Olanrewaju Lawal, Birnin Kebbi
The Kebbi State Rice Farmer Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) has refuted claims by the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) that N17 billion in Anchor Borrowers Programme funds by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) were squandered by the state government.
Chairman of the Association in the State Alhaji Muhammad Sahabi Augie, who refuted the party’s allegations on Sunday while briefing reporters in Birnin Kebbi, disclosed that 70,000 rice farmers who were duly registered in 2015 collected the loans and inputs through due process.
The PRP Kebbi State Chairman, Alhaji Alkali Aliyu Galadima, at a news conference recently alleged that the loans went to the pockets of a few individuals close to the government.
According to Galadima, “huge positive impact would have been made with proper planning and had the money been deployed for the purpose by properly channelling it to genuine farmers.”
While reacting to the allegation, Augie noted that prior to the kick-off of Anchor Borrowers Programme, the annual output production of rice by farmers in Kebbi State stood at 700,000 metric tons, stressing that the first harvest after the launching of the programme by President Muhammadu Buhari in November 17, 2015, farmers recorded 1.5 million metric tons.
“I think the biggest lie is for anybody to say Anchor Borrowers Programme does not have a positive impact in Kebbi State. Before the programme, we had 700,000 metric tons, the first year of the programme, we got 1.5 million metric tons, and since then the output has kept on increasing. Our last harvest was 3.5 million metric tons. This is above 150 per cent.
“If the programme had not recorded any success, why were nearby countries: Mali, Cameroon, Niger and Benin republics coming to Kebbi State in 2016 and thereafter to buy our paddy rice? Why is it that rice mills in Kebbi State are still sourcing for their paddy rice?
“I can’t just imagine how the Anchor Borrowers could be diverted by any government considering the processes, the criteria farmers must meet before they were given the money by Bank of Agriculture (BOA). We have all the proof, documents that this money went to the genuine farmers in Kebbi State,” Augie said.
He explained that the only challenge RIFAAN is facing now was recovering of the loans, stressing that out of 70,000 farmers that benefitted, about 200 have fully paid up.
“We have taken the defaulters to court and none of them have so far denied they did not collect the loan.