By Abudlahi Alhassan, Kaduna
In a bid to alleviate poverty and strengthen economic growth among small and medium enterprises in Niger Delta, the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) has moved to expand its micro-finance programme, the PAP Cooperative Society Limited (PAPCOSOL), which was primarily designed for ex-agitators, to accommodate women groups already engaged in similar practices in running mini businesses successfully.
This was revealed to newsmen by the Interim Administrator of the PAP, Major-General Barry Ndiomu (rtd), in Abuja on Tuesday when he received the leadership and members of the Niger Delta Women for Sustainable Development (NDWSD), a coalition of community women groups at the PAP office in Abuja.
According to him, the PAP is considering looking at the role of women against community credit thrift schemes that thrive in the Niger Delta, for a possible incorporation into the cooperative scheme.
He maintained the critical role women could play in changing the socio- economic narratives of the region if provided with the right tools and encouragement.
“We will look at the thrift or osusu scheme as you have highlighted to see how it can be incorporated into the PAP cooperative programmes through a collaborative effort to improve the livelihoods of the people,” he said.
“I am very happy with some of the things you mentioned, especially the idea of giving attention to women in the activities of the PAP which has always been part of our priority in contract awards, scholarship awards for undergraduates and post graduate female students, vocational and empowerment programmes.”
Ndiomu added that there are females on the PAP pilot programme and with time, the cooperative scheme will be the game changer to address issues of empowerment for the people of the region.
The Interim Administrator also expressed gratitude to the women for the visit and for the words of encouragement to spur him on
Earlier in her address, Hon. Helen Inafa Bob who led the group, thanked Gen. Ndiomu for granting them audience. She noted the role of women in nation building and called on relevant agencies to attach more importance in developing the capacity of women.
In her six-point address, she sued for the provision of micro-finance loans for rural Niger Delta women through their community credit thrift cooperative society popular known as Osusu or Okpu.
“This is an age long self-financing scheme among rural Niger Delta women and therefore, identifying with it will enhance financial guarantee for the rural Niger Delta woman.
“Our group is capable of organizing periodic decentralized training for the women in their various communities to fully utilize the funds for their thrift cooperative societies to grow their micro-economies through petty commodity trading,” she explained.
The Coordinator also advocated for the provision of facilities “for improved preservation techniques of seafood and farm produce, fishing and farming equipment” to reduce the stress in carrying out those activities.
“General Ndiomu is doing a good work here and he needs to be encouraged. It’s high time people of the Niger Delta stopped being critical of their sons and daughters in positions of trust. The pull him down syndrome must stop,” she added.
The highlight of the visit was the investiture of the Interim Administrator as the first patron of the Niger Delta Women for Sustainable Development.
Major-Gen. Barry Tariye Ndiomu (rtd) Interim Administrator, PAP and Hon. Helen Bob, Coordinator, Niger Delta Women for Sustainable Development.