Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti
Ekiti State Government has partnered with Ecobank to ensure financial inclusion, women empowerment, micro credit loans and agency banking across communities in the state.
This was disclosed in Ado-Ekiti on Thursday at the maiden edition Se’tigbo (Have You Heard) a public enlightenment programme on Governor Kayode Fayemi’s administration’s policies and achievements.
The programme which began in Ado-Ekiti featured the informal sector of the state, a body comprising artisans, traders and vocational associations. Over eighty trade and vocational associations were represented at the engagement.
Welcoming attendees to the meeting, which held according to COVID19 protocols, Special Adviser, Communications and Strategy to the Governor, Mrs Olusola Salako- Ajulo explained that the concept of grassroots communications was designed and adopted because of the need to engage the people on policies, activities and achievements of the government.
She also noted that the government, in the last 18 months, has embarked on transformational policies and projects that need to be duly communicated to the people so they can participate and benefit from the opportunities such policies and projects provide.
Speaking on behalf of the Ecobank team, Mrs Tolulope Adedapo, explained various empowerment opportunities the bank was ready to provide under the financial inclusion partnership with the State government’s community communications platform, noting that the Ecobank Entrepreneurship Initiative (EFEI), a pilot project in the Southwest region, is set to empower thousands of Ekiti women who are into various forms of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
She noted that beneficiaries will receive loans from 50,000 Naira (with interest rates starting at five per cent interest rate) payable within six months. However, qualifying beneficiaries will have to undergo financial management training and will be issued certificates of participation which qualifies them to access the loan.
Another representative of the bank, Mr Yinka Onireti, spoke on highlights of agency banking, a product that embraces digital evolution and promotes financial inclusion as directed by the Central Bank of Nigeria to empower individuals to perform banking operations for their communities in the comfort of their shops, offices.
Onireti said: “Agency Banking has the potential to create thousands of jobs which is very healthy for the economy of the Ekiti State. It is also a source of financial empowerment for intending entrepreneurs and additional source of income for existing SMEs.
“We at Ecobank are glad that the Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi has embraced these strategies to empower the youths and further equip the business community in the State,” he said.
Speaking on the requirements to become an Agent, Mr Onireti noted that intending applicants must own a shop or office space, must be a new or existing customer with the bank, must provide valid means of identification, and own an Android phone.
Successful applicants will be commissioned to perform services such as; Account opening, deposit and withdrawal of cash, purchase of airtime and data, payment of utility bills, etc.
On the issue of taxation, the Chairman of Ekiti State Internal Revenue Service (EKIRS), Mr Olumuyiwa Ogunmilade, who was represented by an official of the organisation, Mr Femi Oloye, explained to the gathering government’s effort to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the people of Ekiti State by introducing tax relief and incentives for taxpayers and businesses.
He explained that the tax relief policies is to enable the sector regain momentum after the disruption in commercial activities occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The minimum tax payable under the Presumptive Tax Regime (Market Men & Women, Artisans, etc.) in the State has been reduced by 50 per cent for the year 2020 only,” he said.
He explained that full implementation of Ekiti State Land Use Charge Law rates based on property valuation which commenced last month had been suspended due to the global economic effects of COVID-19 on the populace, adding that full amnesty has been granted to all Land Owners in respect to the arrears of Land Use Charge from year 2017 to 2019.
Shedding more light on the government’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in Ekiti State, the Senior Special Assistant on Public Health, Dr. Opeyemi Ogunsakin, explained that the recent rise in community spreading of the virus in the state is due to the influx of persons from neighbouring states during lockdown, saying that the commissioning of the molecular laboratory by Governor Fayemi has helped unravelled many hidden cases in the State.
He, however, appealed to the leadership of the informal sector to assist in educating members and the community at large on the need to adhere to safety measures against the spread of the virus which includes; the use of nose masks, frequent hand washing (with soap and running water), hand sanitising, early reporting of symptoms and keeping to social distancing.
Many of the participants lauded the idea of the public engagement even as they expressed interest in the planned financial support and empowerment through the Ecobank financial inclusion products. They thanked the Governor for attracting such projects that make loans available for MSMEs at comfortable terms to Ekiti State.