N296m loan: CBN sends Civil Defence after Benue rice farmers


Ahmed Audi, Commandant General (CG), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC)

By Onyeje Abutu-Joel

The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN has secured the help of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) Anti Corruption and Transparency Unit to help recover N296.6 million from farmers in Benue State.

Speaking during a meeting with members of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) that received CBN 2018/19 Wet Season Farming loan on Wednesday, the state commandant of the NSCDC, Mr Philip Okohin the farmers should pay back without further delay or face the wrath of the law.

The meeting was also attended by the state RIFAN executives and representatives of some commercial banks.

Okoh disclosed that a loan of N301.8 million was disbursed by the CBN to Benue Rice Farmers through RIFAN but only N5.1 million has so far been repaid, leaving a balance of N296.6 million.

He disclosed further that most of the beneficiaries of the loan were not paying back because of the viral misconception that the loan was COVID-19 free loan not to be paid back.

“We are here to inform the public that the loan is not free but a rotatory loan which must be paid back.

“Beneficiaries are not paying back and that’s why the bank cried out to NSCDC to help; if nothing is done to ensure the recovery of this loan, it will threaten the food production of the state and exponentially reduce the status of Benue as the food basket of the nation,” Okoh said.

The commandant also warned council chairmen as well as RIFAN executives at the local government levels who had collected a repayment of such loans from farmers but refused to refund such monies to the bank, insisting that those loans must be repaid.

He gave a grace period of March ending for all defaulters to pay back, warning that at the expiration of the grace period, anyone who refused to pay would be dealt with accordingly.

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The state Chairman of RIFAN, Mr Fidelis Akosu, who explained that the association secured loan for 2,264 farmers, said that less than one per cent of those who got the loan had paid back.

“When the loan came, people thought it was not a repayable loan and so they collected for their wives and children and now, it is difficult for them to repay the loan,” Akosu said.

He disclosed that even some members of executives who bought into the misconception collected the loans for themselves, their wives and children and have yet to begin a process of repayment of the loan.

Also speaking, a representative of the CBN, Mr Usman Abraham, noted that the loan given to RIFAN was to ensure food security in the country and to empower small holder farmers.

Abraham said that the programme had, over the years, succeeded in Bauchi State, Jigawa, Yobe, Gombe State, Kebbi and FCT, among others.

He wondered why the Benue farmers who got the loan could not pay back as expected, urging all those who got the loans and had yet to repay to do so to pave ways for others to benefit from the scheme.

“From the figures available to CBN in terms of repayment of these loans, Benue is termed to be a bad state when it comes to loan repayment and if this trend is not curbed, over time, the CBN will have no other choice than to stop giving such loans to Benue farmers”, he said.

While thanking those beneficiaries who had paid back the loan, Abraham commended the NSCDC for its involvement in ensuring that efforts were made to ensure that defaulters pay back the loans.

Responding on behalf of RIFAN local government areas chairmen, Mr John Adeka, promised to take the message back home and sensitise farmers to ensure that those who took the loans pay back.(NAN) (www.nannews.ng)

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