The Agricultural Produce Sellers Association of Nigeria (APSAN) has bemoaned the cumbersome process of applying for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Agribusiness Small and Medium Enterprises Scheme (AGSMEIS), noting that Entrepreneurial Development Institutions (EDIs) are taking advantage of the situation to extort money from applicant.
In a chat with THISDAY, the National president of APSAN, Aloy Akortsaha commended the scheme, but said the purpose for which the programme was introduced is being defeated no thanks to EDIs.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing system for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) Microfinance Bank had issued a statement to deny this claim and promised to grant approvals for loan requests.
Akortsaha said: “The AGSMEIS purposely introduced by the federal government to give long term loans of 8 years, but NIRSAL has succeeded in empowering or creating an avenue for EDIs, because before accessing these fund, you must go through the EDIs who would train and prepare a business plan for you for about N25, 000, but after paying this fee, applicants still cannot access the loans just a fragment of successful applicants have so far accessed this loan since the inception.”
He added: “NIRSAL is a very wonderful policy by the federal government through the CBN so that farmers can access loans, but some of these policies are not being implemented effectively. Some people have applied since February 2020 only to see their application declined after spending money on the training and business plan. This has created an avenue for EDIs to exploit people. This is not good. We have over 100 EDIs that are exploiting people.”
According to him, many of its members have fallen victims, calling on the CBN to scrap EDIs.
“Our members have fallen victims of this and they keep bringing complaints to my table. The policy is good, but the process is not encouraging and we want the CBN to stop the EDI from exploiting us. The process is wrong that is why the EDIs are capitalising on it to make money. They charge N5, 000 for business plan, N10,000 for consultation and N10,000 for training which makes it N25,000 altogether. The process is very cumbersome that an individual cannot apply on his own from the beginning to the end, so you must pass through these EDIs and they will exploit you and it is very unfortunate,” he stressed.
He however stated that there are commendable policies being formulated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development aimed at helping farmers in the country, but stated that the implementers of these laudable policies are frustrating the government’s plan to diversify the economy through agriculture
Reacting to the spate of insecurity hindering farming activities, he said the nation’s agriculture contributes significantly to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), noting that concrete efforts must be carried out to ensure that the safety of farmers is guaranteed.
“The herder-farmer conflict is affecting the economy and this is why we are seeing the rise in food prices. We are calling on the federal government to be very serious about transforming the agricultural sector because it is one of the surest ways to diversify the nation’s economy from hydrocarbon resources. Even at a time when inflation reduced, the prices of commodity were still high because these farmers could not go to the farm or take their produce to the markets,” he added.