When the Muhammadu Buhari assumed power in May 2015 he took an inordinately long time to appoint key officials into his government. He took even a longer time – two years – to unveil his Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP. Perhaps due to these delays, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, in November 2015, introduced the Anchor Borrowers’ scheme to boost agricultural production.
Cash and farm inputs were provided to farmers to boost food and commodities production. The ultimate purpose was to stem the large number of food that Nigeria had to import, and thus help to address our negative trade balance.
By the second quarter of 2021, the Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, disclosed that 3,107,890 farmers had been empowered under the scheme to cultivate 3,801,397 hectares of land and produce 21 commodities, leveraging on the services of 23 financial institutions which acted as the direct links to the farmers.
The scheme which started with the Kebbi rice as a pilot became so popular that most states in the country jostled to be included. The Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu and his Lagos State counterpart, Akinwunmi Ambode, even went into the LAKE rice venture, whereby Kebbi produced the rice while Lagos sold it. It was well received.
Unfortunately(as with most good things that happen in Nigeria), dark clouds now surround the Anchor Borrowers scheme. Most of the farmers have been run off their farms because of the menace of the North West “bandits” and the armed herdsmen terrorists marauding unchecked throughout the Middle Belt and Southern states in their quest to displace indigenous people and takeover their ancestral lands.
Farmers are being kidnapped for ransom, raped and killed by these armed pastoralists who brazenly lead their livestock to destroy farms. The results of this are all too obvious: there has been an astronomical rise in food inflation, and ordinary Nigerians find it difficult to feed their families. The farmers from all over the country are full of tales of woe. They can no longer repay the money the CBN advanced them.
It is very exasperating that a government that earned plaudits through its policies and programmes that continued the agricultural revival programme of the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan administration proved unwilling or unable to stem insecurity in the country. Indeed, the Federal Government has refrained from deploying the security forces against the herders who come from the same source as the bandits.
Unless firm actions are taken to flush the armed herders and bandits from forests and farmlands, the hundreds of billions of naira expended by the CBN on its Anchor Borrowers policy will go down the drain.