Edo State Government has disbursed the sum of N645 million grant to 2,219 persons across the three senatorial districts of the state in the last two years.

Segun Majekodunmi, Result Area 3 lead, NG-Cares project and Director of entrepreneurship development at the Edo State Skills Development Agency (EdoJobs) disclosed this at the grand finale of the second phase of the disbursement of the grant to beneficiaries in the state.

The Nigerian Observer reports that the grant was presented to beneficiaries in Auchi, Edo North; Ekpoma in Edo Central, and Benin in Edo south senatorial districts respectively.

Majekodunmi said the grant, which is a livelihood support for businesses in the state was part of the Nigeria COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (NG-CARES) programme funded by the World Bank, Federal Government of Nigeria and the Edo State Government.

He said in the first phase the sum of N235 million was disbursed to 506 beneficiaries across the 18 local government areas in the state while in this second phase the sum of N410million was disbursed to 1,713 across the state.

He said the 1,713 beneficiaries were out of the total number of 12,000 persons that applied for the programme in 2023.

He explained that at the second phase the sum of N292.1million was disbursed to 919 beneficiaries in Edo south, N66.7 million to 474 beneficiaries in Edo north, and N51.2million to 333 beneficiaries in Edo central senatorial districts.

The Result Area 3 lead, NG-Cares project said the benefited persons were categorized in three businesses which are nano, micro and small-scale enterprises.

Majekodunmi said the successful beneficiaries were those that meet the criteria laid down by the World Bank which include the correct and valid Bank Verification Number (BVN), bank account details, among others

He said over 7000 business owners are expected to benefit from the third phase of the programme before it ends by June 2024.

While commending the World Bank, Federal Government and Edo State Government for the empowerment, he, however, urged beneficiaries to make judicious use of the funds noting that it was geared to be utilized for what it is intended for and not for frivolous projects.

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“The intention of the grant is for businesses to be able to pay salaries, rent, have equipment such as laptops, printers among others to work”, he advised.

He said the beneficiaries were also trained on different business rudiments which include business continuity, marketing, business finance, business compliance, risks management among others.

In her speech, Ifueko Alufokhai, Edo State Coordinator of NG-Cares noted that the programme is aimed at protecting the livelihoods and food security of poor and vulnerable families.

Alufokhai, who is also the Permanent Secretary, Edo State Ministry of Social Development and Gender Issues said it also was geared towards facilitating the revitalization of local economic activities across the state, through special intervention to support nano, small and medium-scale enterprises’ recovery and competitiveness.

She, however, urged the beneficiaries to utilize all resources both monetary and intellectual acquired in the course of the training and programme to invest and build their businesses for a better future.

Earlier, Akan Ekure, of the Micro Enterprises Directorate in the Bank of Industry (BOI) in charge of South-South zone and Enugu State commended the Edo State Government for keying into the programme to ameliorate the adverse effect the COVID-19 pandemic had on businesses across the country.

Ekure, who said the bank is the financial institution for the disbursement of the grant to the beneficiaries, however, urged them to use the money judiciously for the betterment of their various businesses as well as to improve on the state economy.

On her part, Itohan Anita Eribo, managing director, Edo State Skills Development Agency (EdoJobs) also appealed to the beneficiaries to make good use of the grant.

Eribo, who said EdoJobs houses the state secretariat of the NG-Cares added that it also provided the manpower to build the human capital development of the beneficiaries as well as for the Bank of Industry to disburse the grant to the right beneficiaries.

In an interview, some of the beneficiaries which include Anaza Momoh-Jimoh commended the state government for ensuring that the programme is devoid of political and tribal sentiments.

Jimoh, who is a farmer disclosed that he hitherto cultivated 200 heaps of yam seedling but since the training and empowerment, his heaps have increased to 650.