The ambitious Anchor Borrowers’ Loan Scheme floated by the Central Bank of Nigeria to make cash available for increased agricultural production in Nigeria has run into a glitch due to the inability of beneficiaries to repay the loan on maturity thereby holding up government funds and denying others from tapping into the scheme, Saturday Vanguard, has discovered.
Findings by the newspaper show that out of the N1.1 trillion disbursed by the CBN to the beneficiaries of the ABS since its inception, only a little above N546 billion has been repaid while a whopping balance of N577 billion remains unaccounted for.
The huge amount being held up by the borrowers, which Saturday Vanguard, understands, includes commercial and microfinance banks, state governments, farmers’ associations, individuals and corporate entities, is said to have angered the Presidency, which feels that the aim of the programme might be derailed, if the huge cash is not immediately retrieved from the debtors.
According to competent sources, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, President Bola Tinubu, who had been briefed severally on the situation, is upset that such amount of money, which could give succor to other farmers, is being withheld by some of the beneficiaries.
One of the security agencies told our correspondent that the President had summoned top security agencies in the country to take all necessary measures to recover the huge amount of government money from the defaulters on or before September 18, 2023 so as to make the cash available to genuine farmers who want safe loans for more food production.
Saturday Vanguard learnt that at a meeting with security agencies in Abuja, the president was very upset when he was told that one of the CBN’s subsidiaries was among the defaulting banks, holding up vital cash that was meant for farmers to improve their production and ensure food security in the country.
At the meeting, said to have taken place at the Presidential Villa earlier in the day, the president was told that a subsidiary of the CBN and a commercial bank in the country, had diverted N255 million which they were supposed to give out to farmers and others in dire need of loans to improve their production.
At the same time, the apex bank’s subsidiary and a commercial bank in the country which acted as intermediaries between the borrowers and the CBN, are reported to have fraudulently diverted the sum of N255 million, which they secured from the lender but refused to disburse to the borrowers or return to the CBN.
Some of the beneficiaries, Saturday Vanguard learnt, refused to refund the loan as and when due, claiming that they did not make serious returns on their investments and needed more time to be able to pay back to the apex bank, not minding the terms of the deal they had earlier signed.
A top security official told Saturday Vanguard on condition of anonymity that many banks’ directors and managers had already been interrogated on the huge loans saga and that many of them had admitted to securing the said loans and the alleged breaches regarding the repayment.
“I can tell you authoritatively that we have written to all the defaulters and many bank officials have confessed of their role in the huge loan scandal and they are willing to take necessary steps to pay back the loans,” a source familiar with the development, told Saturday Vanguard.
“We have also written to all the 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 added.
Some of the farmers’ groups which took part in the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, an ambitious CBN programme to promote agricultural production, include Maize Farmers’ Association, Soya beans and Cotton Farmers’ Association.
However, findings showed that while the Maize Producers Association took 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 took a loan of N14 billion and has been able to refund N5 billion so far.
But contacted most of the spokesmen for the security agencies in Abuja declined to speak on the presidential order for them to recover the money and return it to the CBN.
Although the Spokesman for the DSS, Dr. Peter Afunanya, declined to comment on the matter, he said however that there was nothing unusual for the president to order security agencies to act in national security matters.