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It is my pleasure to address you this morning.

I am pleased for three main reasons. First, as a person, grassroots politician and leader, it has always been my heart’s desire to help the poor and needy. Both in my private life as a medial practitioner and throughout my time in public service, it is my undying passion to see the poor and downtrodden lifted out of poverty. Hence, my joy knows no bounds each  time  an opportunity  to enrich  the lives  of  the poor, women and children presents itself.

Secondly, today’s disbursement of over N101m to 1,000 persons drawn from the  25  Local  Government  Areas  of  the  State  is a  huge  boost to our administration’s prosperity agenda. As at December 31, 2015, a total of 2,617 persons have been empowered with the sum of N435,180,000.00 under the Central Bank of Nigeria Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Fund. With an additional 1,000 persons that  are being empowered today, three thousand, six hundred and seventeen persons, mostly women, have been resourced to navigate their way out of poverty.

Thirdly, I am delighted because many of today’s beneficiaries are  people  with  no  political  godfather  to  help  them access this facility. In fact, I am certain  that  a substantial  number of them are surprised to have been selected as beneficiaries. While they may be surprised, we are not. This administration is irrevocably committed to the principles of transparency, fairness and equity. This is the way we can inspire hope and confidence in our people and ensure even development across the State.

In this regard, I must commend the Board and Management of the Delta State Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency for the good work they are doing. I  urge them to remain focussed and refuse to succumb to intimidation and blackmail. It has been said that the surest way to fail is to try to please everybody. I urge you to stay firm and resolute and not be distracted from your assignment of lifting the poor out of the dunghill.

It is important I emphasise that the disbursement of these loans is in strict adherence with the CBN guidelines. For anybody to qualify, their business must fall within those classified as micro, i.e., an enterprise with less than N5m capital. In addition, the fund should be targeted at those in the informal sector and 60% of the loans must go to women.

To the beneficiaries, I have only one word for you: Go and succeed. You no longer have an excuse to fail. From now on you will only fail by choice. Make good use of the money you are receiving today. Work hard, plan well, spend less, and commit to quality and excellence. With the current economic trends in the country, there is now the clamour for Nigerians to buy made-in-Nigeria goods. That offers limitless opportunities to resourceful entrepreneurs to prosper in the midst of economic crisis, given the size of the Nigerian market.

More importantly, I urge the beneficiaries to make sure they pay back the loan. The Central Bank has made it very easy for you to do so with the minimal interest rate. The least you can do is to reciprocate the kind gesture of the Federal Government and repay the loan as at when due. When you do that, more money will be available to empower other people. Reports reaching me indicate that the repayment rate has been encouraging. It is my hope that this pattern is maintained for the sustainability of the programme. You must not fail us.

I also appeal to those who have not yet been empowered to be patient. This programme is in phases. Obviously, we cannot empower everybody at the same time. But one thing we assure you. We will continue to empower more people as long as the money to do that is available. Hopefully, we will conduct a similar exercise within the next two to three months because programmes like this will aid our goal of bringing prosperity to all Deltans.

- Remarks at the Disbursement of Central Bank of Nigeria Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund to Beneficiaries, at the Unity Hall, Old Government House, Asaba.