Participants in the Central Bank of Nigeria Anchor Borrowers Programme in Cross River State have accused officials of the Bank of Agriculture, BoA, of defrauding them under the programme.
The participants alleged that the officials were paying them N95,000 each, while being made to sign as collecting N250,000.
The BoA is the administrator of the initiative through which the Federal Government is advancing loans to rice farmers with the aim to enhancing food production and security in the country.
Each farmer participant according to terms of the programme is to receive N250,000, rice seedlings and fertilizer among other items.
However, in Cross River, beneficiaries alleged that after being told that the fertilizer was given at a subsidized rate, officials of the BoA now give them N95,000 each as their cash balance, after deduction for all the items, including fertilizer at N7,500 per bag, against the market value of N6,000.
According to one of the beneficiaries, Cyril Ogar, “the people deceived the farmers that fertilizer was subsidised but the bank last week informed them that the NPK fertiliser was now given to them at the cost of N7,500 against the market price of N6,000.
“We were given N95,000 but forced to sign a document that we collected N250,00. We want the federal government to please help reclaim our money or explain more to us”, Mr. Ogar said.
Also confirming the development, Joseph Odey, also a farmer, alleged that the bank officials were in connivance with the state government to defraud them.
“I don’t understand why the CBN or FG handed over the programme to the state government. I understand in Anambra, the farmers were the anchors. This people wouldn’t be doing this thing without the knowledge of the government. I want the program suspended until we know what is going on.
“I am convinced that the bank officials are playing the script of some top government officials because among those who have benefitted, over 80 per cent of them are rumoured to be government people”, Mr. Odey said.
The CBN had set aside N40 billion out of the N220 billion earmarked under its Micro and Medium Enterprises Development Fund to serve as loans to smallholders of rice farms in the range of N150,000 to N250,000.
When contacted, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Engrinya Eneji, confirmed the disbursement arrangement but explained that the N95,000 was the balance after deductions for other items were made.
“The entire loan is N250,000. They are not supposed to be given all the money. The money they are collecting now is the balance after deduction for rice, fertilizer and others things”, the commissioner said.