CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ scheme on the slab
“Juxtaposed with the resources deployed, we can’t say the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) is a success. Maybe it worked in terms of injecting funds into the economy, but not agriculture, where you will find a very limited success.”
The above submission, made by the Chief Executive Officer of Green Sahara Farms, Suleiman Dikwa, represents the position of some farmers and stakeholders in the Agriculture sector, who faulted the Federal Government’s initiative, which they described as a failure.
Since inception, the scheme has been plagued with allegations of favoritism by regions that claim to have been sidelined. Findings showed 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 inputs supply to agro-processors and address the country’s negative balance of payments on food.
It is loan to farmers without collateral. 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.
As of few weeks ago, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, a total sum of N948b has been disbursed to 4,478,381 smallholder farmers, who cultivated 5.2 million hectares of farmland across the country.
Though the apex bank claimed farmers across the 36 states have so far benefitted, reports from some states indicate that a large number of farmers has not benefitted, as they were allegedly sidelined since the programme took-off.
The lopsidedness in the scheme is blamed on what farmers termed favoritism and unfavorable policies by the CBN. For instance, in Cross River State, farmers debunked CBN’s claim that loans were disbursed.
The same scenario reportedly played out in the Southwest, as farmers are alleging marginalisation. Feelers showed that farmers in the region are alienated from the scheme, a development that has negatively impacted their productivity.
Though the Southwest governors were accused of lacking political will to ensure farmers were adequately mobilised for the programme, it was gathered that a fraction of the fund released to the region was accessed by farmers.
In Ogun, some farmers who registered and undertook necessary procedures to access the fund said they are yet to hear anything concerning the loan after two years.
At the Federal Capital Territory, 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 directed towards the cultivation of rice and soybeans.
Another major debacle to the success of the scheme is the issue of non-payment of the loans. As at last December, a total sum of N77.18b received by the beneficiaries was yet to be repaid.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Bank of Agriculture (BOA), Alwan Ali Hassan, who raised the alarm in Abuja, at a public hearing by the House Committee on agricultural production and services on the usage of funds disbursed to anchor companies under the ABP, said the nonchalance to debt service by beneficiaries who never intended to pay back the loans was also a threat to the ABP.
He noted that cases of insecurity such as attacks by criminal herdsmen, armed robbery, and kidnapping had made it difficult for farmers to concentrate on their farms.
“Natural disasters with cases of farm loss due to flooding, early cessation of rain, and drought also pose serious challenges to the scheme,” he added.
In his reaction, the CEO of Green Sahara Farms, Dikwa, who confirmed the allegations of marginalisation and disbursement of the loans to non-farmers, said the situation does not only reflect the reality of the ABP, but for all government interventions, defined by who you know and willing to give kick back.
He said: “The ABP loan should be titled: ‘This is our share.’ I had a conversation with the head of recovery of the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and his deputy after the first disbursement, where about one million rice farmers allegedly benefitted. He was frustrated.
“How can he recover such funds from rural farmers dispersed all over the north? The only reason they opened accounts was to benefit from the scheme. They simply abandoned the accounts after getting the loans. There is this feeling that after all, politicians and public servants are stealing their commonwealth, so this is their share.”
He said another issue is the model adopted, which he said does not fit the smallholder farmers context in Nigeria. “The intervention and support services domiciled in communities and beneficiaries refereed by their peers or community/traditional rulers is the best instead of a dubious process that has created an economy for those chasing development funds to pilfer.
“If you have tractors and other inputs and make the applications simple and direct, it will work better. We have the prime Anchor where the big guys collect data, collect the money and instead of using it for production, they buy the grains instead. There is a complete lack of fit with our cultural and social context.”
But the National Deputy President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Segun Atto, told The Guardian recently that every registered and captured farmers 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 Council 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. Some failed to submit their BVN, some submitted their children’s BVN, which doesn’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.”
Chairman, Lagos State Chapter, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Otunba Femi Oke said: “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 lesser than 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 also shown interest.”