From Ogbonnaya Ndukwe, Aba
Leather producing clusters in Aba, Abia State which before now enjoyed funding from the Bank of Industry (BoI), are now in quandary as the financial institution has stopped assisting small and medium scale leather businesses in the Eastern commercial city.
BoI’s decision followed reported low repayment of loans by a handful of an initial 1,000 small businesses earlier programmed to benefit from the funding arrangements.
However, President of Leather Products Manufacturers Association of Abia State (LEPMAAS), Okechukwu Williams, said the withdrawal of assistance has cast Aba leather clusters in bad light as loan defaulters, adding that it was a harmful precedence to the state and national economic development given the large number of artisans the sector employed. He said what BoI should have done was to redesign the Aba leather cluster project because of its huge influence towards growth of the economy.
“When you also look at the place the sector had put Nigeria on the world’s shoe production map, you cannot but agree that, it is unfortunate that BoI abandoned its earlier arrangement to fund the sector. “They should put into consideration the production timetable of our sector, level of development of businesses needing loans and quantity of funds needed by the artisans to do their work lucratively,” Williams said.
Daily Sun gathered that BoI was supposed to fund about 1,000 businesses without time frame but allegedly withdrew after assisting only 21, most of whom had allegedly repaid their loans in full.