By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA- THE Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and International Finance for Agricultural Development, IFAD, have rewarded 60 microfinance banks for performance in rural financing.
The award ceremony that took place in Abuja at the weekend was in recognition of what microfinance banks have done to impact in the rural economy that was largely excluded from access to finance.
Representative of the CBN, Deputy Director, Department of Development Financing, Uji Amenju, said the ward was to encourage others that are yet to be awarded to be more committed and also to spur the awardees to accelerate their operations to enable rural women and men access finance with their RBPs.
Amenju also stated that since 2010 when RUFIN started, it has been able to revive the financial life of the rural people by empowering the microfinance institutions to extend finances to those into businesses to grow their business.
The 60 recipients of the award were mainly drawn from the 12 states implementing the Rural Financial Institution Building programme, RUFIN, which include Standard Life Organisation, Trustfund Microfinance Bank, DEC Microfinance Bank, Olufin Microfinance Bank, Esan Microfinance Bank, Garu MFB, Gufa MFB, Oturkpo MFB, Aquity MFB, Future- Growth MFB, and others.
Also the Deputy Director, Research, CBN, Bamidele Alao, urged the government and donors to strengthen and extend the programme to other states and more local governments in order for more farmers to benefit, generation of income from their farm locations, daily savings and creating wealth that will improve their living standards.
He said: “Before RUFIN a lot of rural based enterprises have no access to finance, but since RUFIN started, the rural-based financial institutions were encouraged to lend more to the rural based business-people that are in the rural economy, and RUFIN has been able to grow the capacity of the microfinance institutions on how to expand their business scope to do more for the rural based economy.
“Really a lot of things have been achieved and it shouldn’t stop the RUFIN programme mainstream, and especially when you look at the fact that the RUFIN programme only happened in 12 states of the federation and you have 36 states including Abuja 37.
“We have being urging the MFIs that have been participating in the programme not just slow down the activities of RUFIN on the exit of RUFIN any moment from now will be able to maintain the activities so beyond RUFIN to help the rural economy of Nigeria.”
According to him, funds injected into the project from IFAD amounts to N40 billion and this money was used in various initiatives, like training, capacity building, provision of infrastructure, on MFIs and in terms of the beneficiaries too on how to access credit , and how to package rural business plan that will be acceptable to MFIs.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, represented by the Director of Agribusiness, Dr. Abdul’azeez Muyiwa, and who is also National Programme Coordinator, RUFIN, maintained that the current administration will ensure most of the rural people are brought out of poverty via the programme.
“In view of the success of the Rural Finance-IFAD programme which we are all witnessing today, the testimonies from farmers, financial institutions, financial NGOs and financial cooperatives, where over N40 billion has been channelled from the MFIs to the rural people, the Minister has indicated interest of contacting IFAD to see how this design can be replicated in all the 36 states of the federation including FCT”, Muyiwa said.