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We’ll commence disbursement of N25bn ETF in December – Ambode

•    Artisans, traders, others to get access to fund, gov assures

LAGOS State governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, has said the state government will commence the disbursement of the N25billion Employment Trust Fund (ETF) initiative of his administration by December, 2016.

Ambode said this while speaking in Lagos at the graduation ceremony for 500 artisans trained by the state government on modular employability programme in 19 different trades.

The governor, while pointing out that the informal sector remained a critical vehicle for economic recovery, said his administration was passionately committed to repositioning the sector for economic gains.

According to Governor Ambode, the N25billion ETF, which will be disbursed for the next four years on N6.25billion annual basis, is one of the initiatives designed to empower the informal sector, adding that government was open to ideas and strategies that would aid sustainable growth of the sector.

“Let me tell you clearly that the N25bn ETF is for artisans and entrepreneurs in Lagos State. We will commence disbursement from the month of December, 2016 and let me assure you that a larger percentage will go to our carpenters, our tailors, our hairdressers, our vulcanisers, and so on.

“Everybody that is a tradesman and is an artisan in Lagos will have automatic access to the Employment Trust Fund (ETF),” Governor Ambode said.

Speaking at the event, which also coincided with the 7th Tradesmen and Artisans’ Week, the governor said the ETF was an initiative with the cardinal mandate to support the establishment and growth of small businesses to create job opportunities for the people, adding that soft loans would be provided to genuine and credible artisans and traders in the state.

Besides, Governor Ambode said it was now time for conscious and concerted efforts to re-engineer the mindsets of young ones and advance entrepreneurs with the view to repositioning them to face modern challenges.

He contended that except focus was shifted to equip and rebuild the informal sector; members would not be vibrant enough for the prevailing realities of the moment.

The governor assured that his administration would not sit and wait for oil prices to rebound in the international market before arriving at a solution to the challenges confronting the state, hence, the need for the ETF and other initiatives.

On the training for artisans, Governor Ambode said such was one of the platforms for recognising and projecting the significant contributions of the informal sector as a vehicle for economic development, adding that government was equally mindful of the fact that artisans were the major players and the conveyor belt for industrial enterprise in the country.

While urging the newly trained artisans to leverage on the strategic position of Lagos as the contributor of 25 per cent of the total GDP of Nigeria and fifth largest economy in Africa, Governor Ambode said the training, which they passed through was designed to address this skills mismatch and provide the right mix of skills needed to service the industrial needs of the State.

Responding to requests by artisans through their representatives, Governor Ambode approved that the beneficiaries of the training should be increased to 1,500 artisans next year, while he granted a yearly subvention of N12million and an approval for a brand new operational bus for the Lagos State Council of Tradesmen and Artisans (LASCOTA), among others.

Earlier, Commissioner for Wealth Creation and Employment, Mr Babatunde Durosinmi-Etti, said the 500 artisans were retrained and up-skilled on eight weeks intensive programme solely sponsored by the state government for better service delivery.

On his part, LASCOTA Chairman, Alhaji Nurudeen Buhari, thanked Governor Ambode for the various efforts aimed at improving the productivity of artisans in the state, especially the Tradesmen and Artisans’ Empowerment Programme (LASTEAP), saying that the continuous training had impacted positively on their productivity and enhanced them economically.