not the same thing as what the garri frying person needs or what the farmer needs or what the periwinkle seller needs. So, it is tailored to the group’s needs. So, usually we have what we will call a business proposal and you will be surprised that even for micro credit that there is a business proposal, but not the MBA person will do.

Just one page, ‘we are so, so and so, we require Nx to buy this,” so it is tailored towards the trade. But no group so far in the programme has received less than N100,000 and I can also tell you that we have given loans up to N10 million, though not in one fell swoop. You get this N100,000, you repay, you get a higher amount, you repay and it keeps on going like that.

Is there any major outcome from this programme you can point us to?
One of the biggest leather works factory in this country is about to begin operation in Delta State in partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, UNIDO. The reason UNIDO is into it is that it also wanted somewhere that has proximity to a large market because we have fantastic shoe makers in our programme and when UNIDO heard about this they sought out us out.

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