SPECIAL REPORT: ‎How Buhari’s agric programme is creating jobs, pushing Nigeria towards self-sufficiency in rice

Bello on his farm, ready for transplant

At eight every morning, hundreds of farmers throng Birni Sala, an upland farming area along Gubin Ka (River Ka), in Jega town of Kebbi State. At about the same time, thousands more head to their farms in other Kebbi communities like Argungu, Bagudo, Augie, Kangiwa, Kalgo, and Yauri.

Although farming has always been a popular profession in Kebbi, it was, until recently, not considered a lucrative vocation, especially among educated folks.

All that changed in 2016.

In late 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the pilot phase of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), spurring thousands to debut as rice growers on at least one hectare of land each. Even for existing farmers, pre-ABP, the programme, despite its downside, helped improve operations.

One of the debutants, Umaru Salihu, is a level nine health worker in the state civil service where he earns about N34,000 monthly. “Month to month,” Mr. Salihu said, “I was suffering. Before the end of the month, I would have finished my salary and be waiting for the next one.”

Encouraged by Umaru Alhassan, the Chairman of Jega Rice Farmers’ Association to enlist for ABP, Mr. Salihu got one hectare of land at Zariyar Kala-Kala in Bagudo to grow rice. Now, he has 10-hectare farmland, five of which he currently cultivates. He started with one hectare in the beginning of 2016 when he became an ABP beneficiary.

“Now, I have confidence. I have hope. I can support my family very well and buy what I want,” he said, but quickly added, “Not that I am very rich; but whether they (government) pay or not, I don’t care. Wetin concern me? I have hope!”

Mr. Salihu’s story is not unique. It offers a window into the experiences of many others who only depended on meagre salaries from poor employment or were unemployed.

“Apart from civil servants, many of our youth involved in thuggery and drug abuse, or those doing petty jobs in Lagos or Abuja, are on the farm now since the (Anchor) Borrowers’ Programme was introduced,” said Mr. Alhassan, speaking at the family compound he shares with a former electoral chief, Attahiru Jega, after the day’s toil.

The ABP?

Days of investigation by PREMIUM TIMES across farms in Kebbi State show that through the ABP, Nigeria, under the leadership of Mr. Buhari is making a silent but fast-paced, revolutionary march towards self-reliance in rice production, the most popular staple food in the country.

In an official statement that followed the launch of the ABP in November 2015, the Central Bank of Nigeria, which coordinates the programme, “set aside N40 billion from the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund for farmers at a single-digit interest rate of 9 per cent.”

The ABP mainly targets small-holder subsistence farmers with a view to helping them scale their businesses to commercial level. It also targets millers with the aim of increasing their capacity utilisation.

At the launch, Mr. Buhari disclosed that Nigeria was spending not less than one trillion naira on the importation of food items that could have been produced locally, a situation the CBN said was contributing “greatly to the depletion of the nation’s foreign reserves, especially in the face of low oil revenue resulting from falling oil prices.”

The Central Bank said it had decided to shift from merely concentrating on price, monetary, and financial system stability to acting as a financial catalyst in specific sectors of the economy, particularly agriculture, in an effort to create jobs on a mass scale; improve local food production; and conserve scarce foreign reserves through the ABP.

The implementation of the programme involves the CBN, the Bank of Agriculture, the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation, state governments, integrated millers and farmers.

THE POLICY

Enrolment in ABP is two-way. Unlike Mr. Salihu who is engaged under the public sector arrangement, Usman Mayaki works with Labana Rice, a Kebbi-based rice mill involved in the programme alongside Humza, another mill in Kano State.

In Kebbi State, there are 73,941 beneficiaries cultivating 77,583 hectares, according to a document the Central Bank released to PREMIUM TIMES.

But in separate interviews, the Kebbi Deputy Governor, Samaila Yombe; the Commissioner of Agriculture, Garba Dadinga, and the permanent secretary of the ministry, Mohammed Lawal, claimed there are 78,000 beneficiaries in the state.

About 70,000 of these were enrolled under the public sector arm of the programme, with the remaining eight thousand in the private sector level –Labana and Humza.

In terms of local government distribution, there are 21 local government areas in Kebbi State, with each having between 3,000 and 6,000 ABP beneficiaries under the public sector arrangement.

Officials and farmers say beneficiaries were offered loans to cultivate one hectare each. With documents from the CBN showing there are more hectares than beneficiaries, it appears some farmers got support for more than one hectare each.

The General Manager of Labana Rice, Abdullahi Zuru, however said no farmer under the private sector arm got assistance for more than one hectare.

By December 2016, the CBN had disbursed N11.7 billion (N11,722,565,400) in the state to both the government and the private sector arms, the bank’s document released to PREMIUM TIMES revealed.

“About N11 billion was disbursed,” the state agriculture commissioner, Mr. Dadinga, said.

For those in the government category, the CBN disbursed the loans through the Bank of Agriculture, and deposit money banks in the case of the private sector, with each beneficiary compulsorily presenting bank verification number.

“The state came in at the point of BVN (registration),” Mr. Dadinga said.

He explained that the state government provided manpower to ensure all beneficiaries went through the registration in all the local government areas.

But the state government played a bigger role than just helping farmers have BVNs.

Apart from helping in the recovery of the loans and supervising the grouping of the beneficiaries into cooperative associations registered under its Ministry of Commerce, the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Lawal, said the state helped verified the farmlands.

This is to ensure the loan was not diverted to other purposes than rice farming, the permanent secretary said. He said the government officials went to each beneficiary’s farm as part of the identification process.

Mr. Lawal’s claim however appears not to have applied in all places.

In Augie, Aliyu Shehe, who heads a group of beneficiaries, said “they (government) didn’t verify any farm; they gave assistance without seeing farms.”

The remark by Mr. Shehe, an elderly seasoned rice farmer, was corroborated by various farmers, including a university lecturer cum farmer, who asked not to be named, but spoke at Masamatu, Argungu; as well as Hafiz Sanusi and Mallam Kashibu at Kwallaga, also in Argungu.

“Yes, they came,” Mr. Salihu, the health worker turned farmer, said, confirming the permanent secretary’s claim for his area. He has his farm in Bagudo.

For the out-growers under the private sector arrangement, the CBN gave money to the millers’ bankers which in turn credited the farmers, having been asked to open accounts with the companies’ bankers.

For both categories, extension workers provided training, farmers and officials said.

To ensure adequate insurance, the NAIC was brought in, the CBN spokesperson, Isaac Okorafor, said.

However, PREMIUM TIMES did not see any evidence of NAIC’s role and Kebbi officials did not mention the insurance agency at all. Rather, farmers who experienced downturn or could not use the loans during last year’s dry season farming have had their tenure extended in order to reinvest and be able to repay.

The state government, in an effort led by the deputy governor, Mr. Yombe, is now helping to rally farmers to pay back the loans to the CBN through the BOA.

“We are recovering about four million naira weekly,” Mr. Yombe said.

ON THE FARMS…COMPLAINTS, ALLEGATIONS

Alhaji Shehe displaying certificate of participation in an ABP training programme
Alhaji Shehe displaying certificate of participation in an ABP training programme

In the beginning, the beneficiaries believed they would get N210,000 to cultivate one hectare each. This was not disputed by officials of the state in separate interviews. Mr. Zuru, the Labana General Manager, and farmers engaged by his company under the private ABP also confirmed this.

While the private farmers got cash and equipment totalling N210,000 each, those in the public arrangement did not and felt short-changed.

Some of the farmers under the government arrangement said they were disappointed by the manner of disbursement and final sum of the loan. They were paid in two batches: N49,000 and then N38,000 in cash, plus pumping machine for irrigation and inputs such as fertilizer, seeds, herbicide and urea. All these total between N156,000 and N160,000 according to a template provided by the government.

Scores of farmers confirmed this to PREMIUM TIMES.

Not just that they got below what they expected, the assistance came after they had started dry season farming last year.

Apart from receiving less than the N210,000 they expected, the university lecturer at Masamatu, like many of the old farmers found the seeds and the pumping machine needless because they had these materials of their own before.

Mr. Alhassan in Jega and Mr. Sanusi in Argungu made that point in separate interviews.

“Nobody is using their seed,” said the university lecturer, backing Mr. Shehe’s point. “We didn’t collect the seeds because we have ours.”

Further, the farmers alleged the list of beneficiaries was padded, with state government officials adding names of friends, family members and political cronies who diverted the loans for other purposes.

“I submitted 1,700 names, but at the end of the day 3,200 were given,” said Mr. Alhassan, who is the chairman of rice farmers in Jega. “They are neither farmers nor intending farmers. We even protested.”

Even Mr. Salihu asked the government to understand there are “paper farmers” and real farmers.

“The allegation of diversion is a crazy assumption,” said Mr. Dadinga, the commissioner. “The CBN did not release any money to the government but to the farmers through the BOA.”

“I have asked anybody to show me one person who benefited but didn’t use the money for the purpose. If money was diverted, there would not have been rice as we now have it and that would have been exposed now that we are recovering the loan.”

The CBN released for each farmer about N156,000-N160,000 through the BOA, he said, adding that the remaining was held by the apex bank.

The CBN, according to its spokesperson, never promised N210,000 in the first place and insisted that the allegation of withholding funds was unfounded. The apex bank said what was given to each farmer was what was provided.

Mr. Dadinga admitted though that the loans did not reach farmers on time. He blamed this on the process of BVN registration, which involved transporting farmers in remote areas to centres across the LGAs where there was network.

“All (of) that hindered the disbursement of fund to farmers,” the official said.

He also explained the government’s decision to buy the equipment for the farmers instead of giving them the total sum in cash.

“Many of them would not buy the inputs or the equipment needed,” said Mr. Dadinga said.

The CBN, BOA, NAIC and the state government hired the suppliers of the input and equipment, he said.

BOOM!

Mr. Salihu hired three hands to work on his Zariyar Kala-Kala, Bagudo farm.

“I give each of the three N15,000 monthly,” he said.

So, despite the constraints, ABP meant an opener of a new lease of life for him and other new farmers, especially those from the no-job-at all background. They became employed directly, and were able to create opportunities for more persons to be engaged.

It is also the same for the older farmers.

So, through ABP, Nigeria may have produced hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs in the rice production value chain.

“Considering the direct beneficiaries, those who bag rice, load bags in trucks, mechanics who repair pumping machines, petrol stations, food sellers, millers who hire new staff etc., more than 700 thousand jobs (were) created along that cycle,” said Mr. Dadinga, corroborating the permanent secretary’s claims.

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Zuru, the boss of Labana with two plants of combined capacity to process 16 tonnes per hour, said his firm was not reaching 35 per cent capacity utilisation before the ABP, even while sourcing rice paddies from outside Kebbi State.

“Now, we are close to full capacity utilization,” he enthused.

Mr. Zuru further explained that enormous market has been created for millers and merchants to purchase paddies with the increased cultivation of 500,000-hectare Kebbi FADAMA land along River Niger and River Rima.

Almost all farmers interviewed across Kebbi said ABP helped them significantly improve their livelihoods – though they had complaints. None of them was asked to refund the loan at the end of last year’s dry season for which they got the loan originally.

Instead, they have extended the tenure, with recovery just underway. They were able to use the loans for last year’s wet season, since they complained they had already commenced operation for the dry season before the assistance arrived.

Kebbi produced over one million tonnes of rice last year, officials of the CBN and the state said.

However, not all rice farmers in the state are ABP beneficiaries.

With the bumper harvest recorded last year, millers and rice merchants, including those based outside Kebbi, have seen a veritable market in the state. The demand for rice is rising, thus pushing more people to the farm to satisfy the demand.

“I sell to merchants from Zuru,” said Mr. Salihu. “They will call me on phone to ask if I have rice.”

There is no worry about sale, farmers said. They have multiple options: sell to millers, directly to consumers, merchants or the state government which in turn sell to millers.

Mr. Zuru disclosed that Labana Rice doubled the number of its out-growers from 3,500 it had when ABP started. The figure is separate from “more people we have employed directly because we have more rice paddies, and our capacity utilization has significantly improved.”

The rice farmers barely know the hardship being experienced by others around the country as the economy sank into recession. The farmer produces about 100 bags from his one hectare farm. With a bag selling for N10,000-12,000 at the market, he is making over one million naira. The farmers said they spend less than N200,000 within the about five-month cycle of growing rice.

CBN told PREMIUM TIMES the programme has been extended to 16 states after Kebbi.

If the Kebbi success is replicated in other places, it is possible for Nigeria to locally satisfy her rice demand in three or four years; and through that process, conserve foreign exchange and create thousands of jobs.

Importantly, replicating the Kebbi success will also help take millions of poor Nigerians out of poverty, and make thousands of farmers millionaires.

“Come to Kebbi, you will get land to grow rice and become a millionaire quickly,” Mr. Salihu invited PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter as they both exited the farm.

This article is a product of a partnership between PREMIUM TIMES and #Buharimeter to fact-check the viability or otherwise of the federal government’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).

#Buharimeter is an initiative of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the Department for International Department (DFID).


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  • Mary

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  • George

    PT have received their full allowance hence this fake stories.

    Very shameful

    • Mufu Ola

      Your life too seems to be fake.

    • Peter_Edo

      You can’t even think of anything to type. i suggest you drink Cyanide tea… i hear its very nutritious

    • Abdulmojeed Nojeemdeen

      Loser. Try the drug bust prescribed to you by the physician above.

    • Jika

      You are pathetic .

      • David Adeniran

        He has been right from birth.

        • tundemash

          na abinibi ni. The monkey is cursed from the womb! The lazy idi0t prefers to queue for stipend a the amnesty camp than to go work on the farm.

    • tundemash

      Mr Loser, you prefer to go queue up for stipend at the amnesty camp. Don’t you ?

  • kayode Olufade

    The ABP in Kebbi worked well and kudos has to go to the govt for the success of the program. The problem now is replicating this success in other states as some states have the farmers accusing state govts of hijacking the scheme (Gombe state) and farmers in Katsina state accusing deposit banks of short changing them. Although the latter accusation could be lack of sufficient enlightenment as farmers were under the impression they would get N250000 per hectare and got much less but with some equipment and seeds. The govt should ensure the success in other states on not only rice but various cash crops. God bless us all with wisdom

  • Abdulmojeed Nojeemdeen

    Lovely. Wailers come and see propaganda. Premium times has spoken to the ghost farmers in kebbi. Oya cry let me hear you losers.

    • Galantman

      Gbam bros.
      The enemies within want Thailand, India, Malasia to be feeding us. Long Live PMB, long live Federal Republic Nigeria

      • Abdulmojeed Nojeemdeen

        Thanks br,they are unpatriotic, they are making billions at the expense of Nigeria and the Nigerians. They killed virtually all our local manufacturing industries through their greedy importations of any type of goods, good or bad,without considering the long and short term effects on the economy. Now an alternative is being provided, all they now do is hoarding the available, there baking it very expense and then fall back to pressure the government to relaxing the policy and blame buhari for the artificially created hardship. Anyway,it is just a matter of time. Thank you for noting the elewons.

        • Galantman

          correct bros. thanks

    • William Norris

      The programs to stimulate rice production started under President Jonathan. The former Minister of Agriculture, Mr Adesina now at ADB, was instrumental in getting it off the ground. That’s a fact.

      The program seems to be working well so far. Good. The one thing that everyone needs to think about is LONG TERM sustainability. We shall see.

      • john

        So you still came here to spill rubbish lies about Jonathan. Yet while they were there, we never saw any Nigerian rice. The Indians were importing massively and refused to pay duties because they bribed their way as was shown in the bank statement of one of the arrested ministers.
        Jonathan was all lies and deceit that’s why he ran away by conceding. He couldn’t lie again.
        Now true rice revolution has started without any celebrated minister.

        • Sincere-Voice

          My brother abeg tell am

          • Olatubosun

            Don’t mind him jare

      • omobabalemomu

        You people are crazy of Jonathan. When Lagos to Calabar rail line is completed, you would still ascribe it to Jonathan. While you are quick to associate success to GEJ, you are quick to shield him from his gigantic corruption. You Gus are obsessed with Jonathan.

        • Ghost

          The corruption has no part 2. If he has been in office till now. I wonder where the economy could have been. The rot he left is what we’re suffering now but still Nigerians are blind to see mostly the Eastern part. Let’s await till President Buharia is done with his tenure, we then compare him with his predecessor.

      • Sincere-Voice

        Bro when will you get tired of this fraudulent chorus of yours? When rice was in short supply in the country,you guys said the problem is Buhari. But now that our local farmers are doing well now, you say it’s the work of Jonathan.
        Is it that you need deliverance?

        • Olatubosun

          Ask him

          . I wonder how he is fabricating this lie….

      • Olatubosun

        For where……. You lied

  • Tommy Soto

    Great reporting Mr. Hassan Adebayo

    This Premium Times readers enjoys viewing positive stories of progress and self-sufficiency!

    Please keep up the great journalism.

  • Al

    PT always report issues that will motivate us to behave well economically and socially, this morning as read this report it pleased me and refreshed me our hope is alive, something good is happening in nigeria. I concluded not to be left behind this season i most experience something new in my life

  • Rommel

    I just hope that this will not lead to further population explosion because whenever Africans see an opportunity,they respond by making more babies

    • Kay Soyemi (Esq.)

      Lol

  • ayomi

    Woa, no incidence of Fulani herdsmen cattle eating plants in this part of the country.

  • Otile

    This is the most uninteresting story ever written in PT.

    • Progress.B4.Politics

      Why? Are you allergic to progress? Why do people in opposition hate progress? If you hate progress then you hate your country and countrymen. Note: This is a civil discussion, we are all here to learn and exchange ideas. Expecting a civil response otherwise you will be ignored.

      On topic: It is good that hope can be turned to progress. Agriculture has been the bane of Nigeria’s economy before oil. It has the capacity to employ millions, millionaires will be made and who in turn will not eat their money raw, they will go shopping. The multiplier effect of having millions employed is tremendous. Keep up the good work to all involved in this initiative.

      • Otile

        If Buhari and his government play dead and allow Fulanis to annihilate farmers and other unarmed people who will buy the nama produced by Fulani agriculture?

        • Progress.B4.Politics

          The point you raised still does not make this article uninteresting. The “Fulani herdsmen” issue is a serious security issue. Since the seventies the herdsmen has been known to be armed with bows while roaming around with their cattle. Nowadays a greater majority of them are terrorists. I hope that people in authority will do the job they are paid to do and eradicate this security problem once and for all.

    • Perhaps you want a report on suicide bombing so that you can have an “interesting story”?

    • omobabalemomu

      You are saddened by good news from Naija. You aint seen anything yet. Ewubiafra.

    • Sincere-Voice

      You need help ASAP

  • dudu

    Great news. But can Premium Times do some investigation in the Southwest as regards initiatives like this one? Please let us know so that we do not miss out. Thanks.

  • This initiative should be revamped and be made sustainable for long term food sufficiency.

  • deji 3SC (Up shooting)

    This is a good and detailed report. Kudos to PT.
    Nigeria shall be great!

    • Gbola

      It’s very much unlike Vanguard who enjoy and take delight in reporting only DIVISIVENESS WORTHY NEWS together with any ill that befalls Nigeria.

      I have ABSOLUTELY NO doubt whatsoever that Nigeria SHALL BE Great Again.

      • deji 3SC (Up shooting)

        I totally agree my brother.

    • Sincere-Voice

      Amen. Long live PMB

    • Olatubosun

      Amen

  • Impulse400

    Single digit interest rate 9% and double digit interest rate 10% are almost the same thing.

    CBN, Nigeria’s worst enemy. They dictate to Nigeria what to do while pretending to be giving advise only. But there is never an instance of CBN involvement that is not always plagued by corruption. Subsidy padding, budget padding, farmer padding, e.t.c. all forms of stealing or cheating the system. But it is ironic that this stealing is carried out using Banking Infrastructure regulated by CBN. In this case, ghost farmers are paid through banks, through which the perpetrators are able to cash in on, despite extensive BVN exercise endured by legitimate farmers.

    But we know how bankers think: they are not just after the intetest of the loan you take, they also want all that you posses. A loan that is meant to be utilized during a certain season of the year but is delayed till the timing for the purpose is almost over, and the farmers are asked to roll over the loan into the next season. What becomes of the compound interest attached to the loan…? What revenue will the farmers be generating during the downtime to payback the interest acruing on the loan…? Or when the farmers are able to utilize the loan by the following year, will their turnover cover the entire debt the farmers will owe by then…?

    • Dawood

      Any body can be picky about this report, but this, by far, is the best use of media space Premium Times has promulgated. Period. We need to see more of this, PT. I salute you and plead that you investigate the success and failures of the BVN program, the road construction, security, ministry performances under this administration. It’s easy to tell us things that are going wrong, but if some of our fellow citizens read testimonis as these, they might decide to join the revolution, instead despairing or deciding to go the path of criminality. Trust me, if tales of these farmers go out, a great page would’ve been turned in Nigeria. Instead of Nigerian youth flashing foreign cars, blings, rice, and toothpicks as symbols of weath, they may just be flashing MADE IN NIGERIA MILLIONAIRE. And our fellow Nigerians in South Africa will see a reason to return home, and oyr girls prostituting themselves in Italy will return home. LET THE REVOLUTION UNFOLD. LONG LIVE NIGERIA!

  • Eja

    The article mentioned how farmers were expected to also collect seeds from the government. Hope the Ministry of Agriculture has not been using this scheme to smuggle GM seeds into the food production system. That would be a long-term catastrophe because once farmers start using these GM seeds, they have to return to buy more every year from the foreign multinationals who produce the seeds. Meaning that the country is thrown into another style of dependence on foreigners for food.

  • Sincere-Voice

    The truth is that this government is really working silently to overturn the economiic downturn the previous looting termites brought on the country. Now the gains are gradually manifesting.

  • Olatubosun

    Let’s support agriculture

  • Olatubosun

    By providing food for the nation