THE Nigerian Export Import Bank (NEXIM), disbursed N4.14 billion to Benue State in the last six years, under its intervention programme in manufacturing, agro-processing and services.

Indeed, the bank has pledged to deepen the existing collaboration with the state, particularly in the area of agro-processing, in order to reduce post harvest losses and increase export revenues to boost job creation and internally generated revenue prospects.

The Managing Director of the bank, Roberts Orya told the Governor of Benue State, Dr Samuel Ortom when the latter was on a visit to his office in Abuja, that due to the abundance of huge natural resources and agricultural produce which had earned the state the description of being the food basket of Nigeria, the bank will explore other agricultural produce like yam, soya beans, maize, rice, yam flour, sesame seed, fruits and vegetables.

He said cat fish cultivation and farming, livestock, poultry, snail cultivation, piggery, goats rearing and the entertainment industry are also areas the bank would focus on, beside intervening in solid minerals, hospitality, tourism and transportation businesses.

Orya also reiterated the need to dissuade Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SMEs) from operating an out of pocket kind of business, pointing out that the bank had noted that most SMEs operators usually take their goods to neighbouring borders, sell them and keep their money in their pockets without recourse to saving in a bank.

In order to arrest this trend, he said the bank will begin to look at ways of attracting SMEs to the bank by giving them soft loans that would attract little or no collateral.

“SMEs in Nigeria operate in the informal sector without records and they are not formalised and they are the engine of growth. The bank developed a facility to capture them and encourage those who are operating informally to operate in the formal sector. We want to monitor the operations of these SMEs so that they can be incorporated into the formal sector.

“Because of the constraints of collateral, the SMEs cannot unleash their potentials but the bank is strategising on how to address this situation. We want to see how these SMEs can be captured by attracting them with soft loan that may attract little or no collateral.’’

Orya said looking at the strategic position of Nigeria within ECOWAS, the bank’s intervention in the area of transportation of goods across the sub-region will break through some existing barriers in favour of manufacturers, who are not able to move their goods by road freely, due to multiple road blocks and other impediments that can inhibit trade.

He said most of these challenges would have eroded the profit margin of business owners by the time their goods get to their final destinations.

The Governor said the state will provide the enabling environment for the bank to operate as his administration is interested in industrialising the state and turning around the fortunes of the people

‘’Industrialization, SMEs and other commercial activities will boost the status of the state, increase growth and improve the lives of the people. With the abundance of raw materials, there is no way the state can continue to export jobs and its wealth to other places, while the people suffer in penury. The way to go is to look outside the purse of the government and invest in SMEs to industrialise the state.

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