Kaduna farmers seek CBN’s probe over anchor borrowers scheme disbursement
The Anchor Borrowers Scheme is a federal government’s intervention programme through the CBN.
The initiative is meant to empower farmers in cooperative societies to get loans at single-digit interest rate from the apex bank to produce, package, refine and market farm produce.
Right now, there seems to be no sign that farmers in the state, who relied heavily on the loan would lay hands on it anytime soon, due to complications surrounding its disbursement, just as they are currently accusing the CBN of sabotaging government’s effort at diversifying the nation’s economy.
Besides the delayed disbursement of funds, the farmers who are also complaining about the rigorous screening processes involved in getting the loans and farming inputs, alleged that such processes where deliberately created to render the programme unsuccessful.
They further alleged that top officials of the CBN may have diverted the funds into interest-yielding accounts, where they expect to profit from, thereby making the bank unable to disburse the funds to farmers on time.
In view of all these factors threatening rainy season farming in the state, the farmers are calling on the Federal Government to investigate the CBN, as well as, declare state of emergency on the scheme
Meanwhile, The Guardian gathered that over 80 per cent of farmers in the state depend on the scheme to carry out activities like clearing of farmlands, ploughing, planting and even to run their farms.
The State Coordinator of Seed Poverty Eradication Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society (FEHDON), an anchoring cooperative society of farmers in the state, Abdulrahman Ali Musa, said he was worried that the promise made by President Muhammed Buhari in 2015 to diversify the economy is yet to yield positive results in the state, especially as the scheme has continued to be “frustrated by major stakeholders including the CBN, the state government, the BOA and off-takers since 2016 to date.”
Musa, who explained that crop production is best when timelines are followed, alleged that from investigation, they gathered that “the CBN governor had approved the disbursement of the funds, but the Development Finance Office (DFO) is still holding on to the money.
“In 2017 the programme was suspended because farmers were unable to repay the loans they got and nothing has been said about the late disbursement, the drivers who frustrated the programme, or those who are sabotaging the Federal Government’s efforts.
“In the second week of January 2018, we were invited for the Project Management Team (PMT) meeting at the CBN.
I spoke on behalf of Kaduna State farmers, and I advised that from what happened in 2016 as agriculture works with time; does not require plenty grammar as it is purely practical.
We thought that there would be a positive response after the PMT meeting, but looking at it with the way things are going, there is nothing that has been done,” Musa stated.
He continued: “We warned that 2018 maybe dangerous or even worse than 2016.
Now, farmers have been screened and all the requirements have been met, but they are still being kept in the lurch and not given inputs to start farming.
This is one of the reasons why we are saying that the Federal Government needs to question the CBN.
We are calling on the president to declare a state of emergency on the scheme, and we want the CBN to be investigated in order for it to say what is happening to the money, and why they are sabotaging government’s efforts.
“As at 2016, Mr. president approved above N250b for the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, which is a five-year project, and in 2017, more money was even added.
All we are asking now is, ‘where are these monies? Who are the ones using the money for personal interests?
Most of the drivers of the Anchor Borrowers Programme are northerners and they know the farming calendar. So, why are they still holding the fund?
Musa regretted that despite the assurances that they were given by the DFO in the first week of May (at a meeting held at the CBN) that before the end of May funds would be disbursed to all farmers, nothing has been done with just days to the end of June.
“Our delegation has been going to the CBN to know what is happening and the only response we have been given is that very soon the funds would be disbursed to farmers, and soon can be next year,” Musa lamented.
Because of this high level of uncertainty, some farmers in the state have threatened to quit farming this season.
They stressed that the promise made by government led them to secure more hectares of land for large-scale farming, which they as individual farmers cannot shoulder the responsibility of financing and cultivating without government’s intervention.
Alhaji Aminu Ilyasu, a large-scale rice and maize farmer from Igabi Local Council of the state said, “since the promised funds have not been disbursed to us after meeting all the criteria set by the CBN, I would rather sit at home because the farm is too big for me handle alone, and I don’t have the kind of money needed to run the entire farm.
I don’t even know where to start from because I relied on them. We have been waiting and disturbing our off-takers who are anchoring our programme.”
He continued: “There was a time they took us to CBN for us to see what is on ground, that is the reality, and it was from there, I stop suspecting him (my off taker). My farm is more than seven hectares.
Now we are supposed to be in the farm before the rains because we have to go and clear the farm, and you cannot just go ahead and clear the farm without money. ”
Another farmer from Chikun Local Council, Sani Abdullahi, who cultivates rice and maize said, “We were surprised to see that the CBN has not released the loan in spite of the fact that we are within the rainy period.”
He expressed fears that, “what happened two years ago when farmers were blamed is about to repeat it self. I have six hectares of land and I am waiting for the government to disburse the inputs so that I will start working on my farm.
If the government refuses to disburse the loan, then I will just retreat from large-scale farming. What I will simply do is just to cultivate what my family and I would eat, but there will be no large-scale cultivation on the farmland.”
Ilyasu added: “In the disbursement, there is money to clear the farm, and for other things.
So, I cannot just go and meet those who clear the farm without giving them money.”
For another beneficiary of the programme, Muhammed Murtala, a ginger and maize farmer, the Anchor Borrowers Programme is one of the best programmes initiated by the Federal Government, the delay that has characterised the “disbursement of the loan to farmers could disrupt the rainy season farming, as farmers are yet to lay hands on neither the funds nor input to commence work on their farms.
“Whenever it comes to disbursement to farmers, we normally have problem.
We do not understand why the CBN is not willing to give out the money … most of the security challenges such as armed banditry, kidnappings and cattle rustling could have been prevented if agricultural intervention loans can be easily secured.
The reason that the heat is so much in the country is because an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
In my state now, we have those we call Yanshara. If there is farming activities going on, you won’t see them getting involved in committing all sort of atrocities, we have the youth, we have the manpower and have the land, but I don’t know maybe the CBN has a hidden motive for not disbursing the loan in good time.”
He added: “As far as am concerned if the Federal Government wants to achieve anything pertaining agriculture, the CBN has to be restructured, and the government should give more powers to the Bank of Agriculture, and more power to NIRSAL,” he recommended.
“We want the Federal Government to make BOA, NIRSAL independent because they have the expertise and technical know-how to handle the agriculture sector,” Murtala reiterated.
When contacted, the acting Director, Corporate Communications of the CBN, Isaac Okoroafor said the “CBN has nothing to hide in the calls for probe because it is not the one using the disbursements, but the states and groups of farmers, who meet the requirements.”
No comments yet