The Office of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has taken strong exception to allegations by the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum on Wednesday that he is at the centre of “advance vote buying” ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The group described the Tradermoni scheme of the federal government which Osinbajo has been launching all over the country as a ploy to corrupt the electorate ahead of the general elections next year.
In its communiqué the elders called that the brakes be applied on the scheme.
But the call is described by the Vice President’s spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, as unbelievable and unfortunate.
Akande noted that such an attack on the Social Investment Programme (SIP) is a direct confrontation with the millions of Nigerians benefitting from all the SIPs, especially the projected 2m total who will be receiving the collateral-free loans by the end of the year.
“It is deceitful for anyone or group to accuse the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, of advance vote-buying through TraderMoni, a micro-credit scheme designed to assist the bottom of the pyramid petty traders nationwide. This was the false claim contained in a communiqué jointly signed by the leadership of a group called Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum recently.”
In its communique, the prominent leaders said: “Meeting expressed utter disappointment in the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo for his continued corruption of the electorates in a funny scheme named ‘Tradermoni’,” read the communiqué.
“We noted his odious outing with this corrupt act shortly before the Osun governorship election when he went to dole out cash to would -be voters and distributing forms in which beneficiaries were asked to fill in their PVC details and phone number.
“A few days back, he took the perverse scheme to Lagos accompanied by the Governor of Lagos and the APC governorship candidate in Lagos state, an act that totally betrayed the political manipulation of the polity with pecuniary tools.
“It is rather unfortunate that a Professor and Senior Advocate of Nigeria is not ashamed to be doing this open ‘see and buy’ ahead of elections while he continues to preach virtues when convenient.
“We demand immediate suspension of this scheme in the manner the VP is going about it presently as it shames the whole anti-corruption campaign of the administration. It is pure bribery of voters
But according to Akande, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, “We do not think the Nigerian people are up for sale, nor can they be bought. Such suggestions are an insult on our collective identity. And calling for the suspension of a scheme that improves the businesses of ordinary, hardworking Nigerians, like petty traders, is not only unfair, but an attack on the common man.
“The Social Investment programme of the Buhari administration started in 2016, and the TraderMoni scheme is a part. So, it is false to even insinuate that the scheme was meant for advance vote-buying when it was conceived two years ago.
“TraderMoni, which is part of the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) under the SIPs, is designed to assist petty traders across the country expand their trade through the provision of collateral- and interest-free loans from N10,000. The loans are repayable over a period of six months.
“Also, it would seem naysayers cannot withstand the fact that this administration is fulfilling its promise. Would they rather share the funds among themselves instead of supporting petty traders? Afterall, in some few instances, a combined sum of N100 Billion was shared under the former administration. If that N100 Billion had been given to petty traders as loans, like the Buhari administration is doing now at N10,000; 10 million petty traders nationwide would have been beneficiaries.
“We will not choose to engage with the notion that Nigerians and their loyalty are for sale. This administration has proven over and over again that it is committed to the welfare of everyday Nigerians, the common man. That is why we started the largest Social Investment Programme in the history of our country. And we will not relent in staying connected with our people.
“This is a major reason why TraderMoni, which has since been formally launched in 33 states and the FCT, will continue nationwide as we intend to reach 2 million Nigerians by the end of the year. Over 809,000 Nigerians are currently beneficiaries of the microcredit scheme.
“Despite this being a season of upcoming elections and desperate politicians resorting to desperate measures, it is irresponsible for any group to play politics with the welfare of ordinary Nigerians – hardworking petty traders, who are simply making honest living and trying to support their families – and a microcredit scheme which is meant to help improve their businesses and means of livelihood.
“Besides the fact that petty traders are major contributors to the informal economy, most of them do not have access to loans from commercial banks which require collateral or interest, which would help them grow their business, and so the country’s economy.”
“Again, through TraderMoni, the Buhari administration is empowering ordinary Nigerians by improving financial inclusion in the grassroots.”
Akande clarified further that beneficiaries of TraderMoni are not required to show their Personal Voters Cards (PVCs) or any document to qualify for the interest-free loans. This is why the enumeration is done in the open markets and wherever the traders ply their trade.
“The Social Investment Programme includes the Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP); Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT); Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) (MarketMoni, FarmerMoni & TraderMoni) and the N-Power job scheme
“The Home-Grown School Feeding programme is now feeding over 9 million primary school pupils a free meal a day in 26 states nationwide; while almost 300,000 Nigerians are beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer.
“So far, over one million Nigerians are beneficiaries of GEEP schemes – MarketMoni, FarmerMoni and TraderMoni, while 500,000 young Nigerian graduates have been employed under the N-Power job scheme.
“Thus, we urge the group to halt its needless attack on the largest and most ambitious social investment programme in Nigeria’s history, and rather join hands to help our people.
“The Buhari administration remains committed to the welfare and upliftment of the common man and all Nigerians, regardless of party affiliations, and the Social Investment Programme is one of the major planks of this administration to improve their livelihood.”