MSME (Micro, Small and Medium, Enterprises) development is taken seriously by countries that truly seek economic development and growth, in saner climes, agencies saddled with the responsibility of providing support services for MSMEs receive more detailed scrutiny from government and civil societies but in Nigeria, having left SMEDAN (Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency) to thread its own desired paths, it sunk over Ten Billion Naira in conducting fictitious training programmes.
SMEDAN is the major government agency established to provide support services that would enable MSMEs thrive and play the essential role it plays in newly industrialised countries, roles that would have included contributing the greatest percentage to GDP and creating the highest number of jobs. This essential objective for which SMEDAN was established would have been achieved to a large extent if the agency had not resorted to doing the convenient as against the needful; engaging in purposeless, visionless and wasteful trainings.
In SMEDANs understanding of MSME development, in 2014 it conducted three specialised entrepreneurship development scheme trainings in Dekina, Ibaji and Bassa local governments of Kogi state for a total of One Hundred and Twenty Million (120,000,000.00) Naira. Bassa has an area of 1,925 km² and a population of 139,993, Dekina has an area of 2,461 km² and a population of 260,312 and Ibaji has an area of 1,377 km² and a population of 139,993 all at the 2006 census and with a population mix of over 60% above 50 years and subsistence farmers.
SMEDAN also in 2011 conducted a total of Twenty Seven (27) training programmes in Oyo state, allegedly spending a total of Three Hundred and Nineteen Million Eight Hundred and Sixty One Thousand One Hundred and Eighty One Naira Fifty Kobo (319,861,181.50) this figure represents over 50% of its spending’s in the year. In 2015, SMEDAN spent a total of Two Hundred and Seventy Five Million Five Hundred and Fifty Thousand (275,550,000.00) Naira in Surulere 1 Federal Constituency of Lagos State for the following programmes; support programme for ailing enterprises, post-seasonal intervention programme ,entrepreneurship development programme, vocational training, other enterprise support services and another other enterprise support services in the same constituency. This represents over 10% of the total spending’s in the year.
The absence of regulatory oversight of SMEDAN from the Presidency, its parent Ministry and the National Assembly has combined to birth a scramble for the funds allocated for the agency’s activities, a scramble and partitioning largely from National Assembly members who have ensured that political considerations take precedence over economic considerations in determining what project to it will embark upon and what amounts will be allocated to each and most importantly, who benefits from the programmes.
As stated in the opening statement, a government who sincerely wants to drive economic development/ growth would set in place a monitoring and evaluation mechanism for the purposes of tracking its spending’s and deliverables in agency’s saddled with the responsibility of supporting MSMEs. It is sad to note that neither the Presidency or the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry bothers to evaluate the activities of SMEDAN, the agency operates as it deems fit and reports to no one as the National Assembly members who should have regulatory oversight over it are more concerned with what percentage of the funds allocated to it they can capture, again not for MSME development but to line their pockets.
The task of supporting MSMEs is by no means an easy task neither is it one to be taken lightly, MSME-ASI expects to have a SMEDAN going further that clearly understands that its failure to provide non-financial services beyond organising generic trainings for which it does not scrutinise and or vet the training manuals is an indictment and clear indication it either is unable to support MSMEs or has rather chosen not to. SMEDAN should also take into consideration the development of a blueprint that guides its programme initiation and implementation, such that each succeeding year’s activity will have a direct bearing on shortcomings of the previous year.
MSME-ASI expects to have the Presidency and Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry play more active role(s) in ensuring that SMEDAN moves from traditional generic training exercises to evolving a blueprint that would have it provide the much needed support MSMEs need to contribute positively to the Nigerian Economy. National Assembly members should stop the scramble and partitioning of SMEDAN’s funds along constituency projects that are in most cases, not beneficial to MSMEs and out rightly diverted.
We cannot as a nation continue to delude ourselves that we can achieve economic development doing the same thing over and over again and expect a new result, having spent over Ten Billion Naira in the past five years doing exactly nothing and achieving as expected nothing in return, we need take a deep breath and rethink our strategy.
God Bless Nigeria.