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In Cross River, Ayade brings financial freedom to the masses

Cross River State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade, his Deputy, Professor Ivara Esu, Business icon, Dr. Chris Agara and Chairman of the Cross River Microfinance Bank, Mr. Goddy Akwaji, during the official commissioning of the Cross River Microfinance Bank in Calabar

By Christian Ita

Outside Calabar, the Cross River state capital, shaku shaku dance may not mean anything to market women and small business owners. But on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, Governor Ben Ayade's enthralling  shaku shaku dance steps at the commissioning of the first Cross River Micro finance bank in the state capital, got some rusted waists cranking as market women shrugged off weariness to dig it out with His Exellency.

Seeing their workaholic governor, who a broad spectrum of Cross Riverians have given various elegant sobriquets such as, "Salary Master", in appreciation of his prompt payment of workers salaries; "Mr.Project", in recognition of the industrialization policy of his administration, and "Ditigal" in reference to his modernization of governance, on the dance floor was the elixir that stirred the women into action but obviously, nothing could be more stirring than the goodies the Micro finance  bank offers the women.

It was therefore no surprise that "macro- votes and macro victory for our ditigal governor" wafted from the crowd, giving the musical displays a blend of soul-stiring rendation of a pledge, chorous and music! Such was the dramatic setting at the commissioning ceremony.

The facility with a N500 million start up capital courtesy Governor Ayade, is the first ever state-owned Micro finance bank in the state and the governor is optimistic that the bank will contribute immensely to the economic growth of the state.

Paying glowing tribute to women, the Cross River state governor urged them to take advantage of the services the bank offers to better their economic lot.

Licenced by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, the Cross River Micro- finance bank will open offices in every local government in the state. For a state saturated with small scale businessnes whose operators are not equipped enough or qualified to access soft loans from traditional mainstream banks, Cross River, according to industry watchers, is on a sure footing for business growth with the establishment of the Micro finance bank.

According to the governor, at the heart of the establishment of the Micro finance bank is the need for financial inclusion for all Cross Riverians.The bank, he is said, is therefore a credible platform for small business owners to be financially stable and independent rather than depend on the government.

"Our interest is to bring value to humanity, to make people feel the dignity of mankind...this bank is not intended to make money but targeted at helping women, the vulunerable and physically challenged; and to encourage them that there is always a banking sector that can provide for them".

 In order to cater for the economic and business interests of the category of Cross Riverians mentioned above, the Cross River Micro Finance bank is structured to charge zero to 5 percent interest on loans as the criteria for loans include, ownership of a farmland, being a civil servant and ownership of a market stand.

Going forward, the over 3000 staff of the state owned-Garment Factory as well as local government staff across the state are among the immediate beneficiaries of the financial freedom the Cross River Micro-Finance bank offers as they have been asked to immediately open accounts in the  bank to enjoy the benefits of loans.

"For all young men, as we offer you appointments and create jobs for you in this administration, you will now put food on the table and with hands on the plough as the microfinance bank will be available to give you loan for you to do that 30,000 hectares of cocoa, to give us over 60,000 hectares of rice farm that we are looking for, or organic bamboo plantation to feed our toothpick factory," the governor enthused.

Boki local government area of the state which lacks an institution or bank will be the first to get a branch  of the Cross River Micro finance bank.The groundbreaking ceremony for the branch is slated for next month.

"I promised Boki that I will bring an institution because the area is too big not to have an institution. I hereby implement the promise I made during my campaign," the governor said, adding that, "it is now left for Boki sons and daughters through the Secretary to the State Government to chose a location where we can set up the microfinance bank in Boki"

Some indigenes of the local government present at the commissioning ceremony could not hide their joy at the prospect of the area hosting a banking institution.One of them who simply identified herself as Catherine, a fashion shop owner described  Ayade as a promise keeper.

Her words: "Our digital governor is a promise keeper. Here today, he has again demostrated that and given Boki people yet another reason to queue behind him during the governorship election next year. For giving us a micro finance bank, we will give him macro votes!"

Chairman, National Association of Microfinance Banks in Nigeria, John Owan,  lauded  Professor Ayade for pioneering a state-owned Micro finance bank:"We are happy to have a new baby born into the industry as all microfinance banks in Cross River before now were privately owned. Having seen the state-of-the-art facilities here, I have no doubt that those who patronise this bank will not regret doing so", he said

On his part, Cross River Controller, Central Bank of Nigeria, Sampson Esua, pointed out that Ayade has made the job of CBN easy as the bank has several packages to offer those who patronise the it.
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