The Chairman, National Agricultural Foundation, Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, has restated the need for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to hand over the administration of the Anchor Borrowers Programme and other agricultural programmes.
Adamu, who made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in Abuja, urged the CBN to handover agricultural programmes to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD).
The senator said it was high time CBN allowed FMARD carry out its mandate through the various agencies under it, adding that the mandate of the apex bank was to act as a referee or monitor financial transactions and not taking over the function of any ministry.
The lawmaker, former governor of Nasarawa State, is also the Chairman Senate Committee on Agriculture.
According to him, the agency of government that has the mandate for the promotion of agricultural production generally is domiciled in the Ministry of Agriculture and there is a bank called the Bank of Agriculture.
“It is supposed to be the agency through which financing of agricultural loan and other facilities to empower farmers of various categories to benefit and get necessary funding be domiciled.
“The bank of Agriculture is better placed like the Bank of Industry (BOI) as development banks to take responsibility in administering money from the government that is aimed at promoting agricultural production in the country.
“The Central Bank has no mandate for agriculture. Where they have these funds, the best thing to do is to give it to the ministry of agriculture to manage, because some of these out-grower programmes we are talking about, their cost to the government is more than the budget of the federal ministry of agriculture itself.”
The chairman noted that a programme like the Anchor Borrowers Programme, currently domiciled in the CBN was a mismatch, adding that it fell within the purview of the Bank of Agriculture (BOA).
He said while there was no doubt that the BOA was in distress, rather than CBN usurping its mandate, efforts should be made at recapitalising it to be better positioned to carry out its mandate.
He said, “the Anchor Borrowers Programme for example, if you check how much money has gone in there as from 2016, 2017 to date, you will find out that the money is over and above, about four times the budget provision for the ministry of Agric in its entirety.
“I believe that it is not within the mandate of the Central Bank of Nigeria as the apex and monitoring bank to get involved with loan facilities because they are the referee in the financial sector.
“Now when they begin to give loans and there is a default from beneficiaries of the loans, who is going to be the referee.
“The Central Bank has put itself in a very precarious situation. The same Central Bank of Nigeria as I talk to you today has not paid up its capital for recapitalising the bank of agriculture since 1974 when the Agric bank was established.
“So, it is in distress, there is no doubt about it and everybody knows why it is in distress. Till this very moment, both the Ministry of Finance and the CBN have not lived up to their responsibilities of recapitalising the bank of agriculture.”
On efforts to reposition the agricultural sector, Adamu said, as chairman senate committee on agriculture, he had proposed several bills that would impact the sector positively, saying, “I have about seven bills in the mill, going through parliamentary processes to be passed into law.”
According to him, the bills are Food Reserve Agency of Nigeria Bill, Research Council Reform Bill, Agric Mechanisation Bill and Agricultural Development Fund Bill among others.
He commended Nigerian farmers for their efforts at ensuring food security in the country despite the challenges they were facing.
He, however, challenged them to adopt new technologies to reap from the potentials available in all value chains in the agricultural process.
He promised that the legislature would continue to play its part in ensuring that the interest of farmers and relevant stakeholders were protected.