. South-south, Southwest Farmers Allege Marginalisation
. A Total Of N171.35b Committed As At July-CBN
. Political Farmers Benefitted In Cross River-Nakanda
. Every Registered, Captured Farmer In Southwest Benefitted-RIFAN
. Farmers Have Received The Loan-Lagos AFAN
. Our People Have Benefitted-Ogun AFAN
Regardless the rate of success the Federal Government records for itself on its Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), the scheme is still plagued by allegations of favoritism by regions that claim to have been sidelined.
Since inception, findings show that some states in the Southwest, South-South and Southeast are yet to feel the impact of the scheme.
Initiated on November 17, 2015, the ABP was aimed at creating a linkage between anchor companies involved in processing and smallholder farmers of key agricultural commodities.
The thrust of the ABP is the provision of farm inputs in kind and cash (for farm labour) to smallholder farmers to boost production, stabilise supply of inputs to agro-processors and address the country’s negative balance of payments on food.
It is a loan to farmers without collateral and the benefitting farmers are given farm inputs and cash to cultivate their farms, including the experiment on rice, which government claims has achieved huge success.
The targeted commodities include-Cereals (Rice, Maize, wheat); Cotton; Roots and Tubers (Cassava, Potatoes, Yam, Ginger); Sugarcane; Tree crops (Oil palm, Cocoa, Rubber); Legumes (Soybean, Sesame seed, Cowpea etc.); Tomato; Livestock (Fish, Poultry, Ruminants.) and any other commodity that will be introduced by the CBN from time to time.
In 2017, CBN expanded the scheme to include Agricultural Commodity Associations of the targeted produce. This decision was taken to further ramp up domestic production of identified commodities by leveraging the existing organised structures of the agricultural associations nationwide, thereby providing huge economies of scale in driving the initiative.
According to the CBN, the scheme, with regard to rice production has achieved great success, leading to the ban on rice importation by the Federal Government.
In a statement released to The Guardian by Director of Corporate Communication of CBN, Isaac Okorafor, as at last July, the CBN said it has committed over N171.35b in the programme, with active participation across 36 states of Federation and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
According to the apex bank governor, Godwin Emefiele, a total of 920,788 farmers have benefitted, cultivating about 960, 643 hectares of land across 16 different commodities. “Given the success achieved under this programme, CBN would continue to support it until the full potential is reached.”
Though the bank claimed 29 states have benefitted so far, The Guardian findings show the intervention is not evenly distributed, as some states were allegedly sidelined since the programme took off.
Efforts to get list of beneficiary states from the CBN yielded no result, but unofficial findings showed that the likes of Niger, Kebbi, Kano, Delta, Katsina, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Sokoto, Benue, Kwara, Plateau, Jigawa, Anambra and Cross Rivers, have benefitted.
Contrary to the CBN’s claim, some states, have accused the CBN of favoritism and unfavorable policies.
For instance, in Cross River State, where the CBN claims to have disbursed loans, with an appeal to rice farmers to pay back for new applicants to log in, some benefitting rice farmers claim the loans allegedly given them under the scheme were a farce, and can best be described as fraudulent.
Feelers reveal that those who enrolled for rice production have denied getting any loan relating to the ABP scheme for rice production.
Chairman of Cross River AFAN, Mr. Etim Nakanda told The Guardian that majority of the beneficiaries in the state are politicians and political farmers.
“As Chairman of farmers in the state, I have not received any kobo. Even, majority of farmers who specialise in rice farming have not received anything. Ceremony is different from action. There was a time that political farmers were brought from different local governments, they were taken to bank to collect money and some were given equipment but since majority of them are not farmers they sold the equipment.
The CBN cannot tell us that they have given 20 farmers loan this year for rice, cassava or other commodities, they made me to orientate farmers that they will get money, but they thwarted all efforts of the farmers from getting the money.
At the FCT, Abuja, some of the farmers are still expressing dissatisfaction following their inability to access the loans, despite creating cooperative groups, in order to benefit from the scheme in the cultivation of rice and soybeans.
They claimed to have also contributed money to register for the programme; unfortunately they are yet to benefit from the scheme.
The same scenario is reportedly playing out in Southwest, as farmers are alleging marginalisation, in favour of a geo-political zone. Feelers showed that farmers in the region are alienated from the scheme, a development that has negatively impacted their productivity.
A senior official of the Bank of Agriculture (BoA), attested to this in Lagos in a chat with The Guardian, admitting that states in northern geo-political zones are maximally taking advantage of the scheme.
She accused Southwest governors of lacking political will to ensure their people cue into the programme, adding that the governors are no longer encouraging people in the region to farm.
A former special adviser on political matters to the president, Babafemi Ojudu, who backed the BoA official’s claim, in a report, said since the scheme was advertised, hardly did any of the governors took advantage of the initiative.
In an article he authored, he said: “These programmes (agriculture) were on willing state, willing partner basis. After all, the CBN governor is an Igbo man and we cannot claim discrimination here. Over N300b has been disbursed through the ABP. Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) was originally capitalised to the tune of $500m to work with states that have leadership and the capacity to engage.
“Jigawa is going heavily into red goat rearing with the goal of processing their hides for the consumption of the world’s animal skin markets, which has hitherto been dominated by Morocco. Cash trees are being planted by the forward-looking governor of Jigawa, who has seen that the market for both hard and soft wood in China is limitless.
“In Kaduna, the biggest animal feed plant in Africa was commissioned two years ago. Just imagine the spin-off effect on grain farmers across the North. For four years, the Buhari administration advertised her Anchor Borrowers’ Programme in agriculture. Let us ask how many Southern governors took advantage of this programme? The Ministry of Agriculture, under the same government, came up with a cocoa farm renewal programme. No enthusiasm was shown for this.
The National Deputy President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Segun Atto said every registered and captured farmer in the Southwest benefitted from the scheme.
Atto said: “Except those that were not captured by the system, because the programme requires names, Bank Verification Numbers (BVN), capturing, telephone numbers, Local Government Area from would-be beneficiaries. After these might have been captured in their database and they verify that you have not defaulted any loan, farm mapping will follow after which the necessary input will be released.
“Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo and Lagos have benefitted. None of these states can claim they have not benefitted, except those who failed to follow the process through. Some failed to submit their BVN, some submitted their children’s BVN, which didn’t tally with their names, some submitted their wives BVN, which were rejected. Anybody that refuses to release his or her BVN will be automatically disqualified.”
Continuing, Atto, who said the programme took-off in the Southwest in 2017 with rice, said: We have harvested our rice, they supplied us bags for the harvesting. Come to Badagry and see the farms for on-the-spot assessment. We have the photographs of all the beneficiaries, we have the video too, so, nobody can pretend that Southwest has not benefitted. We have been equipped, the only thing is that there is no issue of cash; everything is provision of inputs, nothing like cash.
“Seeing the success we have achieved in the region, they promised to extend the scheme to other commodities like fish farming, maize, cassava and others. I know they have started with the poultry farmers, I cannot say precisely, which other association has received the loan.”
Chairman, Lagos State Chapter, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Otunba Femi Oke confirmed the development. “Farmers have received the ABP loan but they are not many, not as expected because the procedures are not too favourable and what they are offering us, in terms of price for the commodities are not too good for farmers. They determine the price, but we discover that it is not favourable, and you cannot sell your product less than the cost of production.
“The Southwest did not buy into it at the initial stage, but we thank God now that the sensitisation is coming and most of the banks introduced to us aside BoA were not ready to assist farmers, all their procedures coupled with the off-takers are not favourable, but now it is getting through. So far, governors are showing interest, Ogun and Osun governors have shown interest.”
AFAN Chairman in Ogun State, Segun Dasaolu, also confirmed that the state farmers have benefitted. He also confirmed that the nature of the procedure is the reason why some have been shut out.
The new Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun, just few weeks ago flagged-off the scheme, which he said signaled the commencement of an agricultural revolution in the state.
After seven weeks of intensive efforts to get the input of the BoA, especially on the data of farmers who benefitted, through the Zonal Manager, Southwest, the bank, through a letter jointly signed by its Head of Services, S.O Akinola and Zonal Manager, Mrs. Idiat Folorunsho confirmed that Southwest states benefitted.
“Southwest Zone benefitted from the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, which is a collaboration between our bank and Central Bank of Nigeria. Please, note that we have disbursed in some states in the Southwest, including Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Oyo and Lagos, all of which are private anchors.
“However, we are unable to provide you with the list of beneficiaries as information about our clientele is strictly confidential.”