By Festus Ahon, ASABA
THE Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Asaba branch, weekend, rewarded three overall best farmers in Delta State under its Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund, ACGSF.
Speaking during the presentation ceremony, the Asaba branch Controller, Mrs Patricia Ukwu, said the three awardees were picked from the list of 12 farmers submitted by LAPO Micro Finance Bank after a painstaking selection process by the State Screening Committee.
Ukwu named the awardees to include; Mr John Esevweneta Uwejigho, Mrs Idogar Veronica and Emeni Joel Ifoghale as first, second and third runners up respectively. She said the awardees were picked for their timely repayment of loans, proper utilization of loan facilities and good track records among others.
Giving a brief history of the programme, she said: “The ACGSF was established by Decree No. 20 of 1977, and started operations in April 1978. Its original share capital was N100 million. The Federal Government holds 60% of the shares while the Central Bank of Nigeria holds 40%.
“The capital base of the Scheme was increased to N3 billion in March 2001. The Fund guarantees credit facilities extended to farmers by banks up to 75% of the amount in default, net of any security realized. The Fund is managed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, which handles the day-to-day operations of the Scheme.
“Between 1978 and 1989 when the government stipulated lending quotas for banks under the Scheme, there was a consistent increase in the lending by banks to agriculture, but after the deregulation of the financial system, banks became risk-averse in agricultural lending. In order to reverse this declining trend, several innovations and products were introduced such as the Interest Drawback Programme (IDP).
“The Interest Drawback Programme is meant to cushion the effect of loan interest burden on loan beneficiaries under the Scheme.
“It is pertinent to mention that CBN, Asaba Branch has, since inception, guaranteed loans in excess of N3.8 billion for over 33,000 farmers under the scheme.
“In order to sustain this tempo nationwide, boost farmers’ interest in the scheme and drive awareness, CBN reintroduced the Best Farmers Award which was last held in 2012”.
Ukwu insisted that the sole objective of the ceremony was not just to celebrate the awardees, but to encourage the general public to get involved in the programme.
While urging other banks especially, Microfinance Banks to key in and provide opportunities for rural farmers to benefit from the scheme, she said “the yearning of the Bank and the Government of the day is to reduce poverty to the barest minimum, create jobs for our teeming population and diversify the economic base of the nation, among others.
“LAPO Microfinance Bank has done wonderfully well and we commend them for their efforts”. The Delta State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr. Julius Egbedi, charged borrowers to ensure they pay loans granted to them early and promptly so as to benefit from the programme.
The highpoint of the ceremony was the presentation of a Plague, a certificate and cash of N100, 000 to the winner while the 1st and 2nd runners up were presented with a certificate and cash of N75, 000.00 and N50, 000.00 respectively.