NIGERIA’S federal government has dragged 70,000 farmers from Kebbi State to court for failing to repay the loans they received under a special N17bn ($46.8m) Anchor Borrower Programme funded by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
In November 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari, launched the special scheme in Kebbi State, under which N17bn was approved by the federal government to support the farmers in the state. Alhaji Muhammed Augie, the chairman of the Kebbi State chapter of the Rice Farmer Association of Nigeria (Rifan), said out of the 70,000 farmers that benefitted from the loans, only about 200 were able to make repayments.
He added that all those standing trial before courts across the state were genuine farmers that were verified by an independent body before being given the loans. According to the Rifan chairman, it was not true that the loan scheme was hijacked by politicians but added that the failure of the farmers to pay up could jeopardise the chances for Kebbi benefitting from similar gestures in the future.
Alhaji Augie said: “We have found it very difficult to recover these loans, so we had to resort to taking the farmers to court. As at now, in every magistrate court you go, we have given the list of the farmers to recover the loans.
“Of the 70,000 that had benefited from the loan in 2015, not up to 200 farmers repaid their loans as most of the farmers had got a wrong impression that the loan was free money. Before the launch of the programme in 2015, the state’s total rice production was 70,000 tonnes per annum but by 2016 it has increased to 1.2m tonnes per annum.
“This testified that it was the real farmers that benefitted from the loans. Otherwise the production level wouldn’t have jack up.”