By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has commended the Cross River State’s government industrial drive especially in the agricultural sectors.
The branch controller of the country’s apex bank in the state, Mr. Sampson Suwannee gave the commendation on Tuesday while on an inspection tour of the office complex for the proposed Cross River State microfinance bank in Calabar where he averred that the governor, Senator Ben Ayade has CBN chasing after him due to his agricultural funding program.
“The Professor Ben Ayade led administration has demonstrated its resolve to create employment for the teeming unemployed youths in the state,” said Mr. Suwannee who added that, “CBN is running after Ayade because of the agricultural program as we want all to bank and access credit facilities.”
He said the opening of microfinance banks will increase access to credit facilities, a situation he said is healthy for the economy.
He averred that: “The only way to achieve this is to ensure that we open microfinance bank branches as there are many places across the state that don’t have banks. This will help them access credit and pay back.
“The governor’s zeal to make sure that this state is number one is something that we are very happy with. Let us be much stronger in food production, that is the only way we can have economic development in this country.”
On his part, Dr. Aniefiok Umoren who heads the CBN Development Finance office maintained that, “we are happy with Ayade for adding value to the economy of the state, creating different clusters across the state to encourage youths to go into farming of crops where they have comparative advantage.”
This comes a few days after the federal government gave a nod to the elevation of the Ayade industrial park in Calabar which is touted to host a minimum of 23 companies upon completion to the level of an Export Processing Zone, with the Managing Director of the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority, Mr. Emmanuel Jime saying he will put a word for the state to President Muhammadu Buhari to give his assent.
And, governor Ayade said that the state is establishing the bank to support its decision to create full value chains for agricultural products including rice which has a seedling manufacturing, research and development plant currently been constructed at the industrial park.
“The only way agriculture can be exciting for young people is to go digital and professional, that is why in Cross River, we are taking our time to be the largest rice producers in Africa. We have set up the first rice and seedling plant in Africa, we are going into massive and expansive cultivation of rice but to do all of that, we also need a backbone,” Ayade said.
He further explained that: “Cross River is now supporting CBN and federal government with a state microfinance bank and we are hoping that our date of April 27 as the commissioning date has to be sacrosanct,” even as he disclosed that, “we have invited the CBN governor who will be here in person.
“When you ask young men to go into farming, where are they going to get the resources?” Ayade asked rhetorically, intimating that although CBN provides a facility with a minimal repay period, he has set aside the sum of N500million which will be available to the microfinance bank on the commissioning date when it will opened for operations.
On the special fund, he averred that: “The money is set aside for civil servants who want to go into farming, be it must be one, two or three hectares,” and pointed out that as part of his administration’s efforts to boost farming which is the right road map for Africa and indeed Nigeria, “the state also has an agricultural development company whose business is to provide agricultural services with an extension service arm.”
Other ventures the governor disclosed would support the agricultural value chain include, the white collar farming which allows one the luxury of being a farmer, yet preserves his or her dignity as an educated person, as most people think that the university certificate can no longer put their houses on the ground, including the introduction of what he termed, food on the table, hands on the plough.
Continuing, Ayade said, “in Nigeria we have land, we are looking for farmers. We have farmers they are looking for money, we have money we are looking for interest. Why would a developing economy that understands that they want to move people away from oil to agriculture still want to put a single digit interest rate in a very short gestation period in an agricultural facility? Again, that makes it difficult, so it is the microfinance bank that will underpin it with the support from Central Bank of Nigeria.”
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