Bayelsa State Government has reaffirmed its confidence in the private sector as a vehicle to drive the economy of the State away from the monthly federal allocations.
Governor Seriake Dickson, who made this known at the Inauguration of the State Council for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Yenagoa, noted that, the present administration was aware of the crucial role of SMEs and its positive impact on the lives of the people.
Represented at the occasion by the Chief of Staff, Government House, Yenagoa, Dame (Mrs) Didi Walson-Jack, the Governor said it was the realization of the importance SMEs that informed Government’s decision to incorporate it into the Restoration Agenda.
He commended the Hon. Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga for his interest in the State and his presence at the event and the initiative of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment on the private sector.
According to him, the various entrepreneurial activities going on in the State were indications that the State government did not misplace its priorities.
Aware of the critical issues of funding and other logistic requirements Gov Dickson disclosed that, practical steps have been taken to ensure that SMEs are not relegated to the background for reasons of inadequate funding in the State.
“In addition to this, we are also leveraging on opportunities in the micro- finance derivatives, especially with the commitment of the Bayelsa State Micro-Finance Agency to establish a micro-finance bank for the purpose of giving out loans and credit facilities to our SMEs in the State”.
The Governor stated that a 24-member committee drawn from all the Local Government Areas of the State have been set up for efficient regulatory and supervisory mechanism to manage the derivatives from the partnership and will be charged with the responsibility of formulating relevant policies and effective supervision of the disbursement and utilization of the funds to beneficiaries.
He said the State Government went further to engage the people in the acquisition of business management skills to promote the growth of local businesses and their sustainability in the State, adding that the administration set aside the sum of N480 million for the purpose in the 2013 budget.
Hon. Dickson assured that Government was focused on the stimulation of the economy using SMEs as a veritable tool to achieve the purpose while, the Bayelsa State Development and Investment Corporation (BDIC) is a vehicle aimed at making the economy principally private sector driven.
Speaking also, the minister who inaugurated the State council on SMEs and the formal flag-off of the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP) in the State, commended the developmental strides of Governor Seriake Dickson as well as the policy thrust of his administration.
Dr. Aganga, who described Bayelsa as “a small State in size but big in spirit” noted that it is endowed with so many natural resources apart from being the highest producers of oil and gas, adding that, the State is capable of becoming the ‘Dubai’ of Africa a major economic power.
He said the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan through the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment initiated SMEs and the launch of NEDEP to integrate and coordinate the development of SMEs, through the establishment of State SME Councils all over the country.
Expressing the impact of the private sectors towards nation building, the minister said the NEDEP initiative is aimed at generating millions of jobs nationwide within two years.
In his remarks, the Director-General, SMEDAN Alhaji Bature Masari said, in order to solidify its partnership, the Agency will sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the State Government specifying the duties and obligations of both parties and the overall deliverables and timelines, noting that the MOU is expected to be operational within the next few weeks.
The DG commended the State Government for promoting the development of the SMEs sub-sector in the State as well as its provision of a befitting office space for the South – South zonal office and the Business Support Centre (BSC) in Yenagoa, which he said, will ensure that the services of the Agency are effectively delivered to all target groups in the State in partnership with the Advisory Council.
He gave an assurance that SMEDAN will remain a trusted ally in SMEs and entrepreneurship development in Nigeria, stressing that it will continue to support entrepreneurial activities in the State.
In an overview of SMEs activities in the State, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the State Governor on SMEs, Engr. Ebiekure Eradiri said, the Governor Seriake Dickson led administration had taken concrete steps to develop SMEs through various strategies, collaborations and alliances to achieve its objects.
This, the SSA noted, include confidence rebuilding of SME operators and restoring the hopes of critical mass of entrepreneurs in the State, collating and updating database, holding various entrepreneurial capacity building workshops, the hosting of the 2013 SMEs Summit in Yenagoa and the establishment of N10 billion SMEs Development Trust Fund in partnership with the private sector.
The launch of SMEs Restoration Roadmap, a 12-14 months SMEs policy framework for development of SMEs in the State, An SME Mentorship Scheme in partnership with the private sector, the promotion of made-in-Bayelsa products, the proposed SMEs village in Yenagoa as well as the Integration of Entrepreneurial Training and the infusion Financial Literacy into the educational curriculum in all secondary schools across the State within the shortest possible time are also some of the steps.
According to Engr. Eradiri, all these efforts have started yielding results as the State level, but are now being known and observed by various institutions across the African continent and Europe, while the Bayelsa products such as palm oil, ogbono, plantain, fish/sea foods, Nembe bread are in high demand, and most sought after at Oyingbo market in Lagos with the branded SME products expected to feature on the State stand during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
He disclosed that, in April, last year, the State Government flagged off various SMEs Clusters for which the State has comparative advantage in all the eight Local Government Areas of the State in collaboration with the Bayelsa State Development and Investment Corporation, which is similar to the proposed one Local Government, one product (OLOP) programme initiated by the Federal Government.
The SSA noted that the main policy thrust of the SMEs sector under the Restoration agenda is to optimize the source of economic growth using the SMEs to achieve the objective.
In his welcome address, the Permanent Secretary of the State Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment, Barr. Collins Daniel stated that the ministry has put in place mechanism to encourage the transition of businesses from the informal to the formal sectors of the economy.
According to him, cooperatives and training sessions have been held for them in all the Local Government Areas of the State with impressive delivery rate.
Barr. Daniel, who welcomed the inauguration of the State council, stressing that, it came at a time when Government efforts were beginning to yield results and helping to consolidate on gains already recorded.
Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Bayelsa State