From Tony John, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has alleged politicisation in regard to access to agricultural loans offered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Governor Wike made the accusation when he hosted the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Shehuri, at Government House, Port Harcourt, on Monday.
The minister said he was in the state to inspect ongoing and completed projects that would boost rural agricultural activities under his ministry.
He said the federal government is poised to support Rivers farmers with new technology that would address the problems of low yields, allow them to have access to improved varieties of cassava produce, chemical for treatment for the seeds and crops protection.
‘I think we are one of those states that nobody gives loans for agriculture. I don’t know what hatred the Central Bank Governor has for us. We do not know,’ Governor Wike observed.
‘We have been hearing of ANCHOR borrower this and ANCHOR that. But, when it concerns Rivers State, you will hear a lot of things,’
Governor Wike explained that in an ideal situation devoid of politics, the Central Bank of Nigeria would partner with the Rivers State Government to achieve the objectives of setting up the state-owned cassava processing plant.
‘Please, tell the Governor of the Central Bank to remember us too, that we are part of Nigeria. When we applied, they said this loan was N5 billion. We have applied for more than one year now. They said we should bring this and bring that.
‘They said we should bring the cooperative societies and I say this is where the politics comes from. If I want to eat government money, I can sit here and write cooperative societies.
‘Previous administrations took loans of over N3 billion and said they gave it to cooperative societies. What are these cooperative societies? And the money went off like that.
‘And we are telling you, see the cassava processing plant that you are supposed to say we will buy into this, we will support the state government. Nothing has happened.’
Governor Wike said that regardless of CBN loans, his administration is achieving a revolution in cassava processing that would create jobs for youths and sustained business for farmers.
‘It is not in dispute that to take the country out of where we are, agriculture is key. If we are sincere with the reality that agriculture will employ a lot of our youths, give them jobs and achieve food security, then we must do it in such a way that we really mean what we say,’ the governor stated.
The governor said the state government will invite the Minister of Agriculture to commission the cassava processing plant.
According to him, many companies have already committed to buying off what would be processed.
‘We have over 3,000 farmers who have registered. From them, the company will buy off all their produce. We are happy with this feat.’
Governor Wike expressed surprise over road projects and the provision of solar-powered electricity that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture claimed to have provided to rural communities in the state.
‘I am also surprised when you said you’ve done rural roads in Rivers State. I don’t know the roads you did. It is important for us to know them so that we will put it on record that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture did this road.
‘And we will be able to write to you and thank you for doing such a road. If you put solar, let us also know. Except you gave it to your party people. There is no way you will do roads in my state without the state government being aware,’ the governor said.
Governor Wike also raised questions over the spate of abductions of school children in the north.
‘I saw breaking news, another banditry in Kaduna and taking away students and teachers. The thing is becoming funny. Yesterday, you take 300, two days after, they release them. The next morning, you take another one, the next 24 hours, they’re released,’ he noted.
‘So, people know where they are. You take 200 and something people in a 20 kilometres distance and nobody will know? And in the next 24 hours, they’ve been released. What’s really happening?
‘Can somebody tell us the truth of what’s going on? It is becoming funny. And why is it so? It is so because we politicise the issue of security.’