ALL YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT GEEP PROGRAM

In this report, TUNDE OGUNTOLA evaluates the impact of the GEEP programme restructured as GEEP 2.0 to effectively deliver soft loans and skills to a wide range of unemployed citizens, persons living with disabilities, marginalised women and other vulnerable groups

As a panacea to give access to credit for poor and vulnerable Nigerians facing challenges such as lack of capital due to inadequate access to finance and credit, inability to attract talented and tech-savvy manpower, the federal government launched Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) now known as GEEP 2.0, a components of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) of the current administration restructured as parts of efforts to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.

GEEP basically offers three programmes: TraderMoni for marginalised youths, MarketMoni that targets vulnerable women, and the FarmerMoni specifically focused on rural farmers. The target beneficiaries people who are already engaged in business enterprises such as traders, artisans, enterprising youth, farmers and agricultural workers, and other categories of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in furtherance of poverty eradication, employment generation, growth, and development of MSMEs throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

According to a report from the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2019 “about 40 per cent of the total population, or almost 83 million Nigerians live below the poverty line of N11,400 or $22 per day.’’

However, additional data garnered from the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investment stated that Nigeria has over 37.07 million MSMEs, which account for more than 84 per cent of total jobs in the country.

The analysis also noted that MSME in Nigeria accounts for about 48.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as well as about 7.27 per cent of goods and services exported out of the country.

The minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, said the GEEP2.0 programme is a veritable tool designed to end poverty in many ways. In other words, she said GEEP targets the unbanked poor and vulnerable but skilled population that has always been left out on credit delivery programmes and is directed at providing soft and affordable loans to finance their businesses.

She said, ‘’GEEP emphasises credit and financial inclusion for over 37 million Nigerians at the base of the pyramid who are involved in active commercial activity but have never had the opportunity to access loans.”

The humanitarian minister said GEEP has provided “incremental loans of betweenN10, 000 and N300, 000 to about 2.3million beneficiaries under the three programmes. Beneficiaries are traders, artisans, agricultural workers, enterprising youths, and other micro-service providers.

Farouq said GEEP2.0 was instituted on presidential approval to expand the scope to reach one million beneficiaries. She stated further that GEEP2.0 would effectively deliver soft loans and skills to a wide range of unemployed citizens including, persons living with disabilities, marginalised women, and unemployed youth amongst other vulnerable groups in our society.

‘’Under GEEP2.0, TraderMoni will empower and uplift vulnerable youths like scavengers, market wheelbarrow boys, orphans, the youths with special needs, and have a nationwide reach.

‘’GEEP2.0 will do more. It will empower farmers, scale-up FarmerMoni into agro-preneurship to increase agricultural production, food security, and job creation, while Market Moni will focus on the indigent and marginalised women in communities.

The Buhari administration has been driving the NSIP as the pivot of a poverty reduction effort. GEEP is a major component of the NSIP,’’ she said.

She said GEEP 2.0 would also include “a digital integration and coordination platform along with a strong and centralized monitoring and evaluation system aimed at enhancing loans recovery.”

The minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, said the programme was a veritable tool designed by President Muhammdu Buhari’s administration to end poverty in many ways across the country.

Hajia Farouq said that GEEP 2.0 was one of the components of the NSIP. She said via the platform President Buhari-led administration had successfully empowered more than 12 million people since 2016 out of extreme poverty through the initiatives. Such programmes, she said, include the Npower, NHGSFP, and many more.

According to her, the initial GEEP targets the unbanked poor, and vulnerable but skilled population that has always been left out on credit delivery programmes and is aimed at providing soft and affordable loans to finance their businesses.

“The GEEP is innovatively targeted and delivered under three unique products – the TraderMoni for marginalised youths, The MarketMoni targets vulnerable women, and the FarmerMoni specifically focuses on rural farmers.

“With President Buhari’s gracious approval of expansion to provide loans to an additional one million beneficiaries with emphasis to targeting smallholder farmers in the year 2020/2021, the GEEP has been restructured and flagged-off as GEEP 2.0.

“The GEEP 2.0 is structured to effectively deliver soft loans and skills to a wide range of unemployed citizens including persons living with disability, marginalised women, and unemployed youths amongst other vulnerable groups in our society.

“I wish to state here that the GEEP 2.0 is well-coordinated and has an implementation model that accommodates representation at the Federal, State and Local Government levels,” Farouq said.

Farouq said that part of the new strategies includes an increase in the loan portfolio of TraderMoni and Market Moni loans from N10, 000 to N50,000, while the FarmerMoni is now N300,000.

“There is also the provision of the value chain and creation of a digital marketplace (E-platform) for beneficiaries to sell their products.

“In addition, there is a digital integration and coordination platform along with a strong and centralised monitoring and evaluation system aimed at enhancing loans recovery.’’

In its quest to raise awareness for NSIP, the federal government via the Humanitarian Ministry also signed a partnership with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) as one of its key partners.

The move, according to Hajia Farouq, became necessary to raise awareness of the programme and positively change attitudes, values, and behaviors of beneficiaries.

She said, “I must say the agency has shown outstanding dedication towards effective implementation of the NSIP programmes. It is in this vein that the FMHADMSD entered into a partnership with NOA to appoint the Community Orientation and Mobilization officers as GEEP Desk Officers in all the 774 local government local areas across the country.

“With NOA identified as one of the organs of government agencies largely spread across all states and local governments with the capacity to adequately engage, mobilize and sensitize the general public on government programmes and policies, it became imperative that the agency should be partnered as a strategic partner.’’

To ensure that the programme reaches Nigerians in the grassroots, she said the ministry in conjunction with NOA appointed Community Orientation and Mobilisation Officers would be trained as GEEP Local Government Desk Officers in all the 774 local government levels areas across the 36 states and the FCT.

She continued: “These officers will sensitize communities on the GEEP programmes, register interested beneficiaries of TraderMoni, MarketMoni, and FarmerMoni. They will also collect and collate necessary data for the programme, provide feedback about the programme coordinators at State and Federal Levels while also encouraging active participation of the programme.”

Also, the team leader of GEEP 2.0, Zainab Musa Musa, said that the federal government is doing everything humanly possible so that GEEP 2.0 will meet or perhaps surpass the target of empowering 20 million Nigerians by 2023.

She argued that most economies, particularly those of developing countries like Nigeria, progress on the shoulders of predominantly informal micro-enterprises otherwise known as Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

She continued: “The kiosk that sells everything from toiletries to foodstuffs, the market women that sells vegetables and condiments for cooking, the business centre that avail people access to printing and internet services are just some of the small businesses and enterprises that are spread across every nook and cranny of Nigeria today.

“Consequently, upon taking up the reins of affairs over six years ago, President Buhari showed purposeful leadership and his empowerment drive by catering to this segment of the society, when in 2016 the GEEP was established under the NSIP.

Giving examples of the impact of the programme, she said, ‘’Before GEEP, an artisan Segun, in Ogbomosho, could not access a micro-credit interest-free loan that could boost his carpentry business. Haruna, a farmer in Kano State, could not access credit facilities that could enable him to purchase fertilizers and seedlings for his farm. Also, Chinyere, a mother of three in Aba, could not access loans that will help her acquire more textile products for her clothing business.’’

Musa said the programme has enabled these ordinary Nigerian traders, farmers, and artisan access to such facilities for the growth of their small businesses. She said for the past five years, the programme has been able to target, and deliver credit to over 2.3 million people under the MSMEs demographic using Biometrics, Bank Verification Number (BVN) as digital collateral, mobile data capture, and mobile wallets.”

After evaluating the impact of the GEEP programme as a whole, she said it became mandatory to refocus and restructure to GEEP 2.0.

She said, ‘’Hence a new organisational structure and model of implementation was introduced to focus on the surplus loan amount and new target beneficiaries dedicated exclusively to help empower the poor and vulnerable women, marginalised youth with enterprising skills given special consideration to agricultural empowerment in rural areas.”

So far, beneficiaries of the programme have applauded the government efforts aimed at alleviating poverty in the country. One of the beneficiaries, Haruna said he was grateful for the scheme as he had deployed the funds into his business.

Haruna said, “I am grateful to the government for this intervention, things are hard, and everyone has to get busy to survive. The government has provided this opportunity, and we are to make good use of it.”

Another beneficiary, Chinyere stated that she had already disbursed the fund to boost her business, and it has been of great help to her.

“The government’s plan to reduce the poverty rate in Nigeria is a good one. We are grateful as things are not easy. I have already used the funds availed to me, and it has gone a long way to boost my business,” she said.

The two-day intensive interactive training provided an understanding and insight into the processes, drivers, threats, and opportunities associated with core GEEP activities, especially the newly introduced structure of top-bottom representation, from the federal through state and Local Government levels respectively.

Basically, the new phase of the GEEP 2.0 took off on 24 August 2021 with one million beneficiaries, four schemes, and higher funds for beneficiaries. It is an increment on the first phase of the scheme that commenced in 2016.

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