The All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN, has urged the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to resolve issues surrounding the suspension of the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, NIRSAL, loans to farmers, so as to avert impending food crisis.
Dr Femi Oke, AFAN’s Chairman, South-west Zone, told newsmen in Lagos that the suspension of the NIRSAL loans would have great impact on food production in the country.
Mr Oke urged the CBN to investigate the allegations against NIRSAL, without undermining various efforts of the farmers in achieving food security and self-sufficiency.
He said that many farmers were disappointed over the sudden suspension of the Anchor Borrowers Programme, ABP, and NIRSAL loans, as the programme provided a lot of support to smallholder farmers.
The CBN recently suspended all loans being disbursed by NIRSAL, following widespread allegations of corruption by its officials.
The agency’s flagship ABP and its Chief Executive, Aliyu Abdulhameed, have been rocked by charges of endemic graft in recent months.
The CBN’s suspension of further disbursement of loans by NIRSAL to farmers was contained in a correspondence of March 10, following the February 24 meeting where the decision to pause further loan disbursements was reached.
The memo said the decision would only be reversed after all outstanding loans disbursed to farmers, through NIRSAL had been paid.
According to Oke: “when we heard about the suspension of NIRSAL loans, none of the farmers was happy. We knew immediately that this is not good for the farmers and the sector.
“Government should have taken the bull by its horn by auditing the NIRSAL boss, Aliyu Abdulhameed. It shouldn’t have affected the disbursement of loans to farmers.
“From what we heard, the suspension is based upon the ABP.
“We want CBN to lay more emphasis on how it will go about it, because some of the farmers have done their interview on NIRSAL loans, while some others are awaiting disbursement of funds to them.
“What will be their fate now? This is not too good and we implore government to look into that area and address it,” he said.
Mr Oke urged the federal government to intervene, in order not to jeopardise the efforts of farmers that had already invested on their farms, and those that were already waiting for the loans to enable them prepare for the planting season.
“Something needs be done immediately in order not to jeopardise the effort of the farmers that are still ready to go back to the farm.
“Very many farmers, specifically in the South-West, are waiting for the loan and they expected that by now the loan would have been disbursed.
“Very few of our members have been able to access the loan, a very large number have not even gotten access to the interview.
“I have also not done the interview myself; I am still waiting to be selected. Farmers are not happy about the suspension of the loan,” he stressed.
The AFAN Chairman said that even the NIRSAL selection process had been slow due to COVID-19 pandemic, such that “only about 10 per cent of our farmers have benefited from the loan.
“Farmers are now crying about the development, we are not happy about the suspension and it will have lot of implications on food production.
“We want the federal government to clarify if the suspension is on the CBN anchor borrowers programme alone and on the Micro finance bank through NIRSAL,” he said.