By Inyali Peter and Aplefe Ojong
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CNB) Anchor Borrowers Program has allegedly been marred by massive fraud in Cross River State as beneficiaries are compelled by representatives of Bank of Agriculture across the state to sign for N250,000 but given N95,000.
The program is a Federal Government initiative for rice farmers aimed at increasing food production and security in the country.
Farmers according to terms of the program are expected to be given N250,000, rice, fertilizer among other items.
However, in Cross River beneficiaries have alleged that after being deceived that the fertilizers were given at a subsidized rate, officials of the bank come back to say that the N95,000 is the balance after deduction for other items were made.
According to one of the beneficiaries, Cyril Ogar, “The people deceived the farmers that fertilizer was subsidized but the bank last week, informed them that the NPK fertilizer was now given to them at the cost of N7,500 against the market price of N6,000.
“We were given N95,000 but forced to sign a document that we collected N250,00. We want the federal government to please help reclaim our money or explain more to us”.
Also confirming the situation, Odey Joseph, a farmer alleged that the bank officials were in connivance with the state government to defraud them.
Odey who questioned why the federal government handed over the program to the state as anchor unlike in Anambra state where farmers were dealing directly with the Presidential committee handling the scheme, appealed to the federal government to urgently suspend the program until the issue is addressed.
“I am convinced that the bank officials are playing the script of some top government officials because among those who have benefited, over 80 per cent of them are rumored to be government people.
“I don’t understand why the CBN or FG handed over the program to the state government. I understand in Anambra, the farmers were the anchors. This people wouldn’t be doing this thing without the knowledge of the government. I want the program suspended until we know what is going on.”
Recall that the CBN had set aside N40 billion out of the N220 billion earmarked under its Micro and Medium Enterprises Development Fund to serve as loans to smallholder of rice farms in the range of N150, 000 to N250, 000.
When contacted, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Prof. Engrinya Eneji explained that the N95,000 was the balance after deductions for other items were made.
“The entire loan is N250,000. They are not supposed to been given all the money. The money they are collecting now is the balance after deduction for rice, fertilizer and others things”, the Commissioner said.
CrossRiverWatch also gathered reliably that some beneficiaries of the Npower graduate scheme, another FG program in the state are also being asked to pay N5000 into a Zenith bank account as ‘recharge card stipend for the computer guy’ to faciliate redeployment for those who want to change their area of assignment.
Over 4,500 graduates have been engaged by the Npower program in the state. There have been initial allegations that several of those whose names were shortlisted from Abuja were not aware of the screening process which was not publicized and that they have been replaced by ‘ghost’ beneficiairies.
“There are those who want to change their initial places where they were posted. Those are the ones that have been asked to just pay a stipend of 5k to the computer guy wey dey do the thing for Abuja.” A guy working with the Npower team told this reporter.