Uche Usim, Abuja
The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) is championing the recapitalization of the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) as its current operating framework and governance structure is burdened with myriads of challenges that have made it perform sub-optimally since its creation in 1972.
The Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr. Alex A. Okoh made the remarks at the kick-off meeting for the recapitalization of the Bank recently in Abuja.
According to him, “the process will lead to the privatization of equity of the bank. We envisage that the Central Bank equity will be reduced to 20 percent, Federal Ministry of Finance (incorporated) will be reduced to 20 percent. The government agencies equity in the new bank will be a minority of 40 percent. We will then invite private sector investors who will own 20 percent and the remaining 40 percent equity will be owned by farmers and farmers’ cooperatives”.
Okoh stated that the new strategy envisages that BoA will be transformed into a truly agriculture finance bank modeled along the lines of Agriculture Bank of China and Rabobank of the Netherlands, adding that upon its establishment in 1972 to serve as an agricultural and cooperative bank to provide services of a development finance institution, it was vested with the responsibility of providing low-cost credit to smallholder and commercial farmers.
He, however, lamented that the Bank had been unable to realize its responsibilities due to its current structure, stressing that the proposed restructuring and recapitalization of the Bank seek to transform it strictly into an agricultural finance bank with functional branches in all the local government areas and major towns in Nigeria.
The Director-General said that the model was sure to encourage farmers to form clusters of cooperatives and thrift societies throughout the six geo-political zones for the purpose of participating in the ownership of the Bank.
Okoh added that the model would fundamentally ensure that the BOA becomes a farmers’ bank owned by farmers.
On the sustainability of the strategy and attracting investment, the DG, BPE explained that measures would be put in place to take non-performing credit facilities off the balance sheet and books of the Bank and possibly sold off to a factoring agent. He said further that the measure is to make the Bank attractive to investors and also attract cheap funding from multilateral development institutions and other institutional investors with a focus on agricultural financing.
Okoh commended the Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh who doubles as the Chairman of the Steering Committee for the Project for his passion and commitment to the development of agriculture in Nigeria.
He congratulated Lead Consortium, the Adviser for the transaction and said that upon conclusion, BoA would be placed on a platform to optimize its potential to make positive impacts on the nation’s natural endowments for arable farming.