Friday, 15 December 2017
CBN’s 220Bn MSMEDF Initiative: Of Suspicious Disbursements And Denial Of Information (Part 3) By Okeke Celestine

CBN’s 220Bn MSMEDF Initiative: Of Suspicious Disbursements And Denial Of Information (Part 3) By Okeke Celestine

 

The second part of this series dwelt greatly on specific infractions on the guideline of the initiative, highlighting how the guideline was contravened to enable suspicious disbursement reach equally suspicious beneficiaries, as promised, we will dwell on how the funds disbursed to FCT administration was supposedly disbursed to MSMEs in the FCT.

Central Bank of Nigeria in its wisdom disbursed 2bn to the FCT administration on the 17th March 2015 for on-lending to MSMEs in the FCT. The disbursement was supposed to be for MSMEs who have indicated their willingness to participate under the MSMEDF initiative and not for any other purpose but the reality was anything far from this.

Having conducted series of surveys across markets, industrial hubs and with MSME associations in and around the FCT and got a resounding “we are not aware of any such disbursement” from over 70% of the respondents and another 15% stating they only heard about the initiatives via radio jingles and or newspaper publication and another 15% stating they had been approached and asked to buy application forms to enable them access the fund, we then decided to directly engage Abuja Enterprise Agency, the agency which received the fund on behalf of the FCTA.

We wrote the Abuja Enterprise Agency on 13th October, 2015 asking for details of how the fund was managed and disbursed to MSMEs in the FCT and got a response that only the Central Bank can avail us such information, we wondered why but then decided to engage AEA unofficially to understand why this position was taken and got shocking revelations from insider sources, sources who said unequivocally that AEA was at best a conduit pipe, and like all pipes, contents only pass through them and it will be needless asking the pipe to account for contents that was passed through it.

We wrote the FCT Minister on the 17th November, 2015 asking it to probe the AEA on its management and disbursement of the 2bn disbursed to FCT via the agency, we carefully decided not to write under the FOI ACT as we felt the minister would be agitated by the sum involved (2bn), but alas, we got not even an acknowledgement let alone any move by the minister to look through what happened with the fund. (We still digging through possible reasons why the minister wasn’t interested, some have sworn it’s because AEA was then headed by the present Minister of State of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and some claim Bala Muhammed was a major financier of the APC presidential campaigns).

We wrote the Minister again on the 14th January, 2016, this time under the FOI ACT, asking for details relating to what became of the 2bn disbursed to the FCTA under the MSEMDF initiative and got a response to the effect that AEA had been mandated to release the information and asked for time for it to be availed us, for clarity purposes, we will reproduce a brief of our specific requests as a prelude to the response we got from the Ministry/AEA;

 
  1. Comprehensive detail of the total disbursement made from the fund, details should include beneficiaries name, contact details and date of individual disbursements.
  2. Details of all capacity building/ training programmes conducted for either the beneficiaries and or staffs of the agency/office that managed the disbursement.

Both requests were made in consonance with the provisions of the guideline of the fund as relates to a statutory requirement that states MUST collate list of interested applicants for whom the application to the MSMEDF fund is made for and that CBN will conduct a pre-disbursement capacity building for officials of the agency that will coordinate the disbursements while the state shall provide same training for intended beneficiaries.

The response received from AEA/ FCTA was merely a statistical breakdown of number of beneficiaries, gender and some other analysis and no mention made as to our specific request on beneficiaries contact details, date of disbursements and also of the capacity building exercises that were mandatory.

The response from AEA/FCTA showed that it disbursed the entire 2bn it got from CBN as at December 2015, this clearly is not possible, not with how the fund was structured. CBN disburses 2bn to states at 3% and allows it to mark up the interest rate with an additional maximum 6% totalling a maximum of 9%. The extra 6% was to enable states earn a little extra to cover for the administrative cost of the mandatory capacity building trainings, disbursements management and monitoring of the beneficiaries.

If the AEA/FCTA disbursed the entire 2bn, from where did it source funds for the management of the secretariat of the committee managing the fund? From where did it source funds for the capacity building exercise for the beneficiaries? From where did it source funds for the publicity and other campaign drives for the fund?

I have always had issues agreeing with round figures, for instance when it was reported that 40,000 Nigerians watched the football match between Nigeria and Egypt, I wondered who did the counting, did the person decide to stop counting when he got to 40,000? Another instance is when Ministry of Finance in its defence of the proposed Development Bank of Nigeria put out the following release “DBN will provide loans to 22,400 businesses in its first year of operation and disburse over 230,000 loans through its intermediaries by year 5”, I had asked the ministry’s’ official how exactly did they arrive at the figures and regretted asking as a renowned public speaker stammered while trying to defend the figures.

The poser thrown up from the claims of the AEA/FCTA is exactly how was it able to disburse the entire funds it received and from where did it source funds been used in managing the affairs of the committee administering the fund. What exactly is the big deal in releasing the information of those who benefitted from the disbursements?

Did the AEA conduct the mandatory capacity building trainings as contained in the guideline of the fund? If it did, why then did it omit to state it did so, if it didn’t, what’s the big deal in saying it did not. At what interest rate did the AEA disburse the funds to the beneficiaries? Did CBN conduct the mandatory pre-disbursement capacity building trainings for AEA officials? These and many more questions are begging for answers as we prepare for a lawsuit mandating CBN and the benefitting states to release all information relating to the disbursements under the fund.

The part 4 of this series will take a look at the happenings in Kogi state where the Governor has ordered a probe of the 2bn disbursed to the last administration as no information is available as to what it did with the fund, as a matter of fact, some senior government officials got suspended while some were asked to proceed on compulsory leave to enable the present administration probe the events surrounding the disappearance of the funds disbursed to it by the CBN.

 

Okeke Celestine

Lead Partner, MSME-ASI

@okekecc , www.msme-asi.org

 

 

Editor: Opinion expressed on this page are strictly those of the author


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