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Groups fault Ebonyi govt on N3bn youth SMEs fund disbursement

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By Oginyi Ruth

A section of rights and advocacy groups in Ebonyi state has called on the state government to re-designate the proposal to disburse N3 billion youth Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Fund from the office of the Special Assistant to the Governor on SME.

The groups argued that it was illegal not to involve relevant ministries, departments and agencies which had the backing of the law to carry out the disbursement of such homogeneous fund.

Recall that Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi state had, during the #Endsars protest, promise to empower Ebonyi youth with N2.6 billion and later increased the fund to N3 billion.

Convener of the group, Hon. Darlington Onwe, made this known Thursday in Abakaliki during the formal launch of #AccountabilityForEbonyiYouthSME Fund2020 campaign in partnership with Inspiring Generation and Humanity Support Foundation Africa – IGHUSUF AFRICA and others.

The group, who also requested that the time line for the SME empowerment registration should be extended from 10 to 30 days, threatened to monitor and take legal action against the state government should it refuse to be transparent in the disbursement process.

Mr. Onwe, said the demand for accountability on the SMEs youth disbursement fund became necessary following the past experiences on Ebonyi Economic Stimulus Program and N10 million Ebonyi community intervention fund for communities in the state.

“We’re so persuaded about accountability and leadership transparency. And based on verifiable project chat of the state from May 29th, 2015 till date, there are substantial facts and evidence that there are several  programs floated by the state government but ended up a fiasco, never heard of and or used as means to retire funds.

“Such programs are the Ebonyi YOUWiN program, diverse Agricultural Loans, Audio Postgraduate Scholarship program, Ebonyi Economic Stimulus Program and 10 million naira Ebonyi community intervention fund for communities in the state.

“In keeping with a collective resolve of our accountability team we are partnering with Inspiring Generation and Humanity Support Foundation Africa – IGHUSUF AFRICA, Africa Youth Initiative on Population, Health and Development AfrYPoD, Connected Development – CODE, the media, as well as organised Youth and Student’s groups for appraisal of the 3bn naira Ebonyi Youth SMEs Fund.

“This is borne-out of a profound patriotism, altruism and good mind to wit the processes of nomination of the youth beneficiaries, the disbursements and especially the fund performance.

“We’re deeply concerned about some fundamental project errors which the  state government had made already either deliberately or by misappropriation of project fundamental process. These include, failure to formally launch the program, non compliance with global convention on state funded intervention project application duration, by designating only 10 working days for the application (20th November – 4th December, 2020).

“Failure to designate the MDAs which share domicility and inclusion, domiciling the fund in a non ministry office, such as office of a Special Assistant to the governor on SMEs. non disclosure of the Quality Assurance QA entity.

“Based on these issues of concern about the youth SMEs fund, we strongly recommend that the executive governor should in line with the Ebonyi government adoption of Open Government System (OGS); Redesign the programme to make  relevant MDAs  to drive the processes of the Fund implementation.

The groups call for extension of the application duration/window to 30days minimal or 60 days maximal to avoid exclusion prospective youth beneficiaries.

They also urged the state government to set up a functional and inclusive steering committee made up of credible civil society organisations to drive the project.

They pledged to follow the implementation processes of the Ebonyi youth SMEs fund so much as to be able to flag errors where necessary and or may be inspired to take an informed actions tantamount to exposing any shoddy process(s) or shortfalls.

They equally disclosed their readiness to “involve relevant anti-graft agency(s) or employ other measures within the purview of the law of the land, especially, should there be any form(s) of willful or wishful thoughts to compromise the processes, including but not limited to omitted and or committed errors.

“be informed Sir, that this well intended accountability drive was not designed to hunt or cause mischief of any guise, but it is in line with our commitment to the Freedom of Information Law (FoIL) and our avowed determination to engender good governance, accountability and zero tolerance to corruption across member states of Africa.

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