Olanrewaju Lawal, Birnin Kebbi
The inauguration of the Anchor Borrowers Programme in Kebbi State has changed the narrative of rice production. Since November 17, 2015, when the programme was inaugurated, the increase in the record of rice production has been astronomical in the state.
Statistics gathered from relevant authorities showed that the output has jumped from 1.2 million metrics tons in 2015 to 3.5 million metrics tons in 2019. Not only that, a handful of indigenous rice mills, taking advantage of the production by the farmers, set up milling posts. These outfits included Labana, Wacot, Lolo Rice Mills and Dangote Rice Mills about to take off.
About N12.8 billion out of N14 billion set aside by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through Bank of Agriculture (BoA) was distributed to 70,000 farmers for 2015 rice farming on loan. Each farmer got N210,000 from the financial institution, a sum which covered funds for inputs such as pumping machine, insecticide, fertilizer.
State chairman of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Muhammad Sahabi Augie, said: “Our farmers recorded bumper harvest of about 1.5 million metric tones after the launch of the Anchored Borrower Programme on November 17, 2015. Prior to the programme, we used to have 700,000 metric tons. But the first year of the programme, we got 1.5 million metric tons and since then, the output has been increasing. Our last harvest was 3.5 millions metric tons, a leap of over 150 per cent.
“Owing to the success we recorded in 2016, many states in Nigeria and in Africa, especially our neigbours like Mali, Cameroon, Niger and Benin Republic came to Kebbi State in 2016 to learn about our success story.”
Branch manager, BOA, Aliyu Zurmi, said N12.8billion Anchored Borrowers fund was disbursed to RIFAN members, through the bank. He insisted the state government had nothing to do with the disbursement of the loan to registered farmers in the 21 local government areas:
“We disbursed the loan ourselves, the state government has no hand in it; it just served as guarantor for the farmers.”
An official of Anchor Borrowers scheme, Abubakar Bello Udulu, explained that N12.8 billion was what was actually transferred to BoA for disbursement as loan and not N17 billion as claimed:
“When the pilot phase of the Anchor Borrowers programme was launched in 2015, state RIFAN had 120,000 registered members in its data base. It was out of this database that the Anchor Borrowers Programme targeted 70,000 rice farmers.
“Based on economic cost of production in that year, the cost of production was put at N210,000 per hectare. Therefore, N210,000 for 70,000 farmers amounted to N14.5 billion. But the CBN transferred to the Participating Finance Agency (PDF), through the BoA, N12. 8 billion for onward disbursement to the farmers.”
But the state Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), has a different perspective. It described the programme as a huge sham while insisting that the figures being reeled out are doubtful, including the fact that many of the farmers may not have returned the fund they took.
Its chairman, Alkali Aliyu Galadima, alleged that a chunk of the money went to the pockets of a few individuals who are close to the system:
“Agriculture has been the main occupation of the people of Kebbi State. When President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Anchor Borrowers Programme in Kebbi State towards the end of 2016 and made available N17 billion budget support for the programme, the development was greeted with a lot of enthusiasm and hope.
“This was seen as a bold step towards making Kebbi State self-sustaining in food production, with capacity to feed the whole of West African sub- region.
“Alas and regrettable too, even in this area, where the state has a comparative advantage and received over N17billion from the CBN, another opportunity was squandered.”