Knocks, kudos for Anchor Borrowers scheme in South West
• Scheme is corruption-prone, says Oyo AFAN chairman
• Our biggest challenge in Ondo is herdsmen, Akinbi declares
• Oyo getting set to access Anchor Borrowers scheme, says Raji
• We released N1.8b to 8,757 beneficiaries in Ogun, CBN insists
• Ondo farmers, NIRSAL trade words over fraud allegation
Six years after the Federal Government launched the Anchor Borrowers Programme through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to assist in food production, the report card from the Southwest has revealed that some state governments expected to guarantee loans were reluctant to do so because they feared they would have to bear the burden should farmers default.
It was gathered that conditions attached to securing the loan did not favour Southwest vegetation, as the drafters of the conditions allegedly had northern farmers in mind. Stakeholders claimed inputs were released to farmers in Southwest at a time suitable for only northern farmers. They cited, for instance, that inputs were released late in the year, when northern farmers were supposed to commence dry season farming, but which marks end of farming season in the south.
Also, attacks by herdsmen on farms and farmers, it was gathered, discouraged some states from applying or supporting applications for loans. However, some stakeholders tendered facts and figures to prove success of the scheme.
The first sign of conflict in the assessment of the programme came from Lagos State. While some farmers claimed they were alienated, describing it as fraudulent, others said the state has benefitted from it. Chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Lagos chapter, Femi Oke, described the scheme as ‘not too impressive,’ noting that except few commodities’ farmers that accessed the fund, others were shut out. Poultry and rice farmers, according to him, were among the few that accessed the fund.
He said: “At the initial stage, it was BoA that handled it. We invited them to our meeting and we introduced our farmers in the few commodities listed; that was the only thing I know of the scheme. I don’t have the figure of ABP’s disbursement to Lagos or the number of beneficiaries because we were not carried along.”
He said the problem was that handlers of the scheme failed to hook up with the umbrella body of farmers and work closely with the body, which should be able to identify real farmers. He accused ADP handlers of choosing to deal with farmers outside the association, saying, “this is one of the reasons I cannot give you the statistics of beneficiaries. As the umbrella body of farmers in the state, we should be the one to give account and identify our farmers but they were dealing with ‘their own farmers’ and that has made the scheme to fail. ”
Similarly, poultry farmers in the state claimed they were marginalised. Loans, according to them, were given to faceless poultry farmers. Chairman of the Lagos chapter of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Mr. Godwin Egbebe, told The Guardian that the association did “not participate in the scheme because the Central Bank of Nigeria did not agree to our terms and conditions.
“They went ahead to meet some farmers, who were not part of our association, but the scheme did not succeed. They offered interest rate of nine per cent as against five per cent and presented one person as an off-taker, while we wanted it decentralised because centralisation will not pay us. As far as poultry farmers are concerned in Lagos, ABP is a failure because we didn’t participate and the fund meant for real poultry farmers were diverted and given to unknown farmers, who were not able to pay back,” he said.
BUT in contrast, the National Deputy President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Segun Atto, who identified himself as a beneficiary of the scheme in Lagos, said every registered and captured farmer in the Southwest benefitted from the scheme. Atto said farmers benefitted “except those that were not captured by the system because the programme requires names, Bank Verification Numbers (BVN), telephone numbers, among others.
“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 didn’t tally with their names, some submitted their wives’ BVN, which were rejected. Anybody that refused to release his or her BVN was automatically disqualified.”
Atto, who recalled that the programme took off in the Southwest in 2017 with rice, said: “We have harvested our rice, they supplied us bags for the rice. 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 input, nothing like cash.”
The Guardian reached out to the Ministry of Agriculture, where the Assistant Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Lagos, Jide Lawal, promised to get the necessary data on the ABP. He was yet to deliver two weeks after.
THE General Manager, Agricultural Credit Corporation of Oyo State, Mr. Bode Raji, whose agency gives loans to small-scale farmers in the state, said the state government has just started processing N2 billion from the scheme, with 5,000 farmers lined up as beneficiaries.
Raji said: “Till date, we have not got any funds but the process of accessing it is at the advanced stage. With regard to ABP, I need to make clarification that the state government today is yet to benefit from it. I must tell you the last administration began the process but could not complete it for some unforeseen circumstances. When this government came on board, we started a new programme to facilitate the loan. We are almost at 80 per cent completion stage. It has a process, the Oyo State Executive Council has approved that the state should benefit from the facility. After that, the approval was taken to the state Assembly. The state Assembly has to approve again, so we got that in December 2020. We are proposing 5,000 farmers for take-off.
“There is going to be a project-monitoring committee; we are coming up with (EOP), that is Economy of Production for each crop. The agreement is comprehensive, the bank will participate, farmers and off-takers will participate. We are preparing a budget that will be fully discussed among these people. With EOP, one can’t say I want a hectare of land for N500,000; it is a joint discussion among participating teams, including farmers.’’
Oyo State Chairman of All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (AFAN), John Olateru, however, claimed that some farmers in the state had already benefited from the programme, even as he alleged that the programme was riddled with corruption.
“The Anchor Borrowers Programme has problems. The way they handle cost of production is prone to corruption. Farmers and national leaders of commodity groups work with the CBN in Abuja to determine the economic cost of operations at the expense of local farmers. At the end of the day, what they bring to farmers is expensive. It is more expensive than buying it locally. The process and conditions are corruption-prone.”
While affirming that some farmers got the loan, Chairman of Agriculture Development Farmers’ Association, Alhaji Saliu Imam, urged the Federal Government and its agencies to address difficulty in accessing the fund. “The CBN, ministry and NIRSAL should put their houses in order to ensure main targets get the loan,” he advised.
OSUN State Commissioner for Agriculture, Adedayo Adewole, disclosed that in 2020, close to a billion naira was accessed from the Anchor Borrowers programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He said the areas Osun farmers benefited were in maize and cassava farming adding that 350 million was accessed for maize while 250 million naira was accessed for cassava.
He added that about 193 farmers accessed N114,320,000 for cocoa, but some delayed cultivation till this year owing to lack of rain last year. “The aspect we were involved with is both maize and cassava. For maize, we accessed about N350 million and for cassava, it was N250 million. Also, cotton was accessed a year before for N80 million.
“In Osun, we are talking about close to a billion naira given to farmers, but I think some of these were postponed due to lack of rainfall, especially for maize farmers. There was a time when rain stopped, so, some of them postponed it until this year. I can’t give you the exact number of farmers that postponed until this year.”
On whether the beneficiaries had repaid the loan, the commissioner said not all beneficiaries paid. “Last year, there were problems but the major problem was drought because a lot of people that did the second planting lost their produce.”
BUT members of the Pig Farmers Association in the state said all their efforts to benefit from the facility did not yield positive results as the CBN allegedly denied them access to the loan. The bank’s excuse, according to the Chairman of Pig Farmers, Bishop Mike Adebomi, was that pig market would not thrive in Osun because the state has many Muslims who don’t consume pork.
The Chairman of Cassava Processors Association in the state, Mr. Tope Ogundipe, also said members did not benefit from the programme. He said the CBN invited some of them for interview and promised to get back but never did. “After interviewing me, the bank promised to get back to me but ever since, I am yet to hear from them. I also understand that most of my members were also denied access to the loan,” he said.
EKITI farmers declared the programme a failure as the state Commissioner for Information, Akin Omole, said the state was ready to start with 12,000 farmers. The commissioner said registration is already ongoing.
Speaking with The Guardian in Ado Ekiti, the AFAN chairman, Ekiti State branch, Mr. Adebola Alagbada, said farmers had been unable to access the facility due to alleged insincerity of CBN officials and others saddled with the assignment.
Alagbada explained that farmers, who applied for loan in January to plant maize, were granted approval when planting season had ended in October, thus creating crisis for the farmers. “The scheme is a failure in Ekiti. I am speaking as a farmer, as chief coordinator of all farmers in Ekiti and above all, as the leader of farmers in Ekiti, I am saying that the programme is a total failure.
“We have not been able to benefit. Though it was extended to Ekiti, when you apply for it in January, the approval will come in October. If somebody wants to plant maize in January and first quarter of the year, he applies for Anchor Borrowers money, but approval would come in November. It is as good as failure. Then, there is the issue of herdsmen and drought that accompanied such planting,” he said.
The Ekiti State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Olabode Olatoyi, who spoke with The Guardian, blamed the previous administration for not keying into the scheme, thereby denying farmers the opportunity to get loans. Olatoyi said the state would be starting with 12,000 rice farmers.
“I just resumed as commissioner for agriculture, what I can say is that we want to do anchor borrowers for rice in Ekiti. I also want to assure you it will soon commence and we are targeting 12,000 farmers. That is what I can say. The last administration did not key into the Anchor Borrowers, but I can assure you that this administration is keying into the programme.”
IT was gathered from Ondo State that more than 10,000 poultry farmers were shut out of the scheme. The Vice Chairman of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Mr. Omololu Akinbi, urged Federal Government to facilitate access to the facility.
The Senior Special Assistant to Ondo State Governor on Agriculture and Agribusiness, Pastor Akin Olotu, however said some poultry farmers benefitted from the scheme as individuals and cooperative societies. “I know many poultry farmers who got between N5 million and N6 million. If you don’t take a good step, you cannot benefit because they will inspect your facilities. There are some of them too who had benefited in the past but didn’t pay back.”
Olotu, who is the Chairman of Ondo State Agricultural Commodities Association (OSACA), disclosed that the state government had facilitated quick access to the scheme through the CBN, saying more than 4,000 farmers have benefitted.
He alleged that the Nigerian Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) dealt with farmers in the state by attempting to dupe them, saying the problem was directly from NIRSAL headquarters. “The money got to the accounts of young poultry farmers we gathered in the state, NIRSAL withdrew the money and they did not get a kobo. They withdrew it with the entire counterpart fund paid by the state government. They withdrew everything. Not until we protested, and that was when the counterpart fund was paid back.”
REACTING to allegation of financial impropriety against NIRSAL, the Head of Akure Office of the agency, Mr. Akinyele Aluko, denied the accusation, saying the Anchor Borrowers Programme does not require state government to give money to anybody. He, however, confirmed that NIRSAL had embarked on only one anchor borrowers programme in the state since the operation of the agency in the state in 2017. “And up till today, the farmers haven’t paid back the money to NIRSAL. All the anchor programmes they did, the payback was ridiculous, at about 15 to 20 per cent.
IN Ogun State, The Guardian learnt the sum of N1,892,830,756 was released to 8,757 beneficiaries, across six commodities—maize, rice, cassava, cotton, cocoa and fish from financial institutions—commercial and microfinance banks. According to Head, Development Finance Officer, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Abeokuta Branch, Ogun State, Dr. Oluyemisi Olukoya, 995 farmers also got N236, 895,500, for rice, cassava and maize from NIRSAL.
She noted that non-accessibility of fund by some farmers is due to some challenges like their inability to go through financial institutions. “Some of them were not able to meet up with the requirements of the commercial banks. For instance, if a commercial bank feels that the risk is too much in terms of repayment, the management may decide not to approve much money.
“For some of them, if you feel you can participate under the ABP, you must have a valid BVN, you cannot just put down any BVN; such applicant won’t be able to scale through the verification process. Some even submitted their wife’s BVN. So, if your BVN does not tally, you wont be able to participate and some make mistake of submitting incomplete or wrong BVN,” she said.
Olukoya said there are three pillars under the scheme—”the farmer must be on ground and they have to be in groups, not as individuals; the banks—financial institutions and the Anchor, which is the off taker. You may present expression of interest letters, but at the end of the day if the three pillars do not agree on certain issues like economics of production and the issue of off takers, there are many things that will not make the application fly.”
He identified late submission of applications, incomplete documentations, non-payment of equity as other factors that prevented some farmers from accessing the loan.
She said the state government is committed to assisting farmers to benefit from the scheme. She said the state government is providing support for the cassava farmers and other commodities, identifying cassava farmers as major beneficiaries of the scheme in the state.
However, every attempt by The Guardian to put faces to the figures reeled out by Dr. Olukoya felled flat. It was as if the supposed beneficiaries were tutored not to be available for comments and investigations. Even the so-called farmers associations became faceless.