…Agency holds onto CBN’s fund since July, Co-operative alleges
…Wants EFCC to investigate NIRSAL activities
…Allegations baseless, we won’t handover farmers’ fund to unqualified group – NIRSAL
Farmers under the auspices of Hope Concept Co-operative have raised the alarm over the refusal of the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) to disburse N246.52million approved and released to their cooperative by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) through NIRSAL.
The cooperative alleged that having been duly verified by the CBN, it was qualified to participate in the ABP and submitted 952 names to NIRSAL and after due diligence 872 members were qualified for the programme.
Narrating its claims in a statement issued on Monday, the cooperative said one of the component or requirements of the ABP is that the participating co-operative must have an off-taker; the off-taker for Hope Concept Co-operative is Agric Input, a subsidiary of Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc.
According to the group, “Agric Input wrote a letter of expression of interest to NIRSAL stated that they will off-take for Hope Concept Co-operative provided that they will supply all needed inputs for Hope Concept Co-operative. NIRSAL did not raise any objection to the condition in AGRIC INPUT expression of interest.
“Hope Concept Co-operative, the off-taker, insurance company and other stakeholders, the PMT deliberated and agreed on input suppliers, and cost. After agreeing on the cost, the EOP was signed by the off-taker, NIRSAL and Hope concept.
“Another component of the ABP is the Town Hall meeting where members of the co-operative gather to approve the cost of cultivating a hectare of farmland as captured by the E.O.P. After the Townhall meeting, we expect that NIRSAL will disburse fund for the programme to take off,” the cooperative stated.
The farmers further alleged that while they awaited NIRSAL disbursement, they enquired from CBN why they have not received fund for the programme and were informed that “a credit advice dated 19th of July, 2018 instructing NIRSAL to pay Hope Concept N246.52million, which is the 85% of the approved amount of the Economy of production (E.O.P) as first tranche payment.
“Going by this, we therefore make bold to say that as at today, 27th of August, 2018, Hope Concept Cooperative has not been mobilised to go to farm by NIRSAL, and NIRSAL has refused to pay AGRIC Input/Flourmill so that they can supply us with input.
“Though we applied for ABP wet season farming, NIRSAL is frustrating our entire attempt to go to farm this wet season, making farming a risky venture for farmers,” the farmers stated.
The farmers also stated that they would not pay the interests that have accrued on the ABP loan so far as its members have not received any input from the loan as at today, August 27, 2018.
The farmers also called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the activities of NIRSAL since inception, alleging further that NIRSAL was frustrating the agricultural vision of the Federal Government.
When contacted over the matter last night, NIRSAL described the claims as baseless and unfounded. The agency added that it is “an ongoing campaign of disinformation against it,” saying that it would not be blackmailed into handing over farmers’ funds to unqualified and dishonest middlemen.
Also reacting to the issues, NIRSAL’s Head, Corporate Communications, Anne Ihugba, in a statement made available to The Daily Times on Monday, stated that some persons and groups who claimed to be stakeholders or participants in various agricultural projects were orchestrating a campaign of disinformation and blackmail against NIRSAL.
The statement reads in part: “In an effort to invest their bogus claims with invented credibility, these elements have been making the rounds of media houses with false claims that NIRSAL, itself a CBN-owned entity, is holding up funds released by the CBN under the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).
“Some of them have even gone as far as organising anti-NIRSAL protests and press conferences citing documents that were still undergoing processing and funds yet to be released by the CBN. Others have also been busy whipping up sentiments against NIRSAL amongst farmers, who they claim to represent.
“Our investigations reveal that among these elements are so-called “leaders” of farmers’ groups who did not meet the relevant criteria for participation in the ABP through the NIRSAL PFI window, by filing up registers of “cooperatives” they formed with fake names and unidentifiable persons. In this category also, are so-called “farmers” who do not have farmlands.
“It is interesting to note that the farmers who failed credit checks are the ones being used to mount these negative campaigns and protests. It is this latter category of “farmers” that are conniving with these so-called “aggregators” to confuse genuine farmers on the procedures and processes of accessing the CBN ABP facility.
“We also have information that some “aggregators” have fraudulently collected monies from farmers promising to deliver loan facilities through the CBN ABP and other NIRSAL funding windows.
“The objective of the campaign which is being waged on several media platforms is clear: to intimidate the corporation into releasing funds to unqualified and unverified entities under the NIRSAL window of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).
“But this will certainly not happen because NIRSAL takes its mandate from CBN too seriously to fall for these underhand and unethical tactics. As an agricultural finance risk management institution, NIRSAL has no intention of compromising its internal processes or the ABP guidelines by falling for these shenanigans.
“NIRSAL has a mandate from the CBN to deploy its risk management mechanisms, its nationwide footprint, its partnership with Channel Partner Banks and its technical capacities to directly empower farmers by de-risking agriculture and facilitating agribusiness, with the ultimate objective of boosting agricultural productivity and food security in the country.”