As part of measures by the Federal Government towards reviving and re-capitalising the almost moribund (BoA) the Minister of Agriculture and Rural development, Chief Audu Ogbeh has said that steps are being taken to recover over N12 billion from farmers who are indebted to the bank in the last 30 years.
Chief Ogbeh while fielding questions from journalists during a tour of the proposed 15 hectares agricultural industrial hub located in Kwali Area Council in Abuja also disclosed that a greater part of the N12 billion loan debt was incurred by rice farmers in the country.
“We are determined to pursue big time farmers owing the BoA huge sums of money which is roughly about N12 billion and this was accumulated over the last 30 years. Peasants owe 12 billion. There are other institutional debts making the loan to N40 billion. But we know where they are and we will get them.
“The rice farmers association led by Mohammed Dangote visited my office recently. The rice farmers are about 11 million nationwide and he confessed to me that the bulk of the loans is owed by them and he had told their members that they must pay on their own”, he said.
He however pointed out that debtors will not be harassed unduly as the federal government was likely to even consider waiving a reasonable amount of accumulated interest on the loans.
“We will soon put an advert out that some of those who took loans should please pay back. We are not going to over harass them. We may consider reasonable interest waivers, but they have to return the cash. The new bank that will emerge from what we are building now will be a different kind of bank and not just a development bank which the BOA has been, but a quasi-commercial bank where every farmer will be a shareholder”.
Speaking on the Central Bank Anchor Borrowers Scheme, the Minister described it as a major rescue operation in the provision of financial support for farmers.
He further assured the recapitalised BoA will operate on a very low single digit interest rate that will be affordable and accessible to farmers
“Believe me, if they hadn’t supported us, believe me by now, real hunger would have hit everybody. We hope to take the stress off them as soon as the BoA starts working”, he said .
On his part, the Managing Director of BOA, Danbala Danju who applauded the drive of the current administration towards the development of the sector noted that the sector has witnessed an increase in investment.
He explained that the inability of some farmers to access loans from the bank which was as a result of a huge gap between demand and supply would soon be a thing of the past as the BOA would recapitalise before the end of the quarter.