•Defaulters under pressure to pay up
The ambitious Anchor Borrowers’ Loan Scheme floated by the Central Bank of Nigeria to make cash available for increased agricultural production in Nigeria has run into a glitch due to the inability of beneficiaries to repay the loan on maturity thereby holding up government funds and denying others from tapping into the scheme, Saturday Vanguard, has discovered.
Findings by the newspaper show that out of the N1.1 trillion disbursed by the CBN to the beneficiaries of the ABS since its inception, only a little above N546 billion has been repaid while a whopping balance of N577 billion remains unaccounted for.
The huge amount being held up by the borrowers, which Saturday Vanguard, understands, includes commercial and microfinance banks, state governments, farmers’ associations, individuals and corporate entities, is said to have angered the Presidency, which feels that the aim of the programme might be derailed, if the huge cash is not immediately retrieved from the debtors.
According to competent sources, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, President Bola Tinubu, who had been briefed severally on the situation, is upset that such amount of money, which could give succor to other farmers, is being withheld by some of the beneficiaries.
One of the security agencies told our correspondent that the President had summoned top security agencies in the country to take all necessary measures to recover the huge amount of government money from the defaulters on or before September 18, 2023 so as to make the cash available to genuine farmers who want safe loans for more food production.
Saturday Vanguard learnt that at a meeting with security agencies in Abuja, the president was very upset when he was told that one of the CBN’s subsidiaries was among the defaulting banks, holding up vital cash that was meant for farmers to improve their production and ensure food security in the country.
At the meeting, said to have taken place at the Presidential Villa earlier in the day, the president was told that a subsidiary of the CBN and a commercial bank in the country, had diverted N255 million which they were supposed to give out to farmers and others in dire need of loans to improve their production.
At the same time, the apex bank’s subsidiary and a commercial bank in the country which acted as intermediaries between the borrowers and the CBN, are reported to have fraudulently diverted the sum of N255 million, which they secured from the lender but refused to disburse to the borrowers or return to the CBN.
Some of the beneficiaries, Saturday Vanguard learnt, refused to refund the loan as and when due, claiming that they did not make serious returns on their investments and needed more time to be able to pay back to the apex bank, not minding the terms of the deal they had earlier signed.
A top security official told Saturday Vanguard on condition of anonymity that many banks’ directors and managers had already been interrogated on the huge loans saga and that many of them had admitted to securing the said loans and the alleged breaches regarding the repayment.
“I can tell you authoritatively that we have written to all the defaulters and many bank officials have confessed of their role in the huge loan scandal and they are willing to take necessary steps to pay back the loans,” a source familiar with the development, told Saturday Vanguard.
“We have also written to all the debtors and some of the banks, whose top managers we have already summoned and grilled, have assured us that they will refund the cash outstanding in their names on or before the September 18 deadline,” the source added.
Some of the farmers’ groups which took part in the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, an ambitious CBN programme to promote agricultural production, include Maize Farmers’ Association, Soya beans and Cotton Farmers’ Association.
However, findings showed that while the Maize Producers Association took a loan of N39 billion from the CBN under the ABP, it has been able to refund a total of N23 billion while Cotton farmers took a loan of N14 billion and has been able to refund N5 billion so far.
But contacted most of the spokesmen for the security agencies in Abuja declined to speak on the presidential order for them to recover the money and return it to the CBN.
Although the Spokesman for the DSS, Dr. Peter Afunanya, declined to comment on the matter, he said however that there was nothing unusual for the president to order security agencies to act in national security matters.
BREAKING NEWS: PDP’s Diri Wins Bayelsa Gov Election
The incumbent Governor of Bayelsa State and governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Douye Diri, has been declared the winner of the State governorship election held last Saturday.
The Returning Officer, Prof Faruq Kuta, who is also the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University Of Technology, Minna, announced Diri winner of the poll at the collation centre of the election on Monday.
Diri polled 175,196 to defeat his closest rival, Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress, who garnered 110,108 votes while the Labour Party polled 905 votes.
Plateau: Protesters Storm S’ Court Over Sack Of Four PDP Members From NASS
Over 1000 protesters, on Monday, besieged the Supreme Court to register their displeasure over the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which sacked four members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Plateau State, from the National Assembly, based on a pre-election dispute.
The placard and banner-wielding groups, under the aegis of Coalition for Justice in Africa, CJA, submitted a protest letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.
According to the protesters, the appellate court, by its judgement, thwarted the wish of electorates in Plateau state, when it declared candidates that lost the National Assembly elections that held on February 25, as winners of the legislative seats.
Speaking with newsmen shortly after the protest letter was submitted to the CJN, the National President of the CJA, Dr. Daniel Okwa, maintained that the judgement of the appellate court was capable of causing a breakdown of law and order in the state.
He said the group was at the apex court to seek the intervention of the CJN, alleging that the verdicts that removed all the PDP federal lawmakers were influenced by some chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
The protest letter, which was obtained by Vanguard, read in part: “The Coalition for Truth and Justice believes that the judgment of the Appeal Court in Abuja is a case of injustice, else, how could one explain a situation where lawmakers of the All Progressive Congress (APC) would boast and predict the outcome of the Court of Appeal judgment even before the pronouncement.
“This is unacceptable and indicates that the justice regime in Nigeria has been thrown to the dogs. What happened in Plateau State is an aberration of immeasurable proportion. There is a distinction between a pre-election matter and a post-election matter.
“The Supreme Court has established this fact on several occasions. It is now a wonder why the Appeal Court would act otherwise and in a despicable manner that tends to truncate our nascent democracy.
“The Coalition for Truth and Justice entirely condemns the actions of the justices of the Appeal Court that sat in Abuja. They displayed insensitivity to the electoral choices of the people. This is a worrisome trend that the Chief Justice of Nigeria must address.
“This is on the heels that the Judiciary, the world over, is regarded as the last hope of the commoner. This presupposes that it is the only place the commoner can get justice. The function of the Judiciary is not to twist the truth or fabricate facts but to interpret the law. The consequence of the interpretation of the law is justice.
“However, what played out in Plateau state negates the Judiciary’s position as the common’s last hope. The Judiciary is for sale to the highest bidder in Nigeria, if such positions could be taken without recourse to the implication of such on the psychological state of the people.
“The Coalition for Truth and Justice is using this protest to drive the point that justice in Nigeria should not be reserved for a section of the country or any political party. What happened in Plateau should not be allowed to stand or repeat itself. The implication of such is that the reputation of the judicial arm of government would be eroded.”
It will be recalled that the appellate court had on November 7, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel led by Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, okayed the nullification of the election of a Senator and three members of the House of Representatives in the state that emerged on the platform of the PDP.
The panel based its decision on failure of the PDP to fully comply with a court that was made in 2022, which it said directed the party to conduct congress in the 17 Local Government Areas in the state.
It, therefore, held that though the lawmakers won their respective seats during the National Assembly election that held on February 25, all the scores that were credited them, amounted to wasted votes.
It ordered that candidates that got the second majority lawful votes at the election, should be sworn in as winners of the legislative seats.
Canada’s Abuja, Lagos Visa Centres Open – High Commission
The Canadian High Commission in Nigeria has said its Abuja and Lagos visa application centres remain open for the processing of immigration, refugee and citizenship applications.
The Canadian High Commission had on Tuesday announced the suspension of operations in its Abuja office following a fire incident at its generator house, which claimed two lives on Monday.
Nigerians had expressed fear that the operations suspension would hamper visa application processes.
But in a statement posted on its X handle on Thursday, the Canadian High Commission clarified that its Abuja and Lagos visa application centres remain open and operational.
In the statement by its public affairs staff, Demilade Kosemani, the commission said, “As we continue to mourn the passing of our dear colleague from the High Commission of Canada in Abuja, please note the following information below:
“Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada clients: processing of applications continues. Regardless of the suspension of operations at the High Commission of Canada in Abuja, the Visa Application Centres in Abuja and Lagos remain open.”
Meanwhile, a travel agency, , TMT Travels and Tours Limited, has sympathised with the Canadian High Commission over the Monday tragic fire incident.
In a statement on Thursday the agency’s Chief Executive Officer, Collins Onukwubiri, said, “We at TMT Travels and Tours Limited shares in the grief and sense of loss of the Canadian embassy in Abuja. The partial burning of the Canadian embassy in Abuja and the death of two workers there was most unfortunate.
“Canada, as a major player in the Nigeria’s travel and tours business, is an integral player in Nigeria’s economy. We know how devastating this unfortunate incident is to them but we want to say that we stand with them in this time and always. We specially condole with the families of the two persons who died in the process.”