Union Bank N10bn NIRSAL fund tries bridging the gap
FARMERS WHO have been waiting to benefit from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, are groaning with disappointment as the much talked about scheme AgriBusiness Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme , AGSMEIS, is currently enmesh in confusion and delay despite the cautionary release of the CBN.
This is coming even as the recently launched N10 billion NIRSAL fund by Union Bank kicked off.
AGSMEIS, a Bankers’ Committee initiative was announced on April 5, 2017 vide a circular FPR/DIR/GEN/CIR/06/015 signed by Kevin N. Amugo, Director, Financial Policy and Regulatory Department.
However, the scheme peaked early this year in preparatory for the 2019 farm season. Groups were formed and suddenly from everywhere came the information that the only “criteria is a training certificate by the CBN registered Entrepreneurship Development Institutions, EDIs.
Speaking with The Telescope Nigeria, Mr. Ibrahim Ogunmodede pointed out that “one of my friends informed me that CBN was going to give a loan termed AGSMEIS and that anybody that must benefit must be trained by EDI.
“I registered for a training session in Lagos for N35, 000 only to be told that some people paid N15, 000. That is not even the issue. I did the training since February ending, and filled a form but till now nobody has called me from CBN”.
The Telescope Nigeria found out that the practice has gone viral all over the country but with more serious in the South West Zone of the country. The EDIs charge as low as N10,000 in some places but the average cost seems to be N15, 000.
This is despite the fact that CBN has stated that the EDIs are fake and not known to it.
In a release downloaded from its website: https://www.cbn.gov.ng/…/ Press%20Release%20on%20on%20AGSMEIS%20(060219).pdf it warned the public that “Our attention has been drawn to the exploitation of unsuspecting members of the public by some Entrepreneurship Development Institutions (EDIs), purporting to be Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) accredited EDIs for our Agri Business Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS).
“These unaccredited bodies have continued to defraud and exploit members of the public by advertising for courses and charging training fees ranging on the pretext that the training is endorsed by the CBN and therefore would guarantee easy access to AGSMEIS loans.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the CBN has neither appointed nor accredited any organization to conduct any training on its behalf for the purpose of applying for AGSMEIS loans”.
The CBN in the release dated February 6, 2019, and signed by Isaac Okorafor, Director, Corporate Communications further warned that “The Public is therefore advised to beware of the activities of these non accredited private and public organisations, and report anyone or group that approaches them for these illegal and unauthorized trainings, to the law enforcement agencies”.
The question now is that who pays the farmers in their thousand who have undergone the unapproved training programmes and when would the programme take of?
Efforts to get CBN to speak on this failed as the officer that picked the phone referred us back to the release and said “once there is a new development, CBN will release more information”
Information garnered from Union Bank showed that its recently launched N10 billion Agricultural Loan in partnership with NIRSAL has taken off.
It could be recalled that at the launch, Emeka Emuwa the Chief Executive Officer of Union Bank had said “Union Bank remains committed to supporting the Nigerian agricultural sector. This deep – rooted support stems from a clear understanding that we must contribute actively to the empowerment of small farmers and agricultural stakeholders across the country in order to unlock the growth potential of the sector.
We are confident that the N10 billion credit facility which we have launched today will go a long way to boost agricultural productivity in the country particularly at this time when the Federal Government seeks to steer the economy away from its heavy reliance on the oil and gas sector”
Union Bank had won “Best Commercial Agriculture Bank” at the 2016 Nigeria Agriculture Awards and “Best Participating Bank in Nigeria” in the CBN Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund