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100,000 farmers stranded over NIRSAL loan non-disbursement

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Praise Necherem 

Over 100,000 potential farmers and small-scale industrialists who had applied for different categories of loans ranging from N3 million to N10 million have been stranded, following the refusal of the management of Nigerian Incentives Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, NIRSAL to disburse the loans to them as appropriate.

NIRSAL, a micro-finance bank was established and domiciled in general post offices throughout the federation by the federal government to partner with Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and Economic Development Institute, EDI in granting loans to farmers and industrialists for the purpose of boosting food production and industries in the country.

The loan applicants organised themselves as a group since two years ago, obtained their forms from NIRSAL in Onitsha with stipulated amount of non-refundable fee, completed all formalities, underwent a two-week intensive management training at EDI, opened an account with NIRSAL and were ready to take delivery of the funds, only for them to receive a bulk text from NIRSAL management informing them that the funds would no longer be disbursed as a result of anticipated risk involvement.

The text message from NIRSAL management read thus: “Dear applicant, kindly note that your loan application has been declined because your request does not meet our current Risk Acceptance Criteria. Thank You.”

After going through the text, the applicants converged on the General Post Office along the Old Market Road, Onitsha where NIRSAL office is domiciled and were about to embark on massive demonstration when officials of the Campaign for Democracy, CD, Anambra state chapter waded in and temporarily calmed the frayed nerves.

CD prevailed on the applicants to disperse and allow it, at least, two weeks to embark on a joint massive protest with the active involvement of other civil society organisations in the process.

The state chairman of CD, Comrade Ekene Nnadi, who spoke to newsmen in Onitsha over the development, wondered why NIRSAL management allowed all the applicants to buy the forms with not less than N25,000 each, sent them to EDI for training with not less than N30,000 to N40,000 per applicant, mandated them to open an account with a minimum of N5,000 only to turn round and tell them their loan application had been declined over Risk Acceptance Criteria.

Nnadi, who lamented that all the loan applicants in the northern parts of the country had received their funds, said CD viewed this action as one of the indices of marginalisation against the South East people and called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the CBN to wade into the fraudulent activities of NIRSAL.

Describing the action as a grand conspiracy between NIRSAL, CBN and EDI to extort, if not deprive the applicants, Nnadi also called on national assembly members from the South East zone, and the Anambra state government itself, to take a critical look at the situation and intervene on behalf of the applicants who had exhausted all avenues to get the loan and move into massive agriculture and industrialisation, to no avail. 

All efforts to reach the branch manager of NIRSAL in Onitsha proved abortive as he was said to have travelled out of town on official engagement.

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