By Ginika Okoye
The Federal Government has inaugurated an Interim Management Board for the Bank of Agriculture (BOA), as part of efforts to restructure the bank.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who inaugurated the board in Abuja on Monday, directed the board to begin the recovery of loans owed by farmers and other customers within 90 days.
The minister also instructed the board to find ways of making the bank proactive, strong and capable of sustaining the needs of farmers who needed credit facilities to enable them to produce more food.
Ogbeh also urged the board to work toward reducing the interest rate on loans to a one-digit level so as to encourage more farmers to patronise the bank.
He expressed optimism that the bank would be one of the largest banks in the country, with branches in all the local government areas of the country to facilitate its interaction with farmers.
He urged the bank to take over the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) set up to give loans to farmers.
Ogbeh said that the Federal Government would explore partnerships with the Bank of Holland and the Credit Agricoup of France and Morocco to see how they could assist the bank.
He noted that the World Bank recently stated that Nigeria spent 66 per cent of all its tax revenue on servicing debts, while its debt profile currently stood at 56 billion U.S. dollars.
“We are going to need you to deploy everything within your capacity to make your assignment successful.
“One of the challenges we faced in agric lending in the past is the cost of the fund; so you have to design how to make the interest rate one digit.
“We are going to depend on your ingenuity to make it a reality.
“As of today, the bank is not digitalised. You have to find out how we can quickly help you digitalise its operations.
“You have to try and get the bank’s debts back. You are free to start informing those owing the bank that in the next 90 days, you expect them to start paying back.
“If they fail at the period the warning is given, the law will have to take its course. You also have to retrain your staff to be proactive again,’’ he said.
Responding, the Interim Managing Director of the bank, Mr Kabiru Mohammed, promised to work in concert with his team to effectively recapitalise the bank.
He assured farmers that the team would work to reduce the banks’ response time to their requests for loans.
“We can improve on mobility; improve on the quality and number of staff, especially extension workers.
“We want to ensure that whenever a farmer asks for loan from the bank, he or she receives instant response to the request,’’ Mohammed said.
President Muhammadu Buhari in March appointed the new board of the bank to facilitate the achievement of his administration’s vision for the development of the agriculture sector.
Other members of the board include Prince Akenzua, Executive Director, Corporate Finance, and Mr Gabriel Okenwa Executive Director, Partnerships and Strategy.
Mr Ameh Owoicho, Executive Director, Credit and Empowerment and Mr Bode Abikoye, Executive Director, Credit and Empowerment, are also members of the board.