Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, National Cooperative Financing Agency of Nigeria (CFAN), Mr Emmanuel Atama, in this interview with JOHN OBA, behaves some Cooperatives in the country are pseudo cooperatives established for personal gains.
What is the operation of your organisation?
The National Cooperative Financing Agency of Nigeria (CFAN) by the cooperative structure in Nigeria is the apex institution for all cooperatives that are into financial services, we call them financial cooperatives. It also provides financing and linkages for other sector of cooperatives within the economy, such as agriculture, transport, marketing, etc., and the purpose it was established, is to provide financial intermediation for those that are excluded from the formal financial services sector, and it also goes down to the grassroots, because of the affiliation that we have with various grassroots cooperatives because the normal cooperatives that we know are established at ward levels. Any primary cooperative that you see is attached to a particular ward, because it is registered at a particular ward, so the overall target is to ensure that those who are excluded have access to the good things of life, so that we achieve inclusive growth and development.
What do you mean by “those excluded”?
Yes, it is not every body that have access to the formal banking system, pension, healthcare services, housing, finance and other good things of life, that are financially inclined within the economy. So the cooperative becomes a very good tool through which we can reach these group of people. As a matter of fact, we are working together with the financial inclusion Secretariat of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ensure that by the year 2020, we will reduce the inclusion level to a minimum of 20 per cent.
Your organisation is the umbrella body of all cooperatives in Nigeria…?
What we intend to achieved working with all the cooperatives is financing. As tou know, finance is a big challenge to every man and women, and we are working to demystify that. We believe that once you have the appropriate plans in place, and the plan is quite explicit, and realisable then access to finance will be made possible. That is why our activities are all embracing, because every sector of human endeavours requires financing.
How many members do you have presently?
At the moment we at the financial services are about five million across the country and the cooperatives put together, inclusive of the financial services, are up to 30 million Nigerians. But unfortunately, the cooperatives are not registered in the work way traffic system. The law put it at both the domain of the federal and the state government, so we are working in such a way that at the national level we are able to know the number of cooperatives that are operating in each State of the federation.
Under the current administration, dealings with farmers has been through the cooperatives, how are you able to coordinate your members to benefit from this?
Well, coordination has not been easy, because some of these cooperatives are not cooperatives, most are pseudo cooperatives. The emergence of some of them are not out of needs or necessity, but because they are pushed to do so. They look as if you don’t have a cooperative, you can’t access fund. But we have been able to coordinate those with us. And we have a vast majority of them that are still not with us yet. But one thing we must acknowledge is the efforts of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that has made it in such a way that before you can access anything, you must show that you belong to this apex institution. That has brought many of them to the fold, because if they are not part of the fold some of them will not learn the best practices, and when they don’t learn best practices, even if you give them money, it becomes difficult to recover. So, on our part, we’ve been able to coordinate our people in our own ways, we have accessed finance, not only for agriculture but for other fields of human endeavours. This years, we are working to ensure that we improve on what we have done before.
Can we say it is the reason FCT farmers are finding it difficult to access the Anchor Borrowers Programme. Is it that they are not with you?
I am not aware of that, because they cannot say completely, that they have not been able to access anything, because it might be a group that is saying that. But another group may be telling you that they are getting it. So, as a matter of fact, if we are not together in one fold, how do you think that we will be able to fight for same interest. Complaints have not come to us at our level here in respect to that. We are minding the fact that as a new programme, we may have some challenges and hitches. This year, we are working with relevant authorities with respect to this to ensure that we have a seamless transaction that would be beneficial to all.
What is the state of your is your ‘food project’ programme?
We are at the summit of actualising the food project of which the Fly network is playing an active role. It is playing very important role in achieving the programme. Like I said before, we may be buying food now, but in a short while, we will be producing, processing, marketing and start consuming the food. That makes it a value chain. So we are working out modalities to ensure that the Fly Network play a very prominent role.
When is the programme likely to commence?
We are putting machinery in place to get warehouses and we have already gotten partners that are willing to finance the supply chains. We have also gotten huge off-takers base willing to exchange the food. And we are believing God that by the end of this month, the programme will take off properly.
What do you aim to achieve with the programme?
The Cooperative Family Feeding programme, aims to achieve zero hunger. We are keying into the United Nations programme on access to food. We believe that people need to eat balanced diet, and stay healthy. We know they are working, and some of them may not be able to afford these food at a particular time but if we give it to them as facilities, they would eat well, stay healthy and pay back later. So we intend to achieve zero hunger.
That sounds like borrowing food?
Well, whatever you call it, the developed world lives on credit, it is only in Nigeria here that people want to achieve everything on cash and carry basis, that is one of the reasons for the corruption plauging us because people do everything to get what they wanted, but if there are well organised credit facilities, people can get what they want, there won’t be much problem.
As an organisation, what is your opinion on agriculture under this administration?
The administration is doing well in respect to agriculture, particularly in the area of rice production. Thought some Nigerians may be saying other things that rice was cheaper before now, the fact remains that we are working toward self sufficiency in rice, and I know that apart from rice, there are other subsectors. I strongly believe that with the support of every Nigerian, we will get there. It is not about the occupant of the office, all hands must be on deck to ensure that we achieve self sufficiency in respect to food.
What is your organisation’s plan for this year?
Like I said earlier, we have so many plans for this year. we expect to build a robust credit system that is self sustaining here. We intend to implement the ICA United Nations target for cooperative for the year 2020 that we should build reliable capital while guaranteeing members control. We are equally working on renewable energy to make sure that our people that are off grid have access to green and renewable energy. We are also working on the issues of food, we are looking at the issue of school fees, that is ensuring that no child is sent back from school because of school fees. We are also working on the issue of inclusiveness, we are taking the private school as pilot project, a situation where teachers in the private complain because they don’t have pension, healthcare services, we are looking at it that through the parent, teachers cooperatives, we should be able to provide access to all these social securities under the cooperative inclusive strategy.