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Maize, rice farmers accuse NIRSAL of diverting CBN loans

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Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) governor Godwin Emefiele. / AFP PHOTO / PHILIP OJISUA

Nigerian maize and rice farmers have accused Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing in Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), an offshoot of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), of delaying their maize and rice cultivation for the year by unnecessarily holding back a loan already released by the apex bank.

The farmers, under a cooperative society known as HOPE CONCEPT, in the Lagos-Ogun axis, with their farms located in Ogun State, sought financial help from CBN and a microfinance bank to support their maize cultivation programme in the second part of 2018.

The group said it got the initial support of N23 million from a microfinance bank in Lagos, as initial counterpart funding required by CBN for the loan.

The group, upon receiving this sum, was able to start land clearing covering approximately 1,000 hectares and subsequently got a facility of N342 million from the apex bank.

A source at the CBN in Abuja, and another in the Ogun State office, said the loan had been transferred to NIRSAL since July 19, 2018, but as of today, NIRSAL has been using delay tactics and has not given the farmers the desperately needed facilities, knowing the implications of planting maize and rice very late.

A credit advice with reference number MDC1820000099/BNK obtained by The Guardian, corroborated the above claim that N246,523,120 was released by the apex bank on July 19, 2018 as the first batch of the facility.

The NIRSAL, which is meant to de-risk bank lending to agricultural projects, came on board during the tenure of Lamido Sanusi as CBN governor. It was put together by both Sanusi and Mr. Akinwumi Adesina, the current AfDB president, shortly before he was appointed the Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria.

NIRSAL was moved out of the CBN and given a distinct status and got a Managing Director.

It was gathered that NIRSAL had verified the claims of the 1,000 farmers in HOPE CONCEPT that applied for the fund from CBN and disqualified 128 on the grounds of Biometric Verification Numbers (BVN) irregularities, leaving 872 farmers approved.

The CBN too completed its independent verification and was satisfied and subsequently released the fund to NIRSAL for immediate transfer to the farmers.

As of today, the NIRSAL’s operational office in Abeokuta was said to be still foot-dragging, as the head office in Abuja has not given its signal for the next step of transferring the money to the appropriate account to be taken.

Also, members of the co-operative told The Guardian that other cassava and rice farmers’ groups had not got their facilities after similar release by the CBN.

But NIRSAL, through its spokesperson, Mr. Majeed Raji, while responding after a text message to the Managing Director because his mobile phone was switched off, confirmed that though the fund had been released by the CBN, further verifications and documentations had to be carried out.

Raji added that after the co-operative might have signed individual documents indicating the amount collected by each farmer, the loans would be released unto them this week, but the CBN source said there was no need for further verification, because all conditions were met before the apex bank released the funds.

Meanwhile, an agriculturalist, Mr. Joseph Aboyeji, has urged farmers to embrace dry season farming as a way of improving production and increasing their income.

Aboyeji, who gave the advice yesterday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at Omu-Aran in Irepodun Local Council of Kwara, also said dry season farming would promote all-year round farming.


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