Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has halted his visits to markets nationwide to promote the TraderMoni Scheme, The PUNCH has learnt.
Osinbajo, it was learnt, has not toured any state to promote TraderMoni in the last one month.
However, checks by The PUNCH showed that the programme was still on.
TraderMoni is an initiative of the Federal Government, implemented through the Bank of Industry and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme.
The programme is part of the Federal Government social intervention aimed at funding micro business in the country through soft loans beginning from N10,000.
The programme was launched last August, while the Vice-President began his tour in Osun State on September 3, 2018, barely three weeks to the Osun State governorship election.
At the first tour, Osinbajo was accompanied to Iwo Market by the Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola; Deputy Governor Osun State, Mrs. Titilayo Laoye-Tomori; Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi, and other government officials.
The exercise was immediately branded as voter inducement because of its timing.
The Vice-President further took the tour to Lagos markets in company with the then All Progressives Congress governorship candidate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and other APC stalwarts.
He visited over 20 states thereafter during the countdown to the 2019 General Elections.
Osinbajo, on some occasions, combined his tour of markets with door-to-door campaigns where he met with people and asked them to vote for the APC.
Members of the opposition, as well as Transparency International, described the exercise as voter inducement.
The chairman of the anti-corruption organisation, Awwal Rafsanjani, noted that the initiative was an “official use of public funds in the name of TraderMoni to actually induce voters.”
He added, “It was not done three years ago. It was only started close to election time. So, this is clearly a case of vote-buying, using public funds, and it goes contrary to our Constitution and to having a free and fair election.
“That is why the Independent National Electoral Commission itself has seen this danger. The vote-buying we are seeing has transformed to having more official recognition through the acts that, unfortunately, we are seeing performed by some of the agencies using public funds.
“This is despite the statement by the President that public funds will not be used for his re-election campaign. But this, unfortunately, is contrary to what Nigerians are seeing.”
When contacted on the telephone, Osinbajo’s Media Aide, Laolu Akande, asked our correspondent to send a text message.
However, he failed to respond to the text message over an hour later.
Responding earlier, however, Akande had said the programme was still on and that, that was what mattered most.
He said, “The TraderMoni scheme is one of the Government, Enterprise and Empowerment Programme micro-credit products. MarketMoni and FarmerMoni are still very much in operation.
“We have a target of 30,000 minimum beneficiaries per state, and we have achieved this in majority of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
“What the team has been doing is generating the balance of programme funding and ramping up on the states where we have a shortage.”