As over 30,000 Farmers benefit from loan
The 2019 Agric loan disbursement committee, set up by the Governor David Nweze led administration to monitor the disbursement of Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Agric loan, has completed its tour in 12 out of the13 local governments that make up the state.
The local governments toured were Afikpo South, Ikwo, Ezza North, Izzi, Abakaliki, Ohaozara, Ezza South, Onicha, Ivo, Ishielu, Ohaukwu and Ebonyi.
During the visits, chairman of the committee, who is also the Chairman of Ishielu local government area, Hon Sunday Eze, pointed out that the committee was out to carry out its assignment of ascertaining how the CBN rice loan was disbursed in all the local government areas as well as the measures put in place to ensure that the loan would be paid back.
The first point of call was Afikpo South local government area, while the second place to visit was Ikwo local government area which has 20 wards.
At Ikwo, the ward councilors narrated how the loan was disbursed. According to Iga Chukwu Alobu, Ndiagu Amegu Ward, Igbo Marcewell, Egbelu Ward, Chukwu Sunday, Noyo Ward, Rebecca Nwangele, Enyimagu Ward I, and Nwanchor Paulinus, Ettam ward, 200 farmers were profiled in each ward and they were given N25, 000 each.
They said that very few farmers showed interest at the beginning because it was a loan, but when they began sharing the money, so many farmers indicated interest and they were accommodated.
According to the Chairman, John Nnabo, the councilors were the ones that profiled the farmers and they made sure that every farmer who received the loan has a guarantor who signed the guarantors form.
He said in some wards where the farmers were not up to 200, they used cooperative societies to argument the figures, stating that N25, 000 was given to each farmer and that by January 2020 some farmers who took the loan will start paying back.
He said he mandated councillors to suretee 10 most important persons in their ward
At Ezza North, the treasurer of the council, Ifeanyi Agha, said that the council purchased 2,500 bags of fertilizer at the time of the visit, and have applied for more 2,500 bags.
He said they gave out fertilizer instead of cash, stating that some farmers got 8 bags while some got 4 bags depending on the hectare of land the said farmer demanded for and that a committee was set up to oversee the distribution.
The Chairman, Hon. Nora Alo, stated that the council fully participated in the exercise just like every other local government.
She added that for a hectare of land, a farmer needs four bags of fertilizer, stating that they have delay getting fertilizer from the state fertilizer company and that they are going to source for fertilizer elsewhere.
She said some of the farmers requested for cash, but that mostly, they are going to give cooperatives cash loan.
In Ezza North, a farmer received four bags of MPK fertilizer at a reduced cost of N4500, while Urea was given at N6,000 a bag, according to the Chairman, stressing that councillors profiled the farmers and that indemnity form was signed by every beneficiary and that the guarantor must be a local government staff , so that if the money is not paid back, it would be deducted from the staff salary.
At Izzi, which has 14 wards, 200 farmers were also profiled in each ward. Hon. Paulinus, councilor Igbudu ward, Hon Nwobodo Monday, Amuzu Igbeagu ward I, Hon. David Mbam, Hon Samuel Onwe, Ndiagu Ward, Olodo Patience, Ezza Inyimagu ward, Mrs Nwakego Janeth, all stated that farmers got two bags of fertilizer and N25, 000.
Chairman of the council, Hon Paul Nwogha whose transparency in the distribution and disbursement was clearly seen by journalists who toured the local governments with the committee, noted that ward councilors formed cooperative societies to be chaired by them.
Stating that they were careful about those who accessed the loan to make sure that the right people were chosen to avoid stories when its time to pay back.
He said the council purchased fertilizer worth N19million (MPK), Urea and herbicides N35million, while the remain cash was distributed to farmers.
He also stated how much he collected as a farmer, and handed over to the committee list of how the loan was disbursed.
Also, in Ezza South, the chairman of the council, Sunday Ogodo said that N25, 000 cash was given to farmers because that was what they demanded for.
He said the farmers brought notable guarantors from their different wards and 200 farmers were profiled in each of the 11 wards that make up the local government.
He said they also gave money to cooperatives formed by the farmers and set up a committee that will recover the loan, adding that they made sure that those who didn’t pay back the 2018 agric loan weren’t included.
Those who spoke at the council include, Ogbuewu Chidiebere, councillor Echara ward, Nwite Juliet, Amuzu ward, councillors of Amanda, Amagu Nsokkora wards respectively.
They stated that the loan was judiciously distributed.
While at Abakaliki local government, the number of farmers who benefited from the Agric loan varied.
However, nobody from the Urban ward was given because according to the Chairman, Emmanuel Nwangele, those from the Urban didn’t show interest in the loan, adding that they were also owing the 2018 Agric Loan given to them.
Hon. Benard Ngele, councillor Amagu Enyigba Ward, Igwe Victor, Ndiagu Amechi Ward and Vice Chairman of the council, Mrs. Nkwuda Chinyere, noted that some wards profiled 220 farmers, while some profiled below that.
According to the chairman, some wards were profiled more because the Urban ward doesn’t have rice farm, adding that some farmers in the local government were not interested at first, but when others stated getting the loan, they began to show interest.
Nwangele said they had meeting with the farmers and they said money should be given to them not fertilizer.
He said the stakeholders were sensitized to make sure that those who collected the loan pay back and the responsibility was given to the stakeholders, traditional rulers, while the councilors profiled the farmers.
He noted that the council constituted a committee that prepared form for guarantors and after filling the form, the councillors vetted it to make sure that the said surtees would pay if the farmers failed to pay.
In Ohaozara, Hon. Nwigwe, Umuanaga ward and also the leader of the council, said 200 names were profiled in each ward, stating that the council will start recovering the loan from farmers 15th of January 2020.
He pointed out that the local government chairman, Hon. Chinyere Iyioku, set up a committee and its members included the supervisors to oversee the distribution and disbursement of the loan and farm inputs which lasted for two weeks.
Nwigwe said each farmer got N20, 000 with one bag of fertilizer while one of the supervisors, Ikenna Eze said all the beneficiaries in the 11 wards that make up the local government obtained court affidavits, where they swore to pay back, which was attached to the guarantors form.
He said civil servants were mostly the guarantors while the ward councilors were also not left out.
Eze maintained that anyone who failed to pay back the loan would be dragged to court by the council.
In Onicha local government, farmers got N16, 000 and two bags of fertilizer. According to the local government chairman, Hon. Igboke Felix Ogbonnaya, after meeting with the farmers, they discovered that more fertilizer would not be beneficial to them, so the council resorted to given each farmer N16, 000 and two bags of fertilizer.
He said all the 12 ward executives were captured and the distribution was booth by booth, adding that farmers were also made to sign the indemnity from.
At Ivo, deputy leader of the council, Agu Agahi, Ukanwa, councilor representing Ihenta Ogidi ward, supervisor for works, Hon. Nwosu Akpoke, noted that 200 farmers were profiled while I10 collected the loan. Chairman of the council, Hon. Ogbonnaya Ude, said that the 11 ward councillors in Ivo profiled the farmers, and they documented every farmer who was profiled with their passports.
Adding that they distributed 4 bags of fertilizer and N7000 either for herbicides or cash.
He maintained that if the farmers couldn’t pay back the loan, then the council would pay, insisting that people were reluctant to comply.
The committee also went to Ishielu local government area, where they interacted with the chairman of the council, Hon. Sunday Eze.
Hon. Frank Alo Uchechukwu, councillor, Okpoto ward said 200 farmers were profiled and on the day of the distribution/disbursement, the local government chairman was with them until past 10pm despite the heavy down pour, to ensure that the fertilizer and cash were judiciously distributed. Each farmer according to him got N14, 000and two bags of fertilizer, adding that 95% of those who applied for the loan were present while 5% couldn’t come that day because of the distance and heavy down pour, but that their portion was also reserved for them.
He said that as the councillor of Okpoto people, he knows the address of every farmer who accessed the loan, and that their guarantors were all civil servants not below grade level 12. “So I know if you don’t pay I will hold you responsible. So the passport of the person is there as well as the guarantor’s and I know them in person. So I believe my people will pay the money”.
The chairman of the council, reiterated that two bags of fertilizer and N14,000 cash were given to farmers. Stating that following the heterogeneous nature of Ishielu people, anyone leading them has to be open to them.
“The most important thing is that we are doing what the government asks us to do, there is nothing to hide. Sometimes we stay out till 10pm. We have 16 wards in Ishielu and at the time of this visit, we have only three wards that are yet to receive their own fertilizer and cash. I want to promise the committee that the farmers will get their own loan and will pay at when due” he noted.
Asked what happens when a farmer could not pay because of flood or other natural disasters, he noted: “The loan is not insured. So every farmer will pay as far as they signed the indemnity form, they must pay and I can assure you that the councillors are working on them right from the day they received the loan. We are still going to set up another committee that will monitor the farming to note those ones that are progressing incase the government decides to increase the loan, we will give them more fund”, he added.
The chairman said that there were people who are not from Ishielu that were also profiled. “There are stranger elements in Ishielu. If you go to Nigercem, it’s just like a community, even though they attached part of them to Umuhuali, some to Nkalaha, Amazu and Nkalagu. We profiled them, they were born and brought up there. If you go to Ezillo we have a lot of stranger elements there, the same thing in Nkalagu even Okpoto, so we profiled them. As far as you have farmland, we have the largest farmland in Ebonyi state, that is the Ezill of arm, so we have opportunity more than others” he stated.
On his part, councilor Ezillo ward II, Okechukwu Basil, noted that the disbursement has been peaceful. While Hon. Otubo Nnaemeka Godswill, deputy majority leader, Ishielu legislative council and councillor representing Umuhuali ward, said the distribution and disbursement got to the grassroot and to the real farmers, stating that he came from a remote village, yet in each compound some farmers receive fertilizer and money.
However, Hon. Nwonu Simon also spoke during the visit.
In Ohaukwu local government area, each of the profiled farmers got 4 bags of fertilizer and N7, 000 according to councilors who spoke.
The chairman, Hon Clement Odah told the committee that farmers were drawn from the villages and the disbursement and distribution was done booth by booth and 20 farmers benefited from each booth. On how to recover the loan, he said that they made sure that the guarantors are known persons while the primary guarantors are the ward councilors.
He maintained that each guarantor must worth the money loaned, stressing there are two categories of farmers-individuals and cooperatives. While 1,950 was drawn from 195 cooperatives, 500 individuals were gotten.
Odah said all farmers got the same amount and farm inputs in the 15 wards that make up Ohaukwu local government area.
On challenges encountered, he noted, “we are still struggling to recover the 2018 agric loan, so some of the farmers were skeptical, but with reassurance they were able to queue in. we went back home to identify the real farmers, so the loan was not given to anyone who just presented himself as a farmer”, he stated.
The last place to visit was Ebonyi local government area where the local government chairman hinted the committee that the council distributed only fertilizers to farmers just as they demanded.
In Ebonyi, unlike Abakaliki local government area, those from Urban were part of the loan as their representatives I.e ward councillors were present during the committee’s visit.
It would be recall that Ebonyi state government accessed Agric loan for Ebonyi farmers following the state government’s target to be the number 1, rice producing state in Nigeria.
The loan is strictly for rice farming and each ward is expected to access N5million. 200 farmers were expected to be profiled in each ward and each of the farmers is expected to access N25, 000 loan.
10% interest is expected to be paid by the beneficiaries and repaying the loan is expected to start from at least, January 2020.
Meanwhile, the committee embarked on the tour with a team of journalists who asked local government chairmen and the ward councilors for clarifications in cases that were not clear.