South South accuses FG of denying its farmers Anchor Borrowers loans

Written by on April 6, 2021

Farmers and agriculture stakeholders in South-South Nigeria have accused the Federal Government of denying them loans under the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).

The development, according to them, has led to massive failure of the scheme in the region.The claims were made in investigations carried out by newsmen in Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Cross River and Bayelsa. Farmers in the states claim the scheme has recorded zero impact, except Edo, which, until recently, was an All Progressives Congress (APC) state.

They spoke after the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, accused the Federal Government, the initiator of the programme, of playing politics with the scheme.

Wike had alleged that the agricultural scheme made no impact in Rivers and accused the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, of frustrating loan requests from the state. He made the allegation when the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, visited him at Government House, Port Harcourt.

Farmers and agriculture stakeholders in South-South Nigeria have accused the Federal Government of denying them loans under the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).

The development, according to them, has led to massive failure of the scheme in the region.The claims were made in investigations carried out by The Guardian in Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Cross River and Bayelsa. Farmers in the states claim the scheme has recorded zero impact, except Edo, which, until recently, was an All Progressives Congress (APC) state.

They spoke after the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, accused the Federal Government, the initiator of the programme, of playing politics with the scheme.

Wike had alleged that the agricultural scheme made no impact in Rivers and accused the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, of frustrating loan requests from the state. He made the allegation when the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, visited him at Government House, Port Harcourt.

While accusing Emefiele of playing politics with the scheme, Wike said that instead of implementing policies to achieve food security and create jobs for youths, the CBN had politicised its agricultural loans. Rivers State, according to him, is one of the states the CBN will not give the loan for political reasons.

“I don’t know why the CBN governor hates us so much. We have been hearing of Anchor Borrowers Programme, but when it concerns Rivers State, we hear a lot of discouraging things.

“Please tell the CBN Governor to remember us too, that we are part of Nigeria. When we applied for the loan, they said it was N5 billion and we have applied for over one year now.”

The Federal Government launched the Anchor Borrowers Programme on November 17, 2015 through the CBN to boost agricultural production by Small Holder Farmers (SHF). More than N200 billion has been reportedly set aside for the scheme.

The scheme aims at financing production of rice, wheat, maize and fish, among others, to achieve increased yield for local consumption and commercial purpose. The implementation of the scheme has been domiciled in state ministries of agriculture.

Guidelines released by the Development Finance Department of the CBN in 2016 further states that the scheme will provide farm inputs in kind and cash for farmers to boost production of commodities, stabilise input supply to agro-processors and address negative balance of payment on food.

At harvest, farmers, according to the guidelines, are to supply their produce to the agro-processor (Anchor), who pays the cash equivalent to the farmer.

According to the document, the broad objective of the scheme is to create economic linkage between farmers and reputable large-scale processors with a view to increasing agricultural output and improving capacity utilisation of processors.

Complaints against the scheme by South-South farmers are coming five years after the inauguration of the programme. They gave various reasons for the failure of the programme.

Farmers in Rivers State gave verdicts that support the claim by Wike that the scheme has failed in the state. They spoke as the state Commissioner for Agric, Onimim Jack, told The Guardian that about 300,000 farmers registered in Rivers but none had received a kobo.

In their claims to The Guardian the farmers said that none of them had accessed the fund despite attending mandatory training and screening. President of Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN) in the state, Mr. Erasmus Chukunda, said about 200 members applied and had been interviewed since August last year but none is yet successful.

The National Chairman of Reality Farmers Agro Association Worldwide, Prince Njoku Ezenwata, and the President of Etche Farmers Cooperative Union, Mr. Godwin Akandu, noted that the inability of farmers in Rivers State to access agricultural loans had become very worrisome.

Ezenwata accused the Federal Government and the CBN of being insincere with the scheme.

“RFAAW is made up of no fewer than 500 cooperatives. Over 70 per cent of the cooperatives applied for the agric loan but none of them has been able to access it or benefit from it.

“If you ask me, I will tell you this scheme is nothing but politics, I doubt if any farmer in Rivers State has accessed this loan.”
Akandu claimed his members met all requirements last year but none had benefitted from the scheme.

Felicia Miller and Philip Nweke, who head farmers cooperative unions in Ahoada West and Omuma local government areas of the state said they had gone through required processes but had not received any favourable response from the apex bank.

IN Akwa Ibom, it was gathered that majority of rice farmers in the state had not accessed the loan. A stakeholder, who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity for fear he could be victimised, alleged that the scheme was hijacked by non-farmers.

According to the source from the state Ministry of Agriculture, the scheme is “a complete failure in the state.”He said: “From good authority, it is a massive failure. No individual farmer accessed that loan. A consultant accessed it on behalf of farmers. He used names of farmers to access the loan but did not remit the money to the farmers concerned. He hijacked the process.

“So as it is, I cannot give any data or figure as to how many farmers accessed the loan in the state.” Ageeing to the failure of the programme in the state, a farmer, Mr. Etim Udo Akpan from Ikot Esen in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Council told The Guardian that he was in doubt any farmer in the state accessed the facility because of the cumbersome process.

He said: “What I can say is that we the farmers from this council area heard of the credit facility. We were given directive on what to do, that we should form ourselves into cooperative societies, which we did. We went to Agric Bank where forms were given to us to fill, we formed cooperative societies of minimum of 10 members and maximum of 20.

“After that, we were asked to go to the rice unit at the Ministry of Agriculture, where we filled forms, seminar was organised for us at Ikot Esen, and we were trained on how to plant rice. That was the end. As I speak to you now, I cannot categorically explain what happened to the programme.”Akpan appealed to the CBN to deal with farmers directly in the rural areas to eliminate “political farmers.”

“The CBN should always know that farmers are rural people and should evolve a measure where rural farmers can easily access the grant,” he said.
Another farmer from Use Ikot Amama, Mr. Usen Edet Udoh, said he followed all the steps and his cooperative society was selected for the loan, but they never got it.

In Cross River, where farmers focus on rice, maize, cassava, ginger, cocoa, and livestock, the state Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Nathaniel Ilem, said over 20,000 farmers opened accounts for the ABP but none had received any grant. He listed some of the efforts made by farmers to secure the loan to include sourcing, securing and surveying of farms, saying:

“We have prepared everything and we have contacted the state’s department for project site and we have arranged what it is going to cost us in terms of tractors to plant and machines to harvest. We have even sent a letter to Ibadan for improved varieties of corn seedlings because this is the first time we are launching corn farming in Cross River. We are also working to make sure we get every local government to clean one thousand hectares of land.”

He lamented that their efforts have, however, amounted to nothing because government had failed to fulfill its promise.

“They said they were going to address us but till today, we have not heard anything from them. The day they asked us to come for town hall meeting, we did not see them, they failed to come,” he added.

 



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