FCT farmers recount ordeals with the CBN Anchor Borrowers’ programme

Farmers across the FCT here recount their ordeal under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) and urge the government to intervene. John Oba reports.
Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in line with its developmental function established the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) which was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari, as part of efforts to enhance agricultural industrialisation through farmers empowerment by creating linkages between anchor companies involved in the processing and Small Holder Farmer’s (SHFs) of the required key agricultural commodities.
CBN through the programme is to provide farm inputs in kind and cash to small holder farmers to boost production of these commodities, stabilise inputs supply to agro processors and address the country’s negative balance of
payments on food. At harvest, the farmers supplies his/her produce to the agro-processor, who pays the cash equivalent to the farmer’s account.
According to the apex bank, the programme will create economic linkage between smallholder farmers and reputable large-scale processors with a view to increasing agricultural output and significantly improving capacity utilization of processors, while increasing banks’ financing to the agricultural sector, reduce agricultural commodity importation and conserve external reserves, increase capacity utilization of agricultural firms while creating new generation of farmers/entrepreneurs and employment.
This is suppose to reduce the level of poverty among smallholder farmers, assist rural smallholder farmers to grow from subsistence to commercial production levels.
The supposed beauty of this programme is that the loan shall be targeted at smallholder farmers engaged in
the production of identified commodities across the country, with this, farmers are to be in groups or cooperative(s) of between five and 20 for ease of administration.
But the programme seems to be lopsided, as farmers from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have lamented the total neglect from the programme. They complained that in the 2017 session no farmer benefited in any form from the programme despite their large number.
Some farmers who spoke to Blueprint were insistent that CBN is marginalising FCT farmers. According to Mr Ameachi, FCT farmers have not benefited from the programme.
“FCT farmers have not benefited anything from the programme. We have been trying for a year, but to no avail. Rather, we have been spending our money, but our leaders under the farmers empowerment programme are the ones working to get us input from an alternative sources.
“We got some input due to their efforts but it was late so some of us were not able to plant. It was last two month that we got the fertilizer and soybean seeds but they were not under the Anchor Borrower programme. Even the Bank of Agric promised to give the farmers N113,000 but we have not seen anything. Some of us that collected the inputs cannot use it because there was no fund to pay for labour and other necessities. So we collect the inputs and kept it for next year, some collected it and sold it to other farmers.
Another farmer, Mrs Akpajeshi, described the situation as painful, saying the farmers were abandoned after spending money to hire land, clear and prepared the land for planting only to be neglected and all hope to get assistance dashed.
She said: “We went along way to prepare for the programmes, hiring land, clearing and spending money hoping that something is coming and we will commenced farming only to be disappointed.
“There was a land we hired for this programme, because nothing came from the Anchor programme, we left the land unattended to, yet there was no refund of our money, so now that you are asking me about benefits, there was none.
“What do we call this if not marginalisation, because if others in states are able to access fund under the programme, and here we are going a long way to prepare and yet we were ignored. Even the inputs we got at the tie end was a private arrangement and it was late. So when a programme is said to be for farmers and some of us despite all our efforts were neglected, that is marginalisation,” she said.
Mr. Stephen Alabi, said that under his Cooperatives, he has over 260 farmers who registered for the programme laments that his members are already doubting his integrity as some are insinuating that he connived with the CBN to defraud them.
He said: “We did not enjoy anything from the programme, they just collected our money with nothing to show for it. My people have started accusing me that I collaborated with the CBN to defraud them. There was a flag-off ceremony where the FCT permanent secretary represented the Minister, and the Emir of Kuje in attendance after which we were given certificate that further raised our hope, but all these came to nothing, we never expected that such programme can fail.
“I learnt the problem is with the agent that Sterling Bank used. But I am sure that FCT minister is aware. I have about 260 members that the bank agent went around to collect N2000 from with time that were wasted and yet nothing to show for it. Surprisingly, when we had meeting with CBN, the Bank said it has not received anything from Sterling bank, that no name was submitted to it. Sterling bank on it part complained that the agent did not remit any money to our account. I believe the minister knows about it, because the man in question is still working as a director in the FCT agric Secretariat.
The farmers therefore called on the minister of FCT to intervene saying the farmers must be given preference in year 2018 while also pleading for compensation to argument all the cost incurs this year.

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