Banks to inject N25bn to boost SMEs

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From Uche Usim, Abuja

The Bankers Committee rose from a meeting yesterday in Abuja with a resolve to inject N25 billion annually to boost Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which engage in exports, especially in agriculture.

The Bankers Committee, under the Chairmanship of the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, also said plans were afoot to spread cashless banking to the remaining 30 states that are yet to migrate to the scheme. The committee also maintained that all ponzi schemes remain fraudulent and dangerous, even as it said it was studying the emerging virtual currencies like bitcoins.

Speaking at the event, the Director of Banking Supervision Department of the CBN, Mohammed Abdullahi, said the N25 billion is expected to come from five per cent of each bank’s Profit After Tax (PAT) savings, adding that the initiative would commence in the 2016 result.

He added that the Bankers Committee was interested in diversifying the economy, especially in exports, so that the country could earn foreign exchange and generate employment.

“The Bankers Committee is committed to supporting the Federal Government’s effort in diversifying the economy by boosting exports and promoting importing constitution.

“So, the five per cent of each bank’s PAT is to be kept with CBN to finance legitimate and bankable projects through equity contribution. The banks will own shares in the business concerns and provide the funding. It’s not a loan.

It won’t clash with Bank of Industry’s (BoI)’s programme in any way. Rather, it’ll be the more the merrier. The fund injected is for a maximum of 10 years.

“So, the way the funds will be disbursed will be controlled by members of the committee and entries of those to be chosen will be reviewed by the committee. Banks will share in the profit. The programme is not entirely new. It was announced in Bankers Committee’s retreat of last year,” he explained.

Commenting on ponzi schemes, the Acting Director of Corporate Communications of CBN, Isaac Okorafor, urged Nigerians to shun them.

“We’ve asked Nigerians to be aware of them. They remain risky and fraudulent. These schemes are not regulated by CBN or insured by the NDIC. SEC, EFCC and other government agencies have also asked Nigerians to avoid these ponzi schemes,” he explained.

In his remarks, Chidi Umeano, Head, Shared Services Office of the CBN, said the apex bank was bent on restarting the cashless scheme. “We’re sensitising Nigerians. Again, payment channels have improved. By May 1 this year, we’ll launch in 10 states. By August 1, another 10 states and by October 1, the last 10 states. Only six states have gone cashless since it was introduced in 2012,” he said.

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