In a determined effort to salvage the Anchor Borrowers’ Loan Scheme initiated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to bolster agricultural production, President Bola Tinubu has taken decisive action. The program, designed to provide financial support for agricultural expansion, has encountered a significant challenge as beneficiaries struggle to repay their loans, causing government funds to be tied up and preventing others from benefiting from the scheme.
An investigation by Saturday Vanguard has uncovered a concerning financial discrepancy. Out of the N1.1 trillion disbursed by the CBN since the program’s inception, just over N546 billion has been repaid, leaving an astonishing N577 billion outstanding and unaccounted for. This substantial sum, held by various beneficiaries, including commercial and microfinance banks, state governments, farmers’ associations, individuals, and corporate entities, has raised concerns within the Presidency. There are fears that the program’s original objectives may be compromised if the funds are not promptly recovered.
President Tinubu, having been briefed on the situation multiple times, is deeply troubled by the retention of such a significant amount, which could otherwise support other farmers in need of loans to enhance food production. In response to this crisis, the President has summoned top security agencies to take immediate action to recover the government funds from the defaulters, setting a strict deadline before September 18, 2023, for the retrieval.
During a high-level meeting with security agencies in Abuja, it was revealed that one of the CBN’s subsidiaries, in collaboration with a commercial bank, had unlawfully diverted N255 million intended for farmers and individuals in need of loans to boost their production capacity. Furthermore, the apex bank’s subsidiary and the commercial bank, acting as intermediaries between borrowers and the CBN, were found to have fraudulently misappropriated the same N255 million, failing to disburse it to the intended beneficiaries or return it to the CBN.
Some of the beneficiaries have refused to repay their loans, citing inadequate returns on their investments and requesting more time to meet their obligations, disregarding the terms of the original agreement.
In response to the situation, a top security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, disclosed that many bank directors and managers have already been interrogated regarding their involvement in the loan scandal. Several of them have admitted their complicity and expressed their commitment to taking the necessary steps to repay the loans.
“We have written to all the defaulters, and many bank officials have confessed their role in the huge loan scandal. They are committed to refunding the outstanding loans,” the source revealed. “We have also contacted all the debtors, and some banks, whose top managers we have interrogated, have assured us that they will repay the outstanding funds before September 18, 2023, the President’s set deadline.”
The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme saw participation from various farmers’ groups, including the Maize Farmers’ Association, Soya Beans, and Cotton Farmers’ Association. However, it has been found that repayment performance varies among these groups. For instance, the Maize Producers Association borrowed N39 billion and has repaid N23 billion, while Cotton farmers borrowed N14 billion and have only repaid N5 billion to date.
While the security agencies contacted declined to comment on the President’s order to recover the funds and return them to the CBN, it is emphasized that such actions are not unusual when it comes to matters of national security.
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