The Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, has presented over N180 million cheques to 48 business owners affected by the violence that trailed the EndSARS protest across the state.
Aside from the business owners, no fewer than eight injured vigilantes manning a looted cargo terminal in the state were also captured for some support by the government.
As gathered, 342 firms registered for the non-refundable grants but 64 turned up for verification out of whom the committee established that 48 were authentic business owners due for compensation.
The government had in November engaged an independent insurance adjuster and inaugurated a 11-man committee, including civic groups and representative of the business owners, to fact-check claims submitted by 342 businesses who filled an online form to benefit from an N500m SME Recovery Fund established to support the victims.
At the presentation ceremony yesterday, the governor said: “We really sympathise with you and we regret that such a thing ever happened to businesses. We do not have the capacity to give you everything you have lost but this is our token of support to encourage you not to give up,” AbdulRazaq remarked just before handing them their cheques”.
He explained that the government was willing to help businesses to grow as part of its efforts to build an economy outside of the civil service that is currently the biggest labour demographics in the state.
According to him, the trouble emanating from #EndSARS incident has come to pass but it left a lot of victims behind and you are some of the victims. It is not your fault that your businesses were damaged but as an entrepreneur, we believe in what you are doing.
“We want to turn Kwara from being civil service state to be an enterprising state and entrepreneur like you must be encouraged. We want more people to do what you are doing and if we give you the confidence to stay and rebuild your businesses in Kwara, more people would be encouraged. You are pathfinders, you are setting pace and showing the ways to others who want to achieve in life.
“Government cannot provide all the jobs but it should be providing the right atmosphere for ease of doing business. That is why we feel very strongly about encouraging you to achieve what you need to do. So, those of you that have started repositioning yourselves, we wish you well and thank you”, he added.
Earlier, the Deputy Governor and Chairman State SME Recovery Fund Kayode Alabi, who was represented by the Acting General Manager Kwara State Social Investment Programme Mohammed Brimah, said the occasion is in fulfilment of the government’s pledge to support affected business operators.
“Let me congratulate Your Excellency and the entire citizens of Kwara State for this laudable feat by taking the bold step to reduce the suffering of the affected shop owners occasioned by #EndSARS protest. This is in line with avowed commitment of the present administration to create enabling environment and eliminate all forms of constraints especially the SMEs in the state,” he said.
The representative of the Elite Network for Sustainable Development (ENETSUD) Fatimah Bintu Dikko said the whole process of ascertaining who got what and what they got was credible and transparent as the group was on the committee to observe what transpired.
“We commend the government for what it is doing today by putting smiles on the faces of the victims of #EndSARS protest. This is exactly what we at ENETSUD want. We want every process to be transparent and we can see transparency in the disbursement of this fund. We can see the beneficiaries and we can see the cheques being given to them. We can conveniently say that this is promise made and a promise kept. Please keep it up,” she said.
A beneficiary, Ahmad Lawal, commended the government for the prompt intervention and for acceding to the requests of the affected business owners.
“We thank you immensely for your empathy and the fatherly role that you have played in ensuring that those businesses who were affected during the EndSARS protests get back to their feet. We were at your office a few days after the incident and, surprisingly, all of our prayers were accepted by you. That is what is culminating into what we are having here today,” he said.
“We requested that business community should be included on the committee that would determine who gets what and that prayer was answered; we requested that action should be expedited so that people can get back to their normal life as soon as possible and that prayer was also accepted. I think I can confidently say that no other state has been able to compensate those whose businesses were looted during the EndSARS protests as soon as you have done.
“We cannot thank you enough because, as I will continue to say, the government can decide to turn a blind eye to what happened. Nobody can challenge government for that. So, for you to have gone the extra miles in ensuring that we get some compensation, is almost unbelievable for most of us. This really shows that the current administration is really into business of ensuring that Kwara State becomes an enterprising state.”