Small business owners have raised concerns over the requirements placed before them by the Central Bank of Nigeria to access the stimulus package announced by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for the sector.
The President, Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria, Dr Femi Egbesola, who spoke in an exclusive interview with our correspondent for the sector on Wednesday, said the CBN rolled out some guidelines penultimate Monday, which prospective beneficiaries must meet.
Listing some of the requirements in the guidelines, he said they included printing out one’s six-month statement of account; a document containing assets to be used as collateral, a business plan, two guarantors and a three-year audited report.
He said prospective beneficiaries were expected to start filing their applications for the stimulus package from Tuesday. Applicants will also appear for interview at NIRSAL Microfinance Bank, which has its offices in every post office outlet across the nation, according to him.
He added that a team from the bank would pay a visit to the applicants’ business premises to verify what they were producing.
Egbesola, who noted that the requirements could only be fully met by the medium and large enterprises, as opposed to the micro and small businesses, argued that the requirements were difficult to meet amidst the federal and state governments-ordered lockdown.
He further stated that even if the micro and small businesses could meet these stringent measures, it would be a negligible number.
Egbesola said this would not augur well for the nation’s economy as the micro and small businesses formed the core of the economy.
He said, “The micro and small businesses form the core of the Nigerian economy. I don’t think the government has realised that; if they have, they would have treated us fairly.
“The Federal Government has promised to assist the micro and small enterprises with stimulus package through the Central Bank of Nigeria, in the wake of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.”
He also said, “The stimulus package’s guidelines came out last Monday, and the application process came out on Tuesday. Some of the requirements for applicants are a print out of six months statement of account; a document containing assets to be used as collateral; a business plan; two guarantors and three years’ audited report.
“The applicants will attend an interview at the NIRSAL Microfinance Bank, which has its offices in the former post offices in every state. Again, a team from the bank, which was established by the CBN will pay a visit to the applicant’s business premises.”
He said, “How many of the micro and small business owners could meet all these requirements? Definitely, it is only a few. It is the usual medium and large businesses that would end up getting this stimulus package. Or the money would be there and no one would be able to access it.”
Egbesola, who noted that this had been the bane of the sector, said the government ought to have engaged the stakeholders before introducing any policy or stimulus package, so that it would be properly guided and advised on how best to reach the target beneficiaries.
He insisted, “It will be difficult for those operating micro and small businesses to access the stimulus package for the sector.”
Egbesola expressed fears that many small businesses might not be able to survive the lockdown and the economic effects of the deadly coronavirus, which had dislocated many business chains.
He noted that this would happen because the government did not give business owners enough time to prepare for a lockdown before ordering the shutdown within 24 hours.
He said, “The Federal Government ought to give some time before ordering the lockdown. Many business owners did not make enough arrangement for business sustainability before the lockdown took effect almost 24 hours after its announcement.
“So many were caught off-guard, and this might lead to some businesses folding up.”