By Jonathan Ugbal:Government House Correspondent
The Cross River State Government has appealed to the Central Bank of Nigeria to support the growth of the state’s agricultural sectors through the licensing of its microfinance bank.
The Governor, Senator Ben Ayade stated this last weekend a Obanliku local government area while fielding questions from journalist shortly after harvesting rice from his private farm as part of activities for a two day project tour in the northern and central senatorial districts.
Mr. Ayade said that the state has met the minimum financial requirement to float the bank which is aimed at supporting small and medium scale farmers.
“Everybody should have a farm but the question is this, where are you going to get the money? Good question and I have an answer.
“We have already started the Cross River State Microfinance bank with agro value chain as our core focus.
“If you have a piece of land, all you need to do is to approach a microfinance bank and let me use this opportunity once more to call on my good friend, Goddy Emefiele that in the last six months, our application for the final licensing of the Cross River State microfinance bank has been in CBN when indeed we have done the 100 million deposit which is the minimum requirement for the bank to be licensed, so we have done all that we need to do, it is the turn of CBN to issue us the license,” Mr. Ayade said.
The state executive council (SEC) in an emergency session in February 2016, approved NGN100 million as licensing fee for the state owned microfinance bank.
13 months later in March 2017, the SEC approved the sum of NGN1 billion to float the bank, and since then, no information has been given about the bank until Mr. Ayade’s recent comments.
However, Mr. Ayade said he had given a mandate to all appointees and residents to go into rice production; a directive, he said, was also given to the Cocoa bearing communities.
The choice of going back to farm, Mr. Ayade said, was due to the support he received from Nigeria’s President, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, the CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele and his counterpart in Kebbi state, Senator Atiku Bagudu.
The 2,500 hectares farm consists of portions for maize, millet, pepper, tomatoes, carrots among others with only 250 hectares dedicated to rice in this quarter which an excited Mr.
Ayade said farming was the new oil well.
“Today we are giving everybody an opportunity to have his own oil field in his own backyard by having his own piece of rice farm or cocoa farm.
“I am working and I am promising and I am ordering and I am demonstrating with my own example.
‘I have my own rice farm. I am here in Ayade’s rice farm and not too long ago, my wife was here in her own farm harvesting her own yam and her own vegetables and what have you.
“So I ask you do you have your own farm? Do you all have your own farms?” Ayade asked and went on to challenge everyone present to own their rice farms.
“You can look at the massive crowd waiting just celebrating this harvest, let they also own their piece of land,” Mr. Ayade said and explained how the bank will impact on the state’s agro sector.
“We are introducing a new farming model where government will indeed and Ayade will not own the land.
“Communities will own the land, we put the communities together on their own farmland, support them with technology with input directly not given to them and relying on them to use, but helping them.
“But, they take ownership and do the weeding and do the tenure management, and so we just come in, provide equipment, provide every other support but the rice belongs to them.
“Of course, we are setting up a very big rice mill in Ogoja that will become the major one in Africa so everything will be put together to address the fact that every Cross Riverian will return to his own oil well which is our rich soil.
“We have 5,000 hectares in this small quadrant that we are dealing with and I think what we have done today is going to be approximately 250 hectares for harvest for this quarter.
“Our hope is that as you look across the mountain you are seeing at the middle of the farm, we have 2,500 around here, the total amount of rice farm we have in the Northern Senatorial District under Ayade farm is 10,000 hectares.
“10,000 hectares is a whole lot and I am sure I can retire as a governor into my rice farm and I’ll be a very happy man.
“As we start the harvest, as we are doing the harvest I am counting my money so all of you should start counting your money.
“Go back to your rice farm, that is the traditional African business. Let us feed the world and have all the money instead of waiting on this oil that is causing tension. It is getting old fashioned, everybody is running out of oil, it is causing pollution.
“Let us go to farming. That is what President Buhari said and I think is the right thing, let us do it,” he said.
Mr. Ayade had flagged off the rice farm in Obanliku and Bekwarra last year November when he was on tour of projects in the central and northern senatorial districts.
CrossRiverWatch gathered that since then, the farm has been harvested twice with the next harvest period scheduled for late September.
An improved rice specie, Faro 44 was used and Mr. Ayade explained why.
He said: “Because of soil compatibility Faro 44 is particularly good for the upland region and you can see this is upland rice we are doing here. So you have to go with Faro 44.”