Gombe state Commissioner for Agriculture, Alhaji Dahiru Buba Biri and the Gombe branch Manager of the Bank of Agriculture (BOA), Adamu Idris, have been fingered in an alleged scam of defrauding farmers.
According to the All Lower Farmers Association of Nigeria (ALFAN), who addressed a press conference, the Anchor Borrowers Scheme launched by the Federal Government to diversify the economy from oil to agriculture will definitely not be realized in Gombe State if the two bodies are allowed to get way with the allegations leveled against them.
The farmers are accusing the Gombe State Ministry of Agriculture and the BOA, operators of the scheme of some shady deals and denying them the funds provided by the Anchor Borrowers Scheme that was earlier launched by the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Secretary and spokesperson of the association, Malam Sani Idris, along with some members of the association while expressing their frustration to Journalists, said the loan saga which has been lingering for nine months now, has caused them immeasurable loses and forced some of them out of their farms.
He alleged that both BOA and the ministry have been introducing stringent conditions that are not in tune with what the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) told them about the facility.
He said the conditions, which are financial, were so stringent that many applicants were forced to withdraw their interest while those that opted to obtain the facility are currently facing problems in receiving what is due them, a situation which has resulted in many of them abandoning their farms due to what they have invested in procuring the loan.
Among some of the illegal stringent measures they were allegedly made to go through were that the Gombe State Ministry of Agriculture asked them to form cooperative groups and register with N10, 000.00 and N20, 000.00 for consultancy and another N20, 000.00 for a surveyor to survey their farms which many of them did.
The association further alleged that BOA also demanded N3, 000.00 for the opening of individual accounts with the bank and then another N3, 000.00 for loan disbursement form.
They said the BOA went on to demand a down payment of five per cent of the expected N250, 000.00 loans amounting to N12, 500.00 saying, “at this point, a lot of our farmers withdrew because they could not afford the money, only just over 3,000 of us paid.”
Idris lamented painfully that they would end up receiving N185, 650.00 as against the N300, 000.00 or at least N250, 000.00 they were expecting adding that, “the BOA said they will give us farm inputs of N110, 640.00 and N75, 000.00 cash; even in the inputs, they made their own business because fertilizer is N5, 500.00 a bag in the market and they forced us to take it for N8, 000.00 each bag”.
In his words, “a 50kg bag of rice seeds is N1,000.00 and they forced us to take it for N2,000.00; insecticides in the market is N1,500.00 they forced us to take it at N2,500.00. Empty bag in the market is N80.00 but they also forced us to take it at N150.00. We don’t know the reason for the deduction of another N3, 640.00.”
The ALFAN secretary also alleged that they were also charged N71, 500.00 for land clearing, plowing and harrowing, fertilizer application, harvesting and transportation of rice paddy (in the case of rice farmers) from the farms.
But when contacted, the Gombe branch manager of BOA, Adamu Idris said only the state Commissioner of Agriculture, Alhaji Dahiru Buba Biri, being the Chairman of the Anchor Borrower Scheme, has the authority to comment on the matter.
On his part, Alhaji Biri explained that the initial proposal of N300,000.00 came down to N250,000.00 because the amount earmarked for water pumps meant for dry season farming was subtracted from source adding that the surveying of the farms was to facilitate tracking beneficiaries’ farm and farming activities through the Global Positioning System (GPS), while registration is a precondition for the recognition of the cooperative society under which they could benefit.
According to him, the loan is input cum cash loan, which is, disbursing inputs to the farmers and then giving them the balance of the cash. He, however, denied knowledge of the N71, 500.00 cash charged by BOA for land clearing and other services.
He also confirmed that credit facility attracted nine per cent interest and that it would be paid in a single installment through exchange of farm produce after harvest.
Biri, had also during a press conference, said the loan was only meant for rice farmers but failed to explain why the ministry did not include that condition while in the process of registering the farmers for the loans.
He said, to meet the condition of the loan, the State had to agree to pay Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) to the CBN which needs the approval of the State Executive Council and the state House of Assembly but which was still pending.