THE Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, under the leadership of Governor Godwin Emefiele, has stood out as not just the major backbone, but also a flagship of President Muhammadu Buhari’s economic policy recovery efforts.
While the nation had waited in vain in 2015 for the Buhari administration to launch its blueprint towards rescuing our rapidly plunging economy, it took the Anchor Borrowers’ programme of the CBN introduced in November that year to stimulate the agricultural sector, resulting in the massive rekindling of the interests of Nigerians in farming. The result is a near self-sufficiency in poultry products and the resurgence in local rice production and investments in other agricultural sectors.
While inaugurating the first retreat for his newly-appointed ministers in Abuja on August 19, 2019, Buhari had boasted that his government would, after eight years in power, lay the foundation for lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, though he did not disclose the policy roadmap for achieving such ambitious plan.
A new scheme being put together by the CBN to ensure the financial inclusion of millions of unbanked grassroots Nigerians could be a major catalyst towards achieving the Buhari administration’s objective.
In April 2017, the CBN had established the Agric-Business Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme, AGMEIS, in conjunction with the Bankers’ Committee, and instructed the Deposit Money Banks to contribute five per cent of their annual profits after tax as their equity investment in the scheme.
In collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, the CBN’s Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, NIRSAL, will set up a microfinance bank in conjunction with the Nigerian Postal Service, NIPOST, to take financial inclusion to the 774 local government areas.
While inspecting the offices of the NIRSAL Microfinance Bank in Abuja, Emefiele said there would be six other branches in Enugu, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Bauchi and Lokoja, which will expand to 50 branches in the second phase.
Through the branches of the NIPOST, the Microfinance Bank will advance credits to farmers and people involved in agribusiness using only their farms as collaterals for the loans.
If this scheme is properly and professionally implemented, it will leverage on the abandoned NIPOST offices throughout the country to take financial services down to areas where they never existed because microfinance banks, which were forced by circumstances to operate more like commercial banks, had to restrict their services mainly to urban areas.
It will not only empower the grassroots, it will also go a long way in reversing the rural-urban drift, create millions of jobs at the grassroots and enhance the security of our rural communities with the presence of able-bodied youth.
We call on the CBN to press ahead with this scheme and drive it to resounding success. We fully endorse it.