In fulfilment of the Buhari government’s determination to support the growth of small businesses in line with administration’s economic diversification agenda, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on Thursday paid an unscheduled visit to the Mpape artisans’ village, located near the Maitama district of the FCT.
The Vice President, who first entertained questions from the artisans, spoke on challenges confronting the present administration as well as plans to develop small businesses and at the same time create sustainable jobs for Nigerians.
He assured them of government’s commitment and determination to support the growth of small and medium scale enterprises in the country, as efforts are ongoing to fix the challenges in the system.
According to the Vice President, ``we are progressing but it is slow and the reason why it is slow is because there have been a lot of damages in the past.
He said: ``For instance look at what is happening in the Niger Delta; that is where we get most of the money.
``But when the boys in the Niger Delta decided in blowing up the pipelines, production dropped from the 2 million barrels per day that we used to do to 1 million per day and we lost 60 per cent of what we used to earn from oil, that is partly responsible for the problem that you see today.’’
On the Buhari government’s reinvigorated rice production programme, Prof. Osinbajo said Nigeria was now on the path of improved and sustainable production of rice for domestic consumption, contrary to what was obtainable in the recent past.
He said: ``Now there are many people with jobs because we are beginning to produce rice, mill it locally and distribute.
``In the meantime it will be expensive and when it is expensive, there will be suffering but that is the only way we are going to stop importing rice.’’
Prof. Osinbajo encouraged the artisans not to despair as government was focused on addressing key sectors that would improve the economy and create jobs for them and other Nigerians.
According to him, ``we are trying to deal with the problem in the Niger Delta, address farming, industry and the economy so that this problem you are talking about will be fixed permanently.
He however told the artisans brace up as there was no quick fix to the problems confronting the economy, stressing that ``there is no country that can make progress without some pain’’.
He assured them that the Buhari government was addressing the issues on all fronts with the fight against corruption, stressing that ``if you don’t fight corruption the money which we are trying to get, some persons will pocket it and that is all and there won’t be anything.’’
He solicited the support and cooperation of the artisans and other category of Nigerians to help revamp the economy for the progress of the nation, assuring that the hardship currently experienced by Nigerians would soon be a thing of the past.
Earlier, the artisans led by the chairman of the Mpape Artisans Association, Mr Obafemi Adeleye expressed delight at the presence of the Vice President at the artisans’ village.
He said the artisans who had never hosted a high-profile guest at the village want the Vice President to support them in securing a permanent location for the Mpape Artisans Village, assuring him of their unalloyed support for the administration’s policies on support small businesses.
He said: ``we have been trying to get a land for our mechanic village through our cooperative but we have not been able to get one.
``We are suffering and have lost so much in the past years because we do not have a permanent place to do business.
``We are very happy to see that big people like you are visiting places that many Nigerian politicians have never visited, we are very grateful for your visit today.
``We are begging government to support us to get our permanent site, we are ready to pay our dues to get the land, we have visited the FCDA but we have not been successful so far.’’
Though some of the artisans made demands to the Vice President, the key message in all their presentations centered on government support to enable to conduct their businesses without harassment from anybody.
The visibly elated traders showered praises and prayers on the Buhari administration and encouraged it to embark on more high profile visits to the small business clusters across the country.
One of the artisans thanked the Vice President for what he termed ``visiting the masses street by street’’ and prayed God to protect the Vice President for the gesture.