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Farmers call on FG, CBN to intervene in NIRSAL’s activities

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[File] Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of NIRSAL, Aliyu Abdul Hameed

Hope Concept Investment Cooperatives and Credit Union has refuted the allegation by the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL Plc) that its members were unqualified farmers, having neither farmland nor meeting up with the standard requirements.

The farmers’ co-operative union debunked the claims while taking journalists round the farmland in Odeda Local Government, Abeokuta, on Friday.  

Mr. Akin Agboola, President of the cooperative, said, “After a press conference, NIRSAL said we are not qualified farmers that we don’t have farms and things that are required to give us loan.” 

The Guardian confirmed that about 1000 hectares of land is being prepared.

The cooperative said it had mobilized resources to prepare but NIRSAL was delaying the loan granted by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). 

Mr. Agboola said, “The land we were able to clear is ‘tractorable’.

Now, the land we have cleared is over 1000 hectares, which we have submitted to NIRSAL with pictures and everything.”

Mr. Agboola disclosed that the Ogun State NIRSAL manager called him while leading reporters to the farm, and asked him to send the pictures of our planter, the broom sprayers, harrower and other pictures of farm equipment again.  

“Meanwhile, we are not supposed to get all these equipment because the money that they will release to us is what we need to hire all the equipment,” he said.
 
Mr. Agboola revealed, “The first thing the CBN required from us was that we have to be a minimum of 250 farmers.

Then there must be a farmland that could be mechanised, which we have already, as you can see.

Another requirement is that members must have 5% equity. We met all the conditions.”
 
It was revealed that after NIRSAL verification of all of the requirements, the CBN approved the loan and paid NIRSAL on July 19, 2018 for onward payment to members of the cooperative, but till now, the fund has not been released to the farmers.

The president of HCCU pleaded that “Now, all we are asking the CBN and the government to do is to prevail on NIRSAL to release the money to us.”

The agreement was signed under an Anchored Borrower Programme (ABP) project and there is an anchor (the off-taker), which is Flour Mills Nigeria (FMN).

Agboola added that, “Because of the planting season, we have gone ahead of them and spent millions of naira from the cooperative’s account to get part of the farmland cleared in anticipation that NIRSAL will pay us.

We have spent close to N18 million and we started clearing the land from June.”

Another requirement was that we have to pay 5% equity participation fund, which amount to about N16 million.

They have removed all the money from our account, which they say at end of the day, they will clear everybody.

Right now there are still about 120 people who have not received any disbursement from NIRSAL and yet they withdrew our money. 

Expressing disappointment, Agboola said, “So, we have met every requirement of the CBN and the NIRSAL in this contract.

Interest is already accruing on the loan, but NIRSAL is still holding it, “Agboola lamented.

“We held about four meetings and one of them is a town hall meeting.

We did Project Management Team (AMT) where we agreed on the cost of production with NIRSAL, the CNB, Flour Mills and Hope Consult.

“As of yesterday, Flour Mills was telling me that they are sure they are going on with this programme with us. I asked them why.

They said NIRSAL had cut down the price of all the inputs, which three of us agreed in the cost of production.  

“NIRSAL was also called me that they are bringing inputs for us and I asked them from where?

I said the agreement says that Flour Mills will supply us inputs.

If you take inputs away from Flour Mills Nigeria, who will supply them?

Will they supply us quality inputs? Because of that, Flour Mills Nigeria is saying they won’t off-take from us anymore.”


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