Uche Usim, Abuja
In a concerted effort to reduce the frightening level of poverty and unemployment in the country, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu and other players in the commerce sector at the weekend harped on the need to support and grow thousands of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMES) across the country.
The duo spoke at the weekend in Abuja in their capacities as special guests at the Institute of Business Development’s (IBD) two-day training and empowerment seminar for women entrepreneurs.
The representative of the Senate President, Senator Francis Medausi said there was need to empower SMEs to help grow the economy.
He, however, lamented Nigerian’s preference for foreign products over local goods, saying such attitude was highly detrimental to SMEs and the Nigeria economy at large.
He said; “SMEs are not growing because of foreign goods. The problem with our country is that we have neglected our locally made goods. For us to grow, we must close our borders against those products we can produce. Neighbouring countries see Nigeria as a dumping ground.
“We are aware of the various trade treaties but not to the detriment of our own country”.
Also speaking at the event, the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonaya Onu who was represented by Mr. John Obekpa, said SMEs are germaine to the growth of any nation.
He added that the Ministry was ever ready and available to support SMEs with information and technology.
According to him, “no nation grows without the SMEs. They are the bedrock of development and they are driven by science and technology. “So, for our SMEs to grow, they must realize that employing science and technology is the way to go. There are various agencies at the Ministry established to assist the SMEs. Therefore, SMEs should endeavour to collaborate with the Ministry in order to get information to solve challenges facing their various businesses such as sourcing for raw materials”.
Also speaking at the event, the President of IBD, Philips Emeto said
the conference was aimed at moving the nation forward and eradicating poverty through the development of various SMEs and strengthening regional frontiers.
According to him, IBD seeks to promote an innovative community in business development through various strategies such as the promotion and development of SMEs.
He added that the organization ran annual professional programmes to enlighten its members on available businesses.
Earlier in his remarks, Dr. Emeka Okengwu, a business expert who also spoke at the event said Nigeria cannot be talking about regional integration and free trade when the borders are closed.
He maintained that such an action vandalizes the regional bond.
Mrs Lola Emekure, Director-General, National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) implored Micro, Small and Medium Scale (MSMEs) business owners to join hands with IBD to ensure that Nigerian products become globally competitive and strengthen border tiers with other countries.
Mrs Rose Giya, National Secretary, Federation of Women Association in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises stated that a bulk of the SMEs population is made up of women and must not be relegated to the background if growth is to be achieved.
She further enjoined the National Assembly to make laws that would mandate government purchases to at least 30 percent of needed goods from SMEs.
The programme further stretched into a master class titled “A guide to taking the Weirdness Out of Retirement” anchored by Prof. Kate Oreh, former Head of Department of Adult Education, University of Nigeria Nsukka.
She tutored the participants on how not to succumb to the fears and challenges of retirement.