The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday faulted claims by critics that the bank’s agricultural intervention programmes, particularly the Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP), were skewed to favour some sections of the country.
He described the criticism as unfair, especially given all the CBN had done in some states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Emefiele said during the unveiling of Ekiti State rice pyramid project and the launch of the 2021 wet season rice cultivation in Ado Ekiti that the CBN is working on several fronts to fast-track the domestic production of milk and boost palm oil production in the country.
He added that it is also ready to support cocoa production.
He stated that the pyramid movement served to demonstrate that rice production is viable in all states.
He listed Lagos, Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Edo and Ekiti States among beneficiaries of CBN disbursements for various agricultural projects which are still ongoing.
Emefiele noted that out of about N700 billion that had been disbursed towards its agricultural programmes, over N300 billion had been disbursed either through the ABP, states or companies that are operating in the southern part of the country.
Specifically, he said two companies, Okomu Oil and Presco, which are involved in oil palm production in Edo State had received about N20 billion to boost their ventures while Greenfield, another firm involved in the production of ethanol in the state was also granted N7 million by the CBN.
Emefiele said: “In South-South where I come from, and where I have been personally criticised, in Edo State where Governor Obaseki comes from, we have disbursed over N10 billion. Some of you may have seen some of our programmes in Edo State in 2019 where we asked Edo State to allocate land to companies that are interested in palm plantation as well as in cassava… “
He said: “We disbursed about N7 million to a company called Greenfield that is building an ethanol plant in Edo State. We will be doing anchor borrowers for cassava farmers that will feed the ethanol plant.
“In Edo State, Okomu is there, Presco is there and they know that we have disbursed to the two of them close or more than N20 billion for to expand their palm plantations.
“If you go to the Nigerian Stock Exchange, you will find that today, Presco and Okomu, their profitability and their dividends payout is unassailable among other companies involved in producing palm and palm oil in Nigeria.
“And it is the reason why we decided that because we believe we can produce crude palm oil in Nigeria, we placed palm oil on our FX restriction and today, people are making money producing palm oil and selling and people refining and they are making money.”
Stakeholders at the ceremony, including the Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode Fayemi, as well as his counterparts from Kebbi, Senator Atiku Bagudu; Jigawa, Muhammad Badaru Abubakar; Osun, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola and Ondo, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, commended Emefiele for his support for the agricultural sector as well as working towards achieving food security and poverty alleviation in the country.
The CBN governor said attaining self-sufficiency in food production would not come cheap, but the country could make steady and consistent progress through positive strides in the right direction.
According to him, the right synergy among stakeholders will catalyse the growth process, while the apex bank is always ready to offer an effective partnership to deliver on the critical national mandate of attaining self-sufficiency in food production.
Emefiele said the auspicious event was particularly significant in that it represented the first-ever grain pyramid in the South-west and also the first time the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN)-CBN paddy pyramid unveiling activity was held in the region.
He expressed confidence that the pyramid project will generate the required momentum to catalyse rice cultivation in the region and provide a sustainable source of paddy for the numerous rice mills springing up in the South-west and environs.
He added that these symbolic events reinforced the CBN’s belief in the potential in Nigerian agriculture sector, and the need for more private sector investment in the value chain.
“We believe significant improvements in domestic production of staple food items would help in attaining our price stability goals while reducing our dependence on imported food items,” Emefiele added.
He stated that the sustainability of current efforts in agricultural production could only be guaranteed if the youths are attracted to agriculture.
According to him, the youths have the talent, energy, enthusiasm, technological adoption capacity and all the right drive to revolutionise agricultural production in the country.
He said: “We must meet them half-way to ensure that we provide the enabling environment to make agriculture attractive to them.”
He said the CBN was ready to support youths willing to engage in agriculture as the sector offered significant benefits for them.
He said the bank had put in place measures to improve access to credit for youths interested in agriculture under the ABP and the Agri-Business Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS).
Emefiele stated that from inception to date, the CBN has financed 3,107,890 farmers for the cultivation of 3,801,397 hectares across 21 commodities through 23 Participating Financial Institutions (PFIs) in the 36 States of the federation and the FCT.
He said the implementation of the ABP like any other smallholder financing programme had been challenging due to factors, including the country’s landholding system, prolonged poor productivity per hectare, poor adoption of modern agronomic practices, lack of adequate mechanisation support services, post-harvest losses among others.
He said the CBN had continuously improved on its learning experiences and now could effectively tackle the challenges with proper planning, timely execution of plans and synergy among all stakeholders.
He said: “We have added several layers of control to improve on transparency and accountability among all stakeholders, and what you are witnessing today is a demonstration of our growth and a strong indication of the enormous potential in the country’s agricultural space.
“It is important to note that we are still a far cry away from achieving our desired objective, but the growth process reaffirms our belief in the potential inherent in our agricultural sector.”
The governors took their turns to praise Emefiele whom they described as focused in this efforts to reposition the sector.
Fayemi said one thing that could not be taken from President Muhammadu Buhari was the fact that he put agriculture at the centre of his administration.
He said imports from Thailand had dropped by over 90 per cent because of the CBN- ABP.
While urging farmers in the state to embrace the ABP, he said the CBN interventions had helped to reduce poverty in the country.
Akeredolu said but for the CBN governor’s passion and selfless initiatives, little or nothing would have been achieved in agriculture.
He said Emefiele’s commitment and support for agriculture was unrivalled, adding that the “CBN under your watch has done extremely well”.
He seized the opportunity to seek help from the CBN in the area of land clearing, which he said had “never been so easy” in the region.
He also called on Emefiele to assist Ondo State in developing its palm and cocoa plantations.
Akeredolu added that all the governors are interested in agriculture development, but this could only be actualised through the CBN support.
Bagudu, on his part, while also commending Buhari for setting the stage for the revolution in rice production praised Emefiele for the development in rice production.
He said through policy guidance and CBN support, rice production had been enhanced as well as milled and consumed locally.
Oyetola, on his part, commended the CBN governor for funding the ABP, which he said Buhari had used to enhance food security.