By Emmanuel Una
CALABAR- THE Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Anchor- Borrowers scheme for farmers sponsored by the Federal Government has suffered a critical setback in Cross River State with hundreds of farmers bitterly complaining about the inept handling by state government officials.
Exasperated farmers across the state bared their minds in separate interactive sessions with the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Cross River, Pastor Justin Ugbe, who went round the three senatorial zones of the state to meet with participants on why the programme failed.
They informed him that the scheme on the scheme did not meet the expected target on rice production and loan repayment by farmers because of conspicuous lapses.
Denied access to financial component
Mr. David Esese, who spoke on behalf of farmers in the southern senatorial district, told Ugbe that aside from farmers in Bakassi that were able to access the financial component of the loan, others in the remaining six local government areas in the southern part of the state were not given the agreed money to facilitate the planting of their rice farms.
His words: “Majority of us got the rice input, but the fertilizers were distributed haphazardly with some getting the urea and others NPK. Some got the chemicals while others did not get and nobody was given the financial component of the loan, apart from Bakassi farmers.”
He said farmers visited the Bank of Agriculture at Obubra several times to get the financial component of the loan, but were not given, a situation that frustrated their efforts to cultivate the hectares of swamp already earmarked for their farms.
Rice didn’t sprout
In Ogoja, the representative of the farmers, Osborn Kanjal, said the rice distributed to them as inputs did not germinate owing to the long period the rice was stored before cultivation.
“We were given the rice in September, 2016 and by that time, the rice season had passed and so we kept the rice for the 2017 rice planting season, but by the time we planted the rice, it refused to germinate owing to heat that affected it because of the long storage period,” he disclosed.
Kanjal said over 90 per cent of the farmers in the northern senatorial district of the state could not access the financial component of the loan, as the Bank of Agriculture in Ogoja said the money was held up at the headquarters in Kaduna.
“We agreed in a meeting with the Commissioner for Agriculture, Professor Eneji that the farmers should get the sum of N230, 000 per hectre, but those who were lucky to access the money got only N90, 000 per hectare and the Committee claimed that N120, 000 was used for the inputs, which were way too high. Even at that, majority of us did not get the money, so from which source do we pay back the loan?” He queried.
The farmers called for extension of the loan repayment period from 2017 to 2018 to enable all the farmers access the money and complete inputs to cultivate their farms before repayment.
Perm sec speaks
The permanent secretary explained that the scheme was taken from the Ministry of Agriculture and given to a Committee, headed by Mr Godwin Akwaji, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Revenue, adding that most officials of the ministry were not conversant with developments linked to the scheme until the outcry by the farmers,
Efforts by our reporter to speak with Mr Akwaji did not yield results as he neither picked calls to his GSM phone nor responded to text messages.