Amid intense electioneering, ahead of the just-concluded general election, the All Progressives Congress (APC)-controlled Federal Government legitimately marketed its achievements to persuade a mandate renewal. The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), conceptualized and driven by the Governor Godwin Emefiele-led Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was one such flagship achievement.
Launched in Birnin Kebbi on November 17, 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari, the programme was aimed at stimulating scaled-up production in the agricultural sector through provision of farm input both in cash and kind to small-holder farmers, to improve farm yields. Additionally, the programme was designed to stabilise supply of input to agro-processors to specifically address the nation’s balance of payments on food import and export.
The small-holder farmers supply their products to the agro-processor (anchors) that pay the cash equivalent to the farmers’ accounts. According to Emefiele, more than 32 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had enlisted for the programme, resulting in the disbursement of more than N55 billion to about 250,000 farmers. Specifically, the implementation of the programme had, from inception, been under strict coordination of the Presidential Task Force on Rice and Wheat Production, acting in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
According to Emefiele, ABP had closed the gaps between local rice production and domestic consumption and has been complementing the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) Scheme of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development by facilitating the transformation of farmers under the scheme from subsistence to commercial farming.
Remarkably, the transformation can be measured in terms of numbers of beneficiaries and the ancillary jobs that have been created along the value chains. Late last year, Emefiele said at the annual bankers’ dinner that about 2.5 million jobs had been created countrywide through the programme. Read him: “As at October 2018, a total number of 862,069 farmers cultivating about 835,239 hectares, across 16 different commodities, have so far benefited from the Anchor Borrowers Programme, which has generated over 2.5 million jobs across the country.
“It is in light of the success of the Anchor Borrowers Programme with regard to cultivation of rice and maize that the Monetary Policy Committee in its last meeting on the 21st of November 2018 recommended that the Anchor Borrowers Programme be applied to other areas such as palm oil, tomatoes, and fisheries to mention a few. The CBN recently introduced the Real Sector Support fund; a facility meant to provide cheap funding at no more than nine per cent to new projects in the Agriculture and manufacturing sectors, aimed at boosting output and creating jobs.”
In another development, Acting Director of the Department of Corporate Communications of the CBN, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, revealed that in 2018, N36.37 billion was disbursed to 155,732 farmers, while N12.57 billion was paid to 27 farmers in the first half of 2017; bringing the total disbursements since the introduction of the programme to N91.90 billion. He had further stated that more than 412,037 smallholder farmers were beneficiaries in 36 states and the FCT, adding there were 13 state government anchors and 127 private-led anchors.
Okoroafor also said that ABP loans repayment so far was N12.19 billion, adding that the programme had created over 500,000 jobs, while adding two million tonnes of rice to the domestic rice supply. More significantly, he had noted that the volume of rice importation into the country had drastically declined in 2018, judging by figures obtained from various official sources.
According to him, “Figures obtained from India and Thailand, which are dominant rice exporters to Nigeria indicate that as at September 2018, Thailand exported about 5,161 tonnes of rice to Nigeria, while India exported only a paltry 426 tonnes to Nigeria as at July 2018. CBN had not allocated any foreign exchange for the importation of rice and we, therefore, attribute the achievement to the concerted efforts of FMARD and Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN).’’
This vigorous programme, dubbed as the rice production revolution by the Minister of Information, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has become a veritable anchorage for predicating a series of quaint assessments of the Buhari administration. The CBN command-room guru, Emefiele, must take his essential place in the history of this great accomplishment. This is one of the numerous achievements that should ordinarily and meritoriously recommend tenure renewal for public officers that are savvy in the matters of economy, politics and general administration.
But Nigeria is unfortunately afflicted by the prehistoric fault lines of ethnic, religious and geo-political considerations in the management of public finance as well as the overarching general administration that is characterised by social and political interactions. The Buhari administration, just re-elected for another four-year tenure, has a great opportunity to overhaul our anachronistic “north versus south” fault-line by redirecting country and governance away from the subsisting philosophy of regional supremacy through apparently-skewed privileged access to the so-called national cake.
Enlightened Nigerian publics will all be living in self-denial if they claim ignorance that Emefiele’s tenure expires on June 3, this year. He is expected to take a bow after a brilliant outing, except President Buhari decides to renew his appointment. His reappointment is thus at the mercy and pleasure of the president whose electioneering benefited hugely from the utilitarian programmes and achievements of the CBN on Emefiele’s watch. The governor has defined his eon through the magnitude of his command-room sagacity and intellection of the delicate business of central banking.
Even if Emefiele’s tenure is not renewed, history will be kind to him and posterity will not forget him as he takes his place in the pantheon of economic sages that had greatly impacted the economic wellbeing of their nations when they were given a chance, especially in moments of national anxiety, to perform. I have read some brilliant articles adumbrating key points in the plethora of achievements recorded under Emefiele’s leadership, which provide validation for a luminous era.
Interestingly, the issues that have been elucidated in much bolder relief have to do with the adroit management of the Foreign Exchange regime and the banning of importation of some 44 items in order to stimulate their local production for both domestic consumption and export. These have, without a doubt, helped to bolster the economy and, in conjunction with other micro and macro-economic stabilizing measures, pull the nation out of recession.
But significantly, the deal that resonated and has continued to resonate well with the people is the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) that pooled human resources and devolved to them financial power to expand the frontiers of local production of rice, principally, and other crops like corn, tomatoes, palm oil and fisheries, etc. The ABP beneficiaries and the critical mass of Nigerians, about 2.5 million, who were employed indirectly, collectively contributed a princely N1.7 billion at N100 per person to the reelection of President Buhari. They also contributed their votes and mobilized the votes of their family members and extended beneficiaries of their rice farming.
In fact, the ABP turned out to be a significant bragging right for the APC and Buhari during the electioneering. So also has it been for Emefiele’s CBN. This is a good exemplar of democracy dividends.
· Mr. Momodu, a public affairs analyst, sent in this piece from Benin City via firstname.lastname@example.org