By G9ija

The Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) says 3,000 entrepreneurs from Niger Delta will benefit from the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) loans.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that PAP had started training programmes to prepare Niger Delta youths including ex-agitators for loans offered by the Central Bank of Nigeria-backed NIRSAL scheme.

PAP is facilitating the process through capacity building to help entrepreneurs in the region get qualifications required to apply for the loans.

The first phase of the training, which has 60 youths in attendance, is currently ongoing in Yenagoa, Bayelsa capital.

The Interim Administrator, PAP,  Retied Col. Milland Dikio, said on Tuesday that 3,000 entrepreneurs had opportunities to benefit from the loans to expand their businesses.

He explained that NIRSAL would select 30 youths for the pilot survey of the loan initiative after the trainings.

Dikio, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Project, Mr Godwin Ekpo, emphasised that PAP was only acting as a guide to give qualified entrepreneurs from the region an opportunity to access the loans.

Dikio told the ex-agitators that the loans were not grants and should be paid back within the terminal period to enable NIRSAL extend the gesture to others.

He said that the loans offered by NIRSAL were free of collateral with low interests but must be secured by guarantors to facilitate repayments.

He said PAP decided to facilitate because such opportunity was in line with his vision to turn the youths, especially the ex-agitators to entrepreneurs.

He said the loans were for those who were already running their businesses to help them expand their ventures in order to generate more jobs for people.

“NIRSAL is supporting the SMEs with soft loans to enable them expand their businesses. As PAP, our vision is to help our delegates become entrepreneurs and/or employable citizens contributing to the economy.

“So, we look out for opportunities where they can access some level of funding to take their businesses to the next level.

“We have other people that will be joining after this; this is just a pilot scheme. The partnership is one that will grow and we have a larger number.

“It must be stated again that this is not a grant; these are low interest loans, single digit with no collateral that will be paid back after a while.

“The tenure of repayment and other conditions are stated in the papers they will sign. We hope that these delegates will become more successful entrepreneurs in future as a result of this funding.

“Some of them are into agriculture, small scale businesses and we hope this fund will help them expand,’’ he said.

In his remarks, the lead consultant, Mr Paul Tyokosu, said the essence of the training was to enable the entrepreneurs have access to funding and skills to promote their businesses.

He urged the trainees to think of farming, agro-businesses and other agricultural value chain to expand their businesses and create more employment opportunities.

“This is designed to boost your capacity to grow your business. When you expand your business, you will help solve the problem of unemployment. Always ensure that your income is more than your liabilities,’’ he said.

One of the trainees, Amatari Ogon, who runs a poultry farm, commended Dikio for introducing Niger Delta youths to opportunities that would empower the youths.

“This training has shown that the amnesty boss has the passion for the empowerment and development of the Niger Delta region. It has exposed me to tips that will help me expand my poultry business,” Ogon said.