* As CBN’s first N2Bn loan to Rivers dries up
* Says 3000 farmers have registered to send cassava to the Rivers cassava processing plant
By Ignatius Chukwu
Gov Nyesom Wike has pointedly accused the Central of Nigeria (CBN) of applying politics to deny Rivers State of Agric loans. He said he applied N5Bn facility to develop a cassava plant but that the CBN has been giving excuses and asking for cooperative lists.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) may have been the first financial institution to advance funding to businesses in Rivers State soon after Gov Nyesom Wike came to power in 2015, but the N2Bn seems a long way off such that the governor sent verbal salvos to the apex bank.
Gov Wike said on Monday, March 15, 2021, that politics has been used to deny his state access to agricultural loans offered by the CBN. .
The governor made the accusation when he hosted the Minister of State for Agriculture, and Rural Development, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, at Government House, Port Harcourt. .
The governor decried the situation where every issue in the country including agriculture has allegedly been politicised instead of implementing such policy dispassionately to achieve the intended food security and jobs for the youths.
Officials of the same state government had fought hard for the N2Bn SME loans prior to 2015 but did not get the drawdown despite the approval in principle. This too had made them then to accuse the Goodluck Jonathan administration of blocking the CBN facility, thus alleging political interferences. Wike was an inner caucus member of that administration and was fingered for the delay in loans coming to Rivers State under Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as then governor.
Now, Wike, facing same situation, said: “I think, I am one of those states that nobody gives loans for agriculture. I don’t know what hatred the CBn governor has for us?
“We have been hearing of Anchor Borrower this, Anchor Borrowers that, but when it concerns Rivers State, you will hear a lot of things.”
The N2Bn was sent to the Rivers MicroFinance Agency (RIMA) which said it disbursed it to 35,000 SMEs though recovery rate was low after two years, slightly over N500m instead of over N900m target.
RIMA had applied for another N5Bn but by December 2019, the money did not come. The then MD, Ipalibo Sogules, had told newsmen at the annual retreat of the board that the state government assent or guarantee that would clear the way for external funding had failed to come.
Now, Gov Wike has explained that in an idle situation devoid of politics, the CBN would partner with the Rivers State government to achieve the objectives of setting up the State-owned cassava processing plant.
“Please tell the Governor of Central Bank to remember us too, that we are part of Nigeria. When we applied, they said this loan was N5Bn. We have applied for more than one year now. They said we should bring this and bring that.
“They said we should bring the cooperative societies and I say, where is the politics coming from. If I want to eat government money, I can seat here and write cooperative societies. Previous administration took loan and said they gave it to cooperative societies of over N3billion. Who are these corporative societies? And the money went off like that.
“And we are telling you, see the cassava processing plant that you are supposed to say we will buy into this, we will support the State government. Nothing has happened.”
Governor Wike said even without the loans from the CBN, his administration is achieving a revolution in cassava processing that will create jobs for youths and enduring patronage for farmer folks.
“It is not in dispute that to take the country out of where we are, agriculture is key. If we are sincere with reality that agriculture will employ a lot of our youths; give them jobs and achieve food security, then we must do it in such a way that we really mean what we say.”
The governor said the State government will invite the Minister of Agriculture to commission the cassava processing plant. According to him, many companies have keyed in already to buy off what will be processed.
“We have over 3000 farmers who have registered. From them, the company will buy off all their produce. We are happy with this feat.”
Speaking further, Gov Wike expressed surprised over the road projects and provision of solar powered electricity that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture claimed to have provided to rural communities in the State.
He said it is important for the State government to know where those rural roads and solar power are located so that proper recording will be done and letter of appreciation written to thank the Federal Ministry of Agriculture for the gesture.
“And we will be able to write to you and thank you for doing such road. If you put solar, let us also know; except you gave it to your party people. There is no way you will do road in my State without the State government being aware.”
Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, had said he was in the State to inspect ongoing and completed projects that will boost rural agricultural activities under his ministry.
He said the federal government is poised to support Rivers farmers with new technology that would address the problems of low yields, allow them have access to improved varieties of cassava produce, chemical for treatment for the seeds and crops protection.