By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
The Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agriculture Lending, NIRSAL, on Wednesday, said corrupt elements that sponsored protesters to storm its head office in Abuja cannot stop Federal Government’s agricultural reforms.
This was contained in a Statement signed by the Head of Corporate Communications, NIRSAL, Anne Ihugba, where the organization said there been an ongoing campaign against it by some persons described as corrupt interests.
According to NIRSAL the sponsored protesters mainly young people brought from suburbs of Abuja including Mabushi, Jabi and Mararaba, and not as claimed were farmers from Kebbi State, whose sponsors also allegedly obtained from the Nigerian Police a permit for the protest to hold at NIRSAL’s office.
Some of the placards carried by the protesters read thus, diverting farmers’ money; killing farmers; Anchor Borrowers Programme is a lie, CBN NIRSAL is diverting farmers’ money.
The statement reads in part, “As part of the ongoing campaign against NIRSAL by corrupt interests fighting against the successful agricultural reforms by the Buhari administration, some sponsored miscreants have been staging a protest outside NIRSAL’s offices in Abuja.
“The miscreants carried placards inscribed with unsubstantiated and discredited allegations against NIRSAL, NIRSAL’s Managing Director and the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“The colourful flyers and placards accused NIRSAL and the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme of “diverting farmers money” and “killing farmers” – a totally baseless claim.
“The messages on the placards and flyers included: ANCHOR BORROWERS PROGRAM IS A LIE, CBN NIRSAL IS DIVERTING FARMERS MONEY.
“However, when they were engaged by NIRSAL staff, some of the protesters who looked dirty and unkempt and spoke in the Hausa language revealed that they knew nothing about NIRSAL’s operations and admitted that they were sponsored to protest against NIRSAL.
“They also admitted that they have no information about NIRSAL’s operations, the Anchor BorrowersProgramme and the Central Bank.
“According to them, they were at NIRSAL to do a job they were paid for by their sponsor(s) who got them a police permit.”
Ihugba also described the sponsored protest as a failed attempt to distort the facts about verified contributions of NIRSAL such as over N100 billion facilitated from the financial sector into the agricultural sector which is improving the lives of farmers across the country.
“Though NIRSAL found the inauspicious visit as an opportunity to engage and enlighten more young people on its agribusiness initiatives and the promise they hold, the protest smacked of witch-hunting and a well-crafted agenda to smear the organization.
“Questioned individually, the boys admitted to belonging to no ABP tickets and were in fact recruited from Abuja and environs, particularly from areas such as Mararaba, Mabushi, and Jabi. This negates the claim that they are farmers from Kebbi State.”
She also explained that “To be absolutely clear, all successful ABP applications for the 2019 farming seasons have been honoured by NIRSAL. As required by the guidelines issued by the Central Bank, farmers with incomplete loan documentations are prevented from accessing the funds in their accounts until they meet the obligations.”
She added that the attempt was bound to fail because ‘facts do not lie’ and the effort to discredit the institution by persons who do not mean well for the sector and the country was bound to fail.