11th April, 2012
It was Good Friday and despite the heavy rainfall, the people of Ajeromi-Ifelodun Constituency 2 trooped out to witness the handing over of deep freezers and containers of kerosene to beneficiaries of an economic empowerment programme organised by their representative at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Abdulbaq Ladi-Balogun.
While 25 of the beneficiaries got deep freezers, the other six got a container of 200 litres of kerosene each as the primary requirement to begin to earn a living for themselves.
Explaining why he decided on economic empowerment rather than the usual poverty alleviation programmes organised by some of his colleagues, the lawmaker said it started when he realised that he could not continue to dole out money every time the people come to him for assistance. Instead, he prefers to empower them
Last year, Balogun carried out a pilot scheme in which he gave out free five litres of kerosene each to families within the community and he said the response was very encouraging.
When the beneficiaries came to him for assistance, he said he asked them to go and put into writing what they wanted to do.
“At the end, I discovered that all they wanted was to survive. Some merely wanted to operate phone call business centres, while others needed just initial capital to get ice blocks for the sale of pure water and drinks.
“And these were people who followed us everywhere and publicly declared their support for us by voting massively, yet they are the poorest of the poor in the society.
“So I thought of providing 25 of the 31 beneficiaries in need of establishing their business with refrigerators while the other six get 200 litres each of kerosene, which I’m giving out at N80 per litre price, the rate I got it from Oando.
“Since a litre of kerosene is sold at N150 here, the new business people would make up to between 80 and 90 per cent profit on a litre,” he said, expressing optimism that the product would sell because it is a scarce commodity and highly needed in the area.
He also said he had introduced an agent that would regularly supply them the product.
And for those who wanted to engage in the sale of cold drinks and water, he gave them deep freezers, drums and the initial capital to start their businesses free of charge.
According to him, the beneficiaries would be closely monitored by a team he had commissioned so that they could be encouraged to grow their businesses.
“It is established that every Good Friday, I would be in this community to provide for their basic needs and empower them,” he added, stressing that his dream is that the beneficiaries would become successful business people in future.
Balogun said his relationship with his constituents is cordial, adding that this was the reason he has his constituency office, the first since the fourth democratic era of the country, within the area
“By 4 June, when I will be one year in office, I want to inaugurate a soft loan scheme which would be interest-free for those who want to go into business within the community,” he said.
He disclosed that the soft loan project was in conjunction with a micro-finance bank owned by the First Bank Plc and also charged well-meaning constituents to come to the aid of those seriously in need.