With 3 Days Left Before Deadline, FG Yet To Recover Loans From Farmers

With just three days left before the deadline set by President Bola Tinubu, federal government agencies in collaboration with the law enforcement operatives are trying to recover billions of naira in loans given to rice farmers since 2018.
Recall that President Bola Tinubu had set a deadline of Monday, September 18, for the funds to be recovered.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) launched the ambitious Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) to make funds available for enhanced agricultural production in Nigeria.
Despite certain areas of the country recording success, the initiative encountered a snag since some of the beneficiaries were unable to pay back the loan when it was due.
There are also allegations that some officials who were saddled with the responsibility for dispensing the monies and farm inputs diverted them.
It was learnt that over N1.1 trillion was disbursed by the CBN to the beneficiaries of the ABP since its inception, but only a little above N546 billion was repaid.
With the directive by President Tinubu, it is expected that over N577 billion would be recovered from defaulting farmers and officials who diverted the money.
At the inception of the programme, hundreds of rice farmers were captured through their registered associations and were given loan in form of inputs, which includes seeds, agro chemicals, fertilisers, among others.
They were expected to repay the loan at the end of the farming season either in cash or by paddy rice.
However, recovering the loans from the farmers have been the major issue to the apex bank, as all efforts to retrieve the money through their association had yielded little result.
 Recent move to recover loans
 In an effort to recover the loans, the federal government directed the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) to do everything possible to get the money given out during the 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 cropping season.
The association was instructed to work with the Department of State Services (DSS), NSCDC, the police and other relevant security agencies to recover the loan.
Based on the directive, RIFAN in a circular dated August 30, 2023, directed all the state chapters of the association to work with the security operatives to recover the loan.
The circular signed by the President of the association, Aminu Muhammad Goronyo, and the National Secretary, Livinus Ngwangwa, directed the farmers to pay into a designated bank account with the copies of the tellers sent back to the national office of the association. But since the directive, not much has been recovered from the defaulting farmers from the states.
The RIFAN Deputy Secretary General in Kano State, Malam Ado Hassan, has given out a number of reasons why recovering the anchor borrower loan is proving difficult.
He said the state collected about N12 billion from 2017 to 2020, adding that the recovery level is less than 30 per cent.
According to him, during the 2018 wet season, 44, 807 farmers were captured as beneficiaries, and in that same year, the state witnessed a terrible flooding that washed away a vast rice plantation and that in 2019, COVID-19 pandemic worsen the situation for not only rice farmers but for all business across the globe.
He lamented that despite insurance cover from the National Agricultural Insurance Company (NAIC), affected farmers couldn’t access compensation from NAIC despite incurring huge losses due to the flooding, even though the incident was reported, inspected and evaluated by both CBN and NAIC officials.
“Farmers had paid over N100 million premium and NAIC paid not up to 40%, which is very bad. And nothing was done, to make it worse, CBN agreed to re-issue inputs to 29,080 farmers for them to go back to farm and be able to repay their loans after the flooding, but up till this moment, CBN didn’t give them anything,” he said.
The Kano State RIFAN deputy secretary general further stated that they have devised several recovery attempts through the use of traditional leaders, customary courts and other methodologies but to no avail as farmers could not repay the loans.
 ‘Loan given to wrong farmers’
 However, a rice farmer in Kano, Alhaji Ahmadu Usman stated that the anchor borrower loan could not be recovered because it was not given to real farmers.
 According to him, the whole programme was abused by turning it into a political affair with the money shared to political allies.
 “It is not possible to recover the loans because real farmers have not benefited from it. Go to where rice is being produced; you will still see farmers there doing what they know best. These are the real farmers that have been using their sweat to grow rice. Let anyone that has taken the loan pay, that’s all,” he said. It could be recalled that in 2020, the Kano State anti-graft agency received a petition from farmers that there was fraud in the leadership of the state RIFAN to the tune of N10 billion.
 The commission in the process of investigation had arrested and detained leaders of the association for the alleged infraction.
However, RIFAN leadership maintained that the funds were not diverted but given to farmers who lost their fortunes to flooding that year.
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