From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Controversy is trailing a proposed Federal Government agricultural loan, through the Central Bank of Nigeria) (CBN) and the Ministry of Agriculture in Bayelsa State, as farmers have raised the alarm over inconsistencies in the scheme.
The farmers alleged cases of fraud, extortion and the listing of fictitious names for the loan.
They also alleged that the same controversy that dogged the scheme during previous years are rearing its head again.
According to the farmers, the state government has been picking up the debt for repayment without visible means of identifying beneficiaries.
They pointed out that recent processes conducted by the Bayelsa Agric Development Company (BADC) through the state-owned SME Bank was faulty with many of the applicants and cooperatives not involved in farming.
Daily Sun gathered that BADC has swung into action to probe the allegations.
Managing Director of BADC, Mrs Helen Ajuwa while confirming the fraudulent acts of some applicants, described the cases of extortion as illegal.
She said the rate at which illegal agricultural cooperatives exhort money from unsuspecting farmers in the guise to help them secure loan is on the increase
Ajuwa, in an interview, said based on the state government’s principle and standard for giving agricultural loan, no farmer needs to pay a dime to access the Federal Government agricultural loan.
According to her, the state recently keyed into the CBN/AMCON borrowers programme and the scheme is focused on establishing 2,000 real fish and cassava farmers during the first phase of the programme for 2017.
Ajuwa urged farmers in the state to consult BADC office before applying for the loan in order not to fall pray to fraudsters.
She advised fish and cassava farmers to register and get a land that they rightly own.
She disclosed that BADC would take it up from that point by clearing the land, providing them with cassava stems, fertilisers, herbicides and little grant for farm management, as they are not expected to pay money to secure the grant.
Ajuwa said Bayelsa government, through BADC, is on top of the situation as it has put in place better strategy to ensure only real farmers benefit from the programme as there will be different degrees of verification of intending farmers and inspection of farm lands.