A cross section of leaders of civil society and Community Based
Organisations (CBOs) in the five South East states have called for
transparency and openness in the disbursement of funds to Small and
Medium Enterprises (SMEs) by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through
the state governments.
The participants said transparency in the scheme will ensure government
cronies do not use the opportunity to convert investment funds for
They also want the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and
the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission
(ICPC) to probe previous distribution of the funds to SMEs for greater
These were part of the resolution contained in the communique issued in
Enugu on Monday after a day-long event with the theme Corruption Trends
in the Management of Financial and Non-Financial Supports Designed for
Small Businesses: Exploring the Effects of Corruption on SMEs as an
Impediment to Economic Growth in the South Eastern States organized by
the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre).
The Chairman of the event was the former Dean, Department of Law,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof Chukwunoso Okafor while Mr Celestine
Okeke gave the keynote address.
Billions of Naira are distributed to state governments every year by the
CBN many of which are believed to end up in the pockets of corrupt
people or marred by political influences peddled by government officials
who use such funds for electoral patronage thereby defeating the
designed objective of economic growth.
The SMEs sector is the largest employer of labour in Nigeria
representing 80 percent of available jobs while accounting for 50
percent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The participants said
stemming corruption in the SMEs sector will impact on sustainable
development in the region known for a long history of enterprise. Prof
Okafor said the future of economic development of the South East is
hinged in the SMEs citing Asia and China as places where the SMEs have
transformed the economy from the backwaters.
Speaking at the programme held in Enugu on Monday, the EFCC South East
Zonal Coordinator, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Usman Imam,
said the SMEs are critical to Nigeria’s economic rebirth adding that
transparency and openness in the distribution and use of such funds are
necessary for Nigeria’s economic revival and industrial growth.
Imam said Nigerians must rise up against corruption or allow the country
to slip into the cesspool. The EFCC official said “We are investigating
CBN disbursement to SMEs and see if there are complaints of fraud. There
is threat of collapse to everything unless we fight corruption.
Corruption reflects the level of moral degeneration in Nigeria. Ours is
a society of almost total collapse of value system. We have to kill
corruption and should not allow it to kill us.”
He said in 2019 alone, the EFCC in the South East secured 90 convictions
in corruption related cases. He said “It’s so sad to discover that most
of the convicts are undergraduates, graduates or corps members. Youths
who are expected to lead this country are carrying criminality on their
He added “Early October, I was in Kigali, Rwanda that just came out of
its genocide strong. The genocide happened in 1994. Each day they make
it happen as if the genocide happened yesterday so that you don’t
forget. We had a civil war, but unless you read them in books, there is
no memory. In Kigali, you see the picture of the victims in hundreds of
thousands. They have learnt to be discipline. We have to fix this
country. We should not allow it to collapse in our eyes. If you travel
by road, there are grave concerns about security, bad roads all due to
corruption. Kaduna and Abuja used to be safe, but now nobody is safe.
The current efforts of the EFCC should be supported by all Nigerians.”
HEDA Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, said dealing with corruption in the
SMEs sector will broaden the scope of greater opportunities for job
seekers while providing the needed impetus for industrial transformation
of the country.
In his presentation, Okeke said for a productive SMEs regime, the
governments need to provide infrastructure, training and skill
acquisition for beneficiaries.
The participants said corruption in the SMEs scheme reflects the general
malaise of moral decline in the society adding that to solve the problem
requires the efforts of the family which is one of the most important
social units in any society.
“SMEs have the responsibility to be accountable for sustainable growth
and development, therefore civil society groups and anti-corruption
institutions should monitor and evaluate the SMEs. That the
anti-corruption agencies should beam the searchlight of transparency on
the SMEs focusing on the processes involved in securing the funds to
promote a more impactful delivery mechanism in trade and investment of
public funds” participants noted in the communiqué.
The delegates said the SMEs do not only need financial support but also
need other non-financial services like training and skill acquisition,
urging that relevant agencies are advised to invest meaningfully to
ensure the capacity building of beneficiaries. They recommended
investing the 5 to 10 percent charged by the CBN on every fund given to
the SMEs for training and capacity building rather than the shrewd
utilization of such charges without accountability.
Participants urged Nigerians to push for legislative remedies,
transparency and stronger regulatory fixes with suggestions that a
platform should be created or existing network strengthened which will
also involve the SMEs operators with specific focus on ensuring