Latest report by the Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Initiative (SEEDi), has revealed that Nigeria has lost over $1 billion to corruption-related Medium Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) programmes in four years.
The report said the amount exceeds Nigeria's capital expenditure on health and education combined for the period covering 2014 to 2018.
Based on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) official rate of N306/$1, the $1billionn translates into about N306 billion.
The report titled, 'Stolen dreams: How corruption negates government assistance to Nigeria's small businesses," was produced and launched Wednesday in Abuja, by the Carnegie Endowment International Peace, in collaboration with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
It said the N306 billion lost include missing and unaccounted funds disbursed to small businesses through legislators' constituency projects, the Cassava Bread Initiative, and various loans schemes such as the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund, and the Agriculture Credit Guarantee Scheme.
Speaking on the report, Lead Partner, SEEDi, Celestine Okeke, said the Nigerian Government's MSME programmes and agencies need to demonstrate basic transparency and accountability, adding that this can be achieved through better use of established mechanisms and existing laws.
According to him, the entities operate opaquely and bristle when asked how they spend public funds, even when corruption allegations about their activity surfaces.
The report reads in part, "Corruption is endemic within Nigerian government agencies meant to help MSMEs. Relative to their high costs, these agencies programmes appear to help very few people.
"Instead they are set up to fail, eroding trust in government and functioning as conduits for embezzlement, contract fraud, deliberate waste and the distribution of political patronage.
"Exacerbated by mismanagement and broader policy failures, this form of corruption has disproportionately high multiplier effects. It inflicts lasting damage and opportunity costs on a sector that employs 84 per cent of Nigerian workers and contributes about 50 per cent to Nigeria's Gross Domestic Product.
"Though difficult to calculate, MSME -related corruption has likely siphoned over $1bn from Nigerian state coffers between 2014 and 2018."
Chairman, Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Chapter, Abiodun Ihebuzor, said there is a deliberate attempt by the government and its agencies to misinform the public on the capacity of the small and medium enterprises.
Ihebuzor, who said it is the operating systems/institutions that are not corrupt and not the MSMEs, stressed the need for a paradigm shift in the sector where small businesses will tell their own stories by themselves.
In her remarks, Secretary, Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON) FCT Chapter, Mercy Nnanna Chukwuma, said women contribute more than 60 per cent of the MSMEs population, which needs proper funding to grow the economy.