Rice farmers escape with N364m Central Bank of Nigeria loans in Taraba State

 No fewer than 3,383 farmers, who benefited from the N364 million loan in Taraba State between 2018 and 2019, are on the run.

The state chapter of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) disclosed this to The Guardian, corroborating an earlier publication on July 22, 2020, that recouping about N240 billion ‘revolving’ credit facilities granted to small-scale businesses had flopped.

Acting chairman of RIFAN, Tanko Andami, said the amount was collected as loans for both wet and dry season farming in 2018 and 2019.

Wondering why the farmers failed to adhere to the conditions of loans, he said: “None of them, as I am talking with you, has refunded the facility extended to them, and many of them are on the run now.”

The Federal Government under its rice production programme, as gathered by The Guardian, made the said fund available to the farmers through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to the beneficiaries in the state, via various multi-purpose co-operative societies.

The beneficiaries, the majority of whom are now said to be on the run, were said to be from Lau, Gassol, Wukari, Karim-Lamido, Ardo-Kila and Jalingo councils of the state and were registered under 185 multi-purpose co-operative societies.

The vice chairman of the association, Daniel Gani, said most of the farmers thought the loan was “a gift” from the Federal Government, adding: “They looked at it as allowance and bonus from President Muhammadu Buhari.”

Gani, who said the association was on “a recovery process,” said no farmer had been traced, except the late.

He expressed dismay that some of the beneficiaries “changed their phone numbers and their village cannot be reached,” adding that the association would leave no stone unturned in its efforts to recover the loans.

Some farmers who are warming up to obtain such loans to boost their farms are, however, not pleased with the attitude of their colleagues, as they believed that such acts debar the association from extending loans to genuine farmers.

In an earlier publication by The Guardian, agronomists and farm researchers had expressed concern that the scheme’s continuity, as good as the objectives appear, could be threatened and expansion of coverage truncated if the circular flow of the funds was interrupted by inability to recoup the funds.

President of the Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN), Dr. Bello Abubakar-Annur, had said his members participated in the 2019 ABP credit facilities for the first time, but COVID-19 truncated the repayment of the loans.

About N5.4 billion was advanced to the farmers under MAAN, but no repayment had been concluded when the disruption came around February/March, he said.

President, Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Mansur Ahmed, had hinted The Guardian that members of MAN had access to financing under the scheme for aggregation of paddies (unprocessed rice) and maize through working capital facilities.

“But this was less successful as many middlemen were allowed to intervene, which distorted prices and [hence] reduced farmers’ revenue, leading to payback defaults,” he added.