How Emefiele Turned Nigerian Farmers Into Millionaires With Over N1trn Agric Intervention
When Mr. Godwin Emefiele was appointed as the 10th indigenous Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2014, his message on assumption of office was clear. He told Nigerians that no country has ever succeeded if it imports everything it needs from other countries. He said this is particularly so if that country has the capacity and natural endowment to produce most of what she consumes.
Despite the challenges, he worked in advancing the patronage of made-in-Nigeria goods particularly local rice which has become the toast of every household.
In line with its developmental function, which is distinct from its primary mandate of price stability, Emefiele spearheaded the CBN to establish the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme which was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
The programme aimed to create a linkage between anchor companies involved in the processing and smallholder farmers of the required key agricultural commodities.
The thrust of the ABP is the provision of farm inputs in kind and cash to smallholder farmers to boost production of farm commodities which states have comparative advantage to produce.
Some of these commodities are cereals namely rice, maize, wheat, cotton, roots and tubers namely cassava, potatoes, yam, ginger, tomato, poultry, oil palm, fish, sugarcane among others.
The Central Bank of Nigeria has so far disbursed N975.61bn to farmers across the country under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
Figures obtained from the CBN showed that this amount was released to over 4.52 million smallholder farmers cultivating 21 commodities across the country.
The Bank also released N19.15bn to finance five large-scale agricultural projects under the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme, bringing the total disbursements under the Scheme to N735.17bn for 671 projects in agro-production and agro-processing
The apex bank’s intervention was particularly strategic towards the resuscitation of moribund sectors of the economy in line with the present administration’s agenda to diversify the economy from oil as well as preserve foreign exchange.
With Nigeria’s annual rice importation at over $2bn annually, the importation was particularly worrisome for the CBN as it constituted a major drain of the foreign reserves.
And when it appeared that most government economic blueprint to revive the economy had been mere statements of intent rather than action, Emefiele undertook a difficult mission to stop the importation of commodities which the country has a comparative advantage to produce.
The CBN governor’s efforts towards food sufficiency especially in rice production have now materialized and currently causing ripples effects in the economy.
Currently, there has been a revolution in local rice production, as most of the inactive rice mills across the country have suddenly received life again while the staple has become the favourite in most Nigerian homes, partly because of its affordability and the fact that local rice had been properly cleaned up to eliminate stone particles which had been a turn off for most people.
Emefiele said agriculture has the potential for huge revenue generation and remained pivotal in job creation, noting that the fact that the agricultural sector was the only sector that experienced growth during the recent recession in the country bore testimony to that.
The CBN Governor had recently warned against the reopening of the borders anytime soon, citing possible reversal of current economic gains.
According to him, though the country could not afford to have its borders shut in perpetuity, reopening them at this time could roll back the economic gains so far achieved since the closure in August.
He said, “Before the border closure, two weeks before border closure, the president of the Rice Processors Association called to say that our Nigerian rice producers have produced rice they cannot sell that each of them is carrying close to 20,000 metric tonnes of rice in their warehouses.
“The Rice Farmers Association led by Alhaji Goronyo came out and also said that farmers cannot sell the rice they produced, that’s the paddy rice. We also have people in the poultry industry that said they couldn’t sell their chicken and eggs- some were carrying up to 5,000 crates of eggs unsold and they said the government needs to do something about it.”
He added, “Luckily, as a result of us intervening and other people intervening, one week after the borders were closed, the president of the Rice Millers Association called to say that all their millers had called to say that the rice they had in their warehouses had been sold. Paddy businesses are growing again.
“The poultry people also called to say they’ve sold all their eggs. All the chickens they have had been sold.”
Emefiele’s feats in revolutionizing agriculture especially in the areas of rice, tomato, milk, textile production had endeared him to some powerful interests in the society, who are currently benefitting from the apex bank’s revolution in the agricultural sector.
These individuals have now embarked on a campaign to make the CBN Governor the next President of Nigeria.
According to them, their push for Emefiele to become Nigeria’s President is based on his passion and commitment to economic diversification.
Already, farmers have raised N100m for Emefiele, to purchase the nomination and expression of interest forms to contest the 2023 Presidency under the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
The farmers say they decided to raise the N100m as a form of appreciation for what Emefiele did for farmers in the country.
They said the CBN Governor placed priority on commodity and agricultural value chain in the country.
One of the leaders of the coalition, Ibrahim Garba, said the group is made up of over 30 commodity associations from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
Garba said commodity associations are the biggest stakeholders in the country ahead of the 2023 general elections. He added that food security is the shortest path to the country’s development.
“Agriculture is the key to achieving national security. Through agriculture, millions of Nigerians are economically empowered and gainfully engaged, our industries are revived, a multifaceted value chain ecosystem created, and food security is ensured,” he said.
He said in the last seven years, Nigeria has carved a niche for itself as a country that has achieved self-sufficiency in food production.
Stakeholders have continued to back the CBN Governor in their decision to restrict foreign exchange to food importation, adding that the move was welcoming and long overdue towards the repositioning of agriculture and the economy in general.
The National President, Rice Farmers Association, Alhaji Aminu Goronyo said all farmers’ groups have lauded the pronouncement and committed to ensuring the country achieves food security.
He said, “Since 2015, the Central Bank of Nigeria has made a deliberate policy not to release forex to the importers of rice. That is to say that, all the rice that we have been consuming in Nigeria since 2015 were produced locally.
“Our members are dedicated, committed, courageous and patriotic Nigerians, because, despite the security challenges, they have remained in their farms, producing food for our dear country. So, they deserve credit.
“We have subsidized the paddy that we are selling to the Nigerian Rice Millers through the CBN and we have confidence that as patriotic Nigerians, they will also sell to consumers at an affordable rate. We have been assured by the Director-General of the millers’ association that they will replicate our gesture by al also selling the milled rice to Nigerians at an affordable rate.”
Also, the National President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria Kabir Ibrahim said that the ABP has changed the agricultural space in the country and should be sustained.
Ibrahim noted the impact of the ABP on the Nigerian economy in general and particularly, the living standard of Nigerian farmers, who are now earning good income from their farms.
The President of Nigeria Agribusiness Group, Mr. Emmanuel Ijewere hailed the CBN intervention in agriculture saying that the group would pursue what he described as “Smart agriculture” with the use of latest technology and improved seeds to massively increase yield across the various commodities.
The NABG President said that the nation has been blessed with vast arable land and good climate suitable for the production of various commodities and that his team would drive agricultural productivity beyond what has ever been achieved in the country.
He said that the various players in the agricultural sector and the manufacturing industries required synergy, in order to maximize the opportunities that exist in the country.
He said, “Various commodity producers have been working in silos. What we want to do is to ensure synergy all players.
“Together, we are helping to ensure food security and nutrition, creating systemic linkages between small, medium and large agribusiness enterprises. Working together as stakeholders in agriculture to diversify the economy of Nigeria away from oil and gas towards agricultural industrialization.
“We recognize our role as the engine of economic growth with the government creating the enabling environment for agribusinesses to thrive.”