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The Delta State Micro-Credit Programme (DMCP) which was launched by Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan in December 14, 2007 has till date eluminated poverty from the faces of so many Deltans.

It was a wide jubilation and celebration for Deltans when the Delta State Micro-Credit Programme (DMCP) was launched by Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan in December 14, 2007.

Since the dawn of civilization and the organization of societies into civil and political groups, the primary focus of governance has not changed for a second. Governance is predicated on assuaging to the security and welfare of the citizenry. Thus any government worth its salt especially a government which is the result of electoral mandate, the welfare and security of the people continue to occupy the front burner. It is true that because of human nature, it is pretty difficult if not impossible to totally wipe out poverty and have a classless society.

Government continues to soldier on in its crusade against poverty and the associated ills, the Delta State government under the administration of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan since inception has an unexampled trait in meeting the economic needs of the people. It was this that made the government to come out with the three point agenda of peace building, human capital development and infrastructural development and one programme that has given boost to the three point agenda is the Delta State Micro Credit programme. To this end economic niche was carved in gold for Delta State in the first tenure of Governor Uduaghan with the recognition of Delta State Micro Credit Programme (DMCP) by the Central Bank of Nigeria as the best run micro credit programme in the nation.

The state also emerged as the fist runner up under the agriculture credit guarantee scheme-Trust Fund Model. The award of CBN to the Delta State micro credit programme for the year 2009 is a string of national recognitions of how the and disadvantaged segment of the society. It would be recalled that DMCP in 2008 clinched the CBN approval rating as the best micro credit programme in the nation. It was also last year that the prestigious National Institute for Policy and strategic Studies, kuru invited the state governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan to give a lecture on the working and benefits of Delta State micro credit programme. These awards are due to the efforts of the state governor who for one fleeting second has not disguised his avowed committal to fighting the plague of poverty and creating a fertile environment for the growth of new entrepreneurs both in the rural and urban areas.

The programme under the able captainship of Dr. Antonia Ashiedu, then Executive Assistant to the state governor and Commissioner on micro credit and a well known management consultant, took off effectively on December 14, 2007 and since then had put smiles on the faces of Deltans especially the rural populace and the urban poor. It is never out of place to at least to tell the people the stuff Dr. Antonia Ifeanyi Ashiedu is made off. Dr. Ashiedu holds a doctorate degree in Political science with bias for International Relations and Development Finance. She was a development Consultant before her appointment. She has collaborated on poverty alleviation issue, with different multilateral Agencies like the UNDP, UNICEF, the World Bank and Development banks before her appointment. She was a member of the Committee that prepared the National Poverty Alleviation Policy for Nigeria in 1997. I guess you will say no wonder the governor appointed her to oversee the affairs of the interventionist body.

The micro-credit programme has turned tears to smiles, sadness to happiness and excruciating poverty to placing them on the laps of wealth and affluence. The objectives of the micro credit programme are awe inspiring and touch on the very existence of the people and carefully designed to remove them from the gutter of poverty and valley of sorry and its attendant destitution. It is carefully designed to improve the development of the human capital. It is also a viable strategy for poverty alleviation through ready access of the economically weak and disadvantage segments of the population to loans so that at the end of the day, they can not only fend for themselves but provide employment opportunities for others and generate economic growth of the state. The programme is also aimed at creating wealth at the grassroots and employment for the productive age regime. Dr. Antonia Ashiedu couched the laudable aims of the micro credit in these terms “The Delta State micro credit programme has been carefully packaged as a viable strategy for poverty alleviation. The key element of this strategy for poverty alleviation is to facilitate access of the economically weak and disadvantaged segments of the population to productive assets and services through a sustainable credit programme. In most developing countries like Nigeria, the level of poverty is understated because appropriate consideration is not given to the labour market variables of employment and real wages”. And to provide real employment to Deltans especially the rural poor, Dr. Ashiedu had carried the gospel of economic transformation to the people. She had traversed the length and breadth of the state, using motor bikes, speed boats and canoes to reach the market women, the artisans and the rural farmers and fishermen, a beneficiary who gave her name as Madam Joy Okoro stated this.

In most of these tours, she had to use Pidgin English or the local language to talk to the people and the message had been greatly understood and appreciated. The programme had been so designed that red tapeism and official bureaucracy have been eliminated and that communities are encouraged to identify their own projects and areas of specialization. And that implementation of such communities projects are the sole responsibility of the projects with active support of the micro credit programme and participating banks and financial institutions. The programme is a people oriented programme devoid of religious or ethnic sentiments. You may ask who then qualifies as a beneficiary for the programme. It is a programme for all stripes of Deltans, a beneficiary stated.

The target groups are the rural population and the urban poor. Unemployed people, particularly school leavers and economically disadvantaged people especially the women form the target audience. Again others are physically challenged and HIV infested persons. As at 10th March 2008, the programme had empowered two hundred groups which comprise of 3100 persons. The state micro-credit programme is also venturing into palm wine productions. In its convinced bid that it could make a head way in palm wine production, the state government Micro-Credit scheme also reached out to the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO) Oshodi in Lagos to realize the dream. The state government without wasting of time had also went into preliminary negotiations with the institute with a view to partnering with it to achieve the dream. FIIRO is to supply the state the technical know how for the industrial production of palm wine.

Making the disclosure some time last year in Asaba which was overwhelmingly welcomed be stakeholders, the then Executive Assistant, Dr. Ashiedu said, she had been to FIIRO in Lagos as a first step towards the partnership. She said while there, she was conducted round the facilities of the institute which included its palm wine incubation station by the Director General Dr. Oluwole Olatunji. When it does come to fruition, the palm wine production would be sited in Ubulu-Okiti in Aniocha South council area of the state. The development however saw the secretary to then to the local government area, Mr. Pius Oduda full of praises and thanks to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan following the planned sitting of the plant in their domain. During a meeting sometime last year with palm wine tapers, Mr. Oduda maintained that they were prepared to learn new ways of producing palm wine in commercial and preserved quantity and to find new markets for it. He assured palm wine producers in the area that a market survey had revealed that the establishment of a palm wine college industry on their land would fire the interest of other producers in the state, more so as FIIRO had said there was a high demand for preserved bottled palm wine in Nigeria. There was also hope, he added, that the business could go international since there was a high demand for bottle palm wine the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Europe, and the America. The variety of businesses include fish farmers, palm oil traders, Akwa-Ocha cloth weavers, Garri production, soap making, periwinkle farmers/traders, snail farmers, grass cutter farmers, plantain traders, hairdressers/barbers and others.

Dr. Ashiedu explains on the thrust of the programme “A quiet revolution is going on in Delta State. Governor Uduaghan through the micro credit programme is enthroning a culture of public private sector partnership. The model of micro credit administration we are using in Delta State is second to none in Nigeria. In Delta State, we have a conscious government policy not to disburse money directly to clients of our micro credit programme but to disburse the funds through micro finance banks at no cost to the micro finance banks. Rather we pay them administrative charges for the services rendered. Today we have 150 micro finance banks in the programme spread across the three senatorial districts”. Because of the unique nature of the programme, the loans have been specially tailored to suit the economically weak persons. There are no collateral for the loans but the cluster groups must guarantee the loans. The repayment of the loans is on weekly or monthly installments repayable in 52 weeks. There must be quick income generating activities and that each cluster group is expected to maintain and sustain credit discipline through peer pressure and group solidarity.

So far the story of the Delta State micro credit programme is a practical manifestation of the Uduaghan administration in reducing the scourge of poverty, creating employment and giving birth to a new crop of micro entrepreneurs who are contributing their quota towards the growth of the informal sector of the economy. These beneficiaries are living examples that outside the jobs, there is still hope for the economically weak segment society. So far about 51,186 people are beneficiaries of the DMCP made up of 4,708 cluster group. These are 32,410 women and 18,776 men. Of these people, 3, 878 are involved in cottage industries, 32, 093 into trading, 11 353 into agricultural production and 3, 862 in the service industries. These are testimonies to the enduring spirit of DMCP in creating avenue for people to fend for themselves and employ others. Though thess figures have drastically increased as at the time of this feature.

Bomadi local government area of the state alone, over 536 people and 47 groups were siad to have been empowered under the state Micro-Credit Programme. This persons and groups are made up of a variety of traders, trading in palm oil, Garri, meat, Fish, Net foliating fishermen, as well as polythene producers, Tailors, Cassava Farmers and Hair Dressers among others, which is in line with the sole objectives and aims of the scheme. The DMCP certificate enables the groups to go to their designated Micro-Credit Finance Bank to withdraw their Micro-credit loans. Presenting the certificates of registration to the DMCP clients, the then DMCP Executive Assistant to the state governor, Dr. Ashiedu commended them for joining the state government in the fight against poverty. Dr. Ashiedu however noted that it was the belief of governor Uduaghan that economic growth with equity was the necessary and sufficient condition for poverty reduction. According to her, it was therefore the goal of the state government to create and replicate wealth throughout the state with a short period. She Said that it was also the believe of the state governor that the overall frame work in which the state should operate had to be in consonance with the empowerment of the human capital base of the state.

Commending the state government for the programme, the Amananowei of Bomadi, Apostle Sunday Sapele urged the people to adhere strictly to the guide lines of the DMCP, as the money given to them would be paid back with the specified period.

The chairperson of the participating financial instillations in the area, lady Gesieve Brisibe Dorgu, Prayed God to continue to raise up leaders such as governor Uduaghan who would have the interest of the people at heart. She urged the Micro-Credit Clients to make judicious use of the loans to enhance their standards of living.

At Issele-Uku, during the unveiling of the new name of one of the participating financial institution, the Anoicha Micro-Finance Bank (AMFB) one hundred and sixty one persons were also presented with the certificates of registration for the disbursement of the Micro-Credit loan. Speaking at the occasion Dr. Ashiedu commended the beneficiaries for abiding by the guidelines of the programme and urged them to be focused while maintain credit discipline. The then Executive Assistant said that the monitoring and evaluation of projects of loan beneficiaries is beyond disbursement saying that the government is also prepared to start the monthly moratorium. She urged the participating financial institutions (PFI) to maintain products that will not attract the rich to avoid crowding of the needy and economically weak persons who are the main targets of the programme.

Earlier, the chairman of Aniocha Micro-Finance Bank, Mr. Ifeanyi Nwemeke commended the state government for the programme which he said has positively met the yearning of the people. He therefore appealed to beneficiaries to use judiciously loans given to them.

Also at Oleh, headquarters of Isoko South Local Government Area, it was jubilation when twelve cooperative societies received award certificate from the state Micro-Credit loan scheme. Speaking at the ceremony, held at the premises of IC-Global Micro-Finance Bank Ltd Oleh, Managing director of the bank, Chief Lucky Omoyibo disclosed that 29 certificates cluster groups who participated during the official launching of the programme in December 2007 have received their loans. According to him, the groups on presentation of their certificates to the bank will be given money to enable them carry out their different micro businesses. He said with the award of certificates to 12 associations it has brought the total cluster groups that have benefited to 41. Chief Omoyibo commended the state government for appointing IC-Global Micro Finance Bank Ltd as the official bank on his laudable programme and for living up to its billings by providing funds for the programme, reiterating the bank’s commitment towards the success of the programme by ensuring that all funds made available by the state government are appropriately disbursed as at when due to the beneficiaries to compliment the desire of the state government to eradicate poverty.

On her part, Dr. Ashiedu who gave the awards on behalf of the state government to the cluster groups across Isoko land congratulated the beneficiaries for dedication and hard work, just as she urged them to continue to compliment government efforts towards the eradication of poverty in the state.

At one of her visits to Abigborodo, Warri North Local Government council, Dr. Ashiedu noted that the sincerity with which economically weak persons re-pay loans, gives credence to the belief in development finance issues, that the poor are usually more credit worthy than the rich.

She commended Kaka fishing group and Utieyin-Arone Fishing group both of Abigborodo for being among those who have started paying back their loans. Dr. Ashiedu who was in the community for a pre-disbursement meeting with groups from creeks and other riverine communities of Warri North, praised the communities for prioritizing their projects around their traditional occupation, which is fishing.

The groups came from villages such as Ugbaboro, Okogho Aruowun, Ajagbodudu and Koko. A prominent Itsekiri leader, Okiapele of Itsekiri, Chief Edward Gbaragada thanked governor Uduaghan for living up to his campaign promises, with the establishment of the Delta State Micro-Credit Programme. She said that so far, those who have benefited from the loan have assisted in activating commercial activities in their communities. The secretary of the Abigborodo community Mr. Monday Akpeyi, while expressing appreciation for the achievement so far made by the governor Uduaghan’s administration, appealed for the construction of a market in the town to enable the people have a channel for selling their products.

In separate interviews, some of the potential clients including Mrs. Abaje Princess Patience Omagbemi, Mr. Richard Tuedonghaye and Mr. Daniel Alatan, spoke highly of the Delta State Micro-Credit programme, the method of its implementation and its community based approach. No doubt, the Uduaghan administration is fully aware of the fact that human capital development without economic empowerment may fall short of the objective of the second agenda of the tripod.

Another beneficiary who pleaded that his name should not be mentioned said, “Poverty and unemployment are being tackled vigorously and the beneficiaries have been impressed upon that the loans are to be repaid and not government gifts. With the cluster groups initiatives, defaulting of payments shall be difficult to come by.”

The laudable objective of the micro credit programme was further explained by Dr. Ashiedu, “One of our goals is to grow these micro businesses to become small and a few of them to become medium scale industries. In the 2008 financial year, we will as a matter of fact run the programme as both micro and small businesses. As you are already aware, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s Administration places a lot of emphasis on Human capital Development. One of the major platforms this administration wishes to achieve its set goals in Human capital development on a sustainable basis is the Delta State micro-Credit Programme {DMCP}. Poverty reduction requires an enabling strategy committed to pro-poor institutions of Civil Society and Partnership among various actors involved in the process, in order to curd serious lopsided Policies and resources allocations, which go against the interest of economically weak people”.

One Mrs. Veronica Agbolu has this to say “With these sentiments and the pragmatic initiatives in place, the days of poverty and destitution afflicting the people of Delta State are numbered. With the kind of encouragement, support and understanding of the state governor, the Delta State example in fighting the scourge of poverty shall be emulated by other states. And the primary aim of governance would have been achieved spreading the soothing balm of welfare and security to the electorate. Nothing could be satisfying and awe inspiring than that. There is a basic consensus that restoring adequate rates of self-sustained growth should be the primary objective of development in Nigeria. No Poverty alleviation strategy can be sustained without restoring economic growth. This is in recognition that growth is not an end in itself; its effects must be widely distributed, if it is to be sustainable. Economic growth requires not only using per capita income along with reducing income disparities, but also systematically developing human resources a primary engine of long-term development.”

According to Dr. Ashiedu, Programmes that are attractive to those with higher incomes make it difficult to target the needy segment of the population, because rich people, who have more influence and better Social connections, will tend to crowd out the poor as a result the Delta State Micro- Credit Programmer (DMCP) is therefore a pragmatic approach that focuses on the interests of the mass of the people, with a genuine consideration for their needs which will give them justification for their existence. “This is because the Government believes that the Poverty Alleviation Programmes that benefit the economically weak are those that are carefully tailored to their needs and situations adding that Poverty is best understood by economically weak people. Therefore it is the poor who must escape from poverty. There are some people who are cynical about poverty Alleviation programmers in the past, left must to be desired. The critical question then is the problem of Micro-Credit Administration in Nigeria’ albeit Delta State”. In a nutshell, DMCP she said has these attributes which include, Empowering of the grassroots population; creating new wealth at that level; and reducing unemployment in the productive age bracket.

Suffice it to say that the efforts of economically Weak Persons to enhance their socio-economic conditions through participation in the informal sector have been constrained by inadequate capital.

The bulk of economically Weak Persons in the informal sector have not significantly benefited from institutional credit facilities. Their exclusion is because of some factors like, Inability to produce collateral, inappropriate operational procedures and strategy for intervention at the community level, Strategy and mode of operations of financial institutions are not sensitive to the needs of economically weak persons.

However, there are empirical evidences to demonstrate that economically weak persons have enormous capacity to use financial services if appropriately delivered, to enhance the standard of their living.

As earlier enunciated by the then Executive Assistant on Micro-Credit, poverty alleviation projects that have failed in the past in Nigeria have often been victims of a lack of beneficiary input the planning and implementation process.

In a situation where the project beneficiaries are not involved, they do not buy into the programme and consequently do not care about the project outcomes. Dr. Ashiedu disclosed that the Delta State Micro-credit Programme (DMCP) has been carefully articulated with the production of a Blue Print, which is a “General Operational Memorandum” for the appraisal, disbursement, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the programme, stressing that the Blue Print will be the anchor for discharging DMCP responsibilities to the Beneficiaries, expeditiously and with an extremely high standard of professionalism.

It is no longer news that the conditionality for the loan have been specifically tailored to suit economically weak persons which include Micro Loans, No collateral but group guarantee, Repayment in weekly or monthly installment, repayable in 52 Weeks and if repaid earlier, it is favourable to the Group in terms of eligibility for bigger loans and Quick income generating activities.

Each Cluster Group is expected to maintain and sustain credit discipline through, Peer Pressure and Group Solidarity while the DMCP loan portfolio will meet diverse development needs such as, Joint enterprises, Small scale industry and Cottage industry.

In other words, the scope of support and intervention for the Beneficiaries of DMCP, will be income and employment generating activities in Agro processing, Cottage industries e.g. metal/wood works, welding and foundry, leather works, shoe making, pottery, soap/cosmetic manufacturing, Aqua culture, Fish smoking, Carpentry, Sanitation (waste disposal),Services, hairdressing, tailoring, Petty trading, food vending, etc.

In one of her DMCP events, Dr. Ashiedu stated that the institutional Structure for Delta State Government Micro-Credit Programme is built on six guiding principles which are enumerated to be, demand-driven projects saying that communities will be encouraged to have the responsibility of identifying and prioritizing their own projects. Community participation, which communities will participate in all aspects of the programme cycle, Decentralization of decision-making, the decision making process will be as decentralized as possible under the programme. On the Implementation she said the Implementation of projects will be the responsibility of the communities, with the active participation of the Office of the executive Assistant on Micro-Credit, while the Empowerment of Local Communities she said local Communities will be given the opportunity to acquire necessary skills and resources to develop themselves, adding that there will be minimum bureaucracy in the operation of the programme.

Dr. Ashiedu warned that Membership of the group should be voluntary and must be autonomous in governance and management, have credit governance and management policy, have a system in place to ensure programme and financial accountability and transparency and such members must adopt the Delta State Micro-Credit operational guidelines saying that “No doubt the Delta State Micro-Credit programme is also a carefully targeted programme aimed at leap-fogging Delta State into an active commercial territory. The programme is a genuine desire to reduce drastically, unemployment in the State and it must also be noted that the loans will be soft, but it is neither charity nor a safety net.”

Addressing the Media some time 2010, Dr. Ashiedu said that “it is the belief of this Administration that we can wage an effective war against poverty through the Delta State Micro-Credit Programme, but we know that to succeed in this war against poverty, we will need foot soldiers and Generals who understand the terrain. No other group of persons fit this description better than your esteemed selves. We therefore crave your indulgence to come with us to wage and win this war against poverty”.

Comrade Douglas Omoto Douglas, a social crusader wrote from Delta State.

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