Laolu Akande, senior special assistant to the vice-president on media and publicity, says the TraderMoni loan given to petty traders is not meant to buy voters.
In a statement on Friday in Abuja, Akande said Nigerians are not for sale and cannot be bought.
He was reacting to a statement by southern, middle belt leaders who accused Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo of “bribing voters” with the TraderMoni scheme ahead of the 2019 elections.
Akande said the call for an end to the initiative is an attack on the people who have benefitted from the programme.
He said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to the welfare and upliftment of all Nigerians regardless of party affiliations.
“We do not think the Nigerian people are up for sale, nor can they be bought. Such suggestions are an insult on our collective identity,” the statement read.
“And calling for the suspension of a scheme that improves the businesses of ordinary, hardworking Nigerians, like petty traders, is not only unfair, but an attack on the common man.
“The Social Investment programme of the Buhari administration started in 2016, and the TraderMoni scheme is a part.
“So, it is false to even insinuate that the scheme was meant for advance vote buying when it was conceived two years ago.
“TraderMoni, which is part of the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme under the SIPs, is designed to assist petty traders across the country expand their trade through the provision of collateral and interest-free loans from N10,000. The loans are repayable over a period of six months.”
Akande described the social investment scheme as the largest in the history of the country, adding that it will reach two million Nigerians by the end of 2018.
“This administration has proven over and over again that it is committed to the welfare of everyday Nigerians, the common man,” he said.
“That is why we started the largest Social Investment Programme in the history of our country. And we will not relent in staying connected with our people.
“This is a major reason why TraderMoni, which has since been formally launched in 33 states and the FCT, will continue nationwide as we intend to reach two million Nigerians by the end of the year.
“Over 809,000 Nigerians are currently beneficiaries of the microcredit scheme.”