The Central Bank of Nigeria’s ambitious Anchor Borrowers’ Loan Scheme to make cash available for increased agricultural production in Nigeria has hit a snag due to beneficiaries’ inability to repay the loan on maturity, thereby holding up government funds and preventing others from participating, Saturday Vanguard has discovered.
According to the newspaper’s findings, only a little more than N546 billion of the N1.1 trillion disbursed by the CBN to ABS beneficiaries since its start has been refunded, leaving a huge amount of N577 billion unaccounted for.
The huge sum being held up by the borrowers, who include commercial and microfinance banks, state governments, farmers’ associations, individuals, and corporate entities, is said to have enraged the Presidency, which fears that the program’s goal will be jeopardised if the huge cash is not immediately retrieved from the debtors.
According to credible sources who talked to Saturday Vanguard, President Bola Tinubu, who has been briefed on the matter multiple times, is concerned that such a large sum of money, which could help other farmers, is being withheld by some of the recipients.
According to one of the security agencies, the President has summoned top security agencies in the country to take all necessary measures to recover the massive amount of government money from defaulters on or before September 18, 2023, so that the cash can be made available to genuine farmers who want safe loans for increased food production.
Saturday Vanguard learned that during a meeting with security agencies in Abuja, the president became enraged when he learned that one of the CBN’s subsidiaries was among the defaulting banks, withholding vital cash meant for farmers to improve their production and ensure food security in the country.
The president was told at the meeting, which was said to have taken place earlier in the day at the Presidential Villa, that a subsidiary of the CBN and a commercial bank in the country had diverted N255 million that was supposed to go to farmers and others in desperate need of loans to improve their production.
Simultaneously, the apex bank’s subsidiary and a commercial bank in the country that acted as intermediaries between the borrowers and the CBN are accused of fraudulently diverting N255 million from the lender, which they refused to disburse to the borrowers or return to the CBN.
Some of the recipients, according to Saturday Vanguard, refused to repay the loan when it was due, claiming that they did not generate significant returns on their investments and needed more time to repay the apex bank, ignoring the conditions of the agreement they had previously signed.
On the condition of anonymity, a top security officer told Saturday Vanguard that numerous bank directors and managers had already been probed about the massive loan problem, and that many of them had admitted to arranging the loans and the alleged payback breaches.
“I can tell you authoritatively that we have written to all defaulters, and many bank officials have confessed of their role in the huge loan scandal, and they are willing to take the necessary steps to pay back the loans,” a source acquainted with the issue told Saturday Vanguard.
“We have also written to all debtors, and some of the banks, whose top managers we have already summoned and grilled, have assured us that they will refund the cash outstanding in their names on or before the September 18 deadline,” the source continued.
The Maize Farmers’ Association, Soya Beans, and Cotton Farmers’ Association are among the farmer groups who participated in the Anchor Borrowers’ plan, an ambitious CBN plan to enhance agricultural productivity.
However, studies revealed that while the Maize Producers Association received a loan of N39 billion from the CBN under the ABP, it has been able to refund a total of N23 billion, while Cotton farmers received a loan of N14 billion and has only been able to refund N5 billion.
However, when approached, most security agency spokesmen in Abuja declined to comment on the presidential directive for them to recover the money and return it to the CBN.
Although the DSS’s spokesman, Dr. Peter Afunanya, declined to comment on the case, he did say that the president ordering security services to act in national security situations was not unprecedented.