The Bank of Industry (BoI) on Friday said it would disburse at least N310 billion in loans to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) between 2016 and 2019.

Mr Waheed Olagunju, the Acting Director-General of the bank, disclosed this at a ceremony to mark the appointment of new internal auditors and accountants for the bank in Lagos.

Olagunju said that the aim of the loans was to support the government’s efforts at empowering SMEs in the country.

“As we all know, SMEs are the engine of the economy and we have been working to support the government’s efforts at up scaling their capacity.

“To crash the rate of unemployment from the 25 per cent rate to a single digit, the SMEs and manufacturing sector need to be involved.

“The only issue we have been having with SMEs is that they keep saying that BOI does not disburse to them, but the truth is that banks need track record and character to disburse loans to enterprises.

“The major challenge of SMEs is not loan because asking for a loan at the very beginning of your micro business is not the best way to go.

“It is better to start from somewhere with assistance from friends and family; from there your track record and character can be monitored even by the business owner himself,’’ he said.

According to Olagunju, BoI has established nine more offices, five digital ICT products and raised its Business Development Support Providers (BDSPs) to 200.

He said with the SME Website, SMEs could use the accounting applications, even from their phones or laptops without having to come over to any of the offices.

He said the BDSPs were there for a token to write proposals, application guides and all that small entrepreneurs would find difficult to present while applying for a loan.

“As a means of sustaining the tempo, we are looking to disbursing at least N310 billion to SMEs within the next 4 years.

“With a single digit interest rate and a 95 per cent performing risk asset, it’s not going to be easy.

“But this is the same attitude we want for the change we want to see in Nigeria, especially in the non-oil sector,” Olagunju said.

He also urged Nigerians to patronise Made-in-Nigeria products just like other developing economies were doing.

Olagunju said that it was because of one of these reasons the BoI patronised made-in-Nigeria buses and encouraged wearing of traditional attires in its dress code.

While speaking on the sidelines of the event, Mr Rasak Jaiyeola, the Deputy Vice President, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), said that accountants were involved in the scheme to assist BoI to achieve its loan targets.

Jaiyeola said that the accountants and auditors would work with BoI to reduce its non-performing loans from 4.1 per cent last year to zero in 2016. (NAN)