Muhammad Umar-Numbu, Chairman, Rice Farmers’ Association of Nigeria, RIFAN, Kaduna State chapter, laments that only 10 per cent of members who benefited from CBN’s Ancho-Borrower loan scheme pay back.
The Chairman, who made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Zaria, Kaduna State, on Thursday said that the attitude was sending bad signals to the success of the entire scheme.
“It is sad to note that in Kaduna State, only 10 per cent of beneficiaries paid back the loan; this is a great threat to the entire programme because it had gone to the extent that government intended to suspend the progamme but we had to plead for its continuation.
“This is because we have encountered flood disasters in some parts of the country, while here in Kaduna and some other states we have problems of security, some farmers could not go to their farmlands.
“In view of these challenges, we appealed to government to continue with the programme to give farmers another chance so that they can pay back both last year and this year’s loan together,” he said.
Mr Umar-Numbu said that the association had recently met with CBN and deliberated on the matter where a decision was reached that legal means be adapted to recover the loan.
He said based on professional advice from the association’s legal department, a demand notice was served on the beneficiaries, adding that another demand notice was sent from the national headquarters reminding the farmers of the need to respect the agreement.
“Our demand notice had already elapsed, CBN gave us the mandate that whoever refused to pay, we should follow all the necessary legal means to retrieve the money back to the nation’s coffers.
“In Kaduna State, we are now trying to educate and enlighten the farmers on the need to pay back, we are using the media to reach out to all but failure to comply will be dealt with through legal means.
“This money does not belong to RIFAN, it belongs to CBN and this programme is a privilege not a right, it is a gesture to Nigerian farmers toward making them self-sufficient,” he said.
Mr Umar-Numbu said that no fewer than 57,000 rice farmers so far benefited from the Ancho-Borrower Programme in the state, noting that the figure covered beneficiaries of both rainy and dry seasons.
“In Kaduna State, we have about 57,000 of our farmers who benefited from CBN’s anchor-borrower programme in both rainy and dry seasons.
“I want to use this medium to remind our members that the scheme is not free support but a loan scheme meant to change the lives of rice farmers across Nigeria.
“This is because some of our members are ignorant of the scheme, there is a difference between government support and empowerment scheme, while some are saying that it is a gift from President Muhammadu Buhari, this is not true.
“We are doing our best to educate them that anchor-borrower is not free support from the government but a loan scheme comprising input packaged to ease farmers’ burden of purchasing the inputs.”
According to him, the anchor-borrower is a scheme put together by Community Bank, Bank of Agriculture (BOA), CBN and RIFAN towards encouraging farmers to become self-sufficient.
The chairman said: “The package is not in cash but all the necessary inputs like seeds, chemicals, fertilisers and water pumping machines was supplied to the benefiting farmers.
“The loan is going to be paid in three installments, first installment will cover 40 per cent, the second 30 per cent, while the third will be 30 per cent.
“For instance, if a farmer collects the loan against rainy season, he will pay 40 per cent immediately after harvest, then engage in dry season farming and pay 30 per cent after harvest while the last installment comes after the subsequent rainy season.”
He, however, appealed to farmers, especially in Northern Nigeria to imbibe the spirit of paying back loan, adding that in most cases they consider loan as a gift from government.
“This is one of the problems of our people, especially here in the North, we always want the government to give us everything free of charge; this is a bygone issue.
“Most of the beneficiaries are not paying back the loan, this is one of the greatest challenges of the association, though, some are paying back but they should bear in mind that they have to pay back the loan.
“However, they shouldn’t forget that they filled guarantors’ forms, their guarantors have guaranteed and their respective ward heads counter-signed before the packaged input was supplied to them,” he said.
On benefits recorded by the association so far, the Chairman said the association had received about 11,797 bags of rice from farmers, adding that the rice was presently stored awaiting processing.
He said that their mission was to mill the rice here in Kaduna to give the residents the opportunity to be self-sufficient in local rice pressing and consuming.
“Our hope is to make Kaduna self-sufficient in rice production, processing and consumption in the next two years.”