The Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission recently arrested executives of the Kano chapter of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) over alleged N10 billion fraud linked to the Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP) fund meant for rice farmers in the state.
The Executive Chairman of the commission, Barr. Muhuyi Magaji Rimin Gado, said the failure of an agreement reached by the commission with the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) to sell a substantial quantity of its product at a pegged price was what resulted in the discovery of the shady deals.
Barr. Rimin Gado said the agreement failed because RIFAN complained that there was no way it could produce a bag of rice at a pegged price as the price of paddy rice had escalated.
He said, “While deliberating on a possible way out, we realised that there were several complaints about the Federal Government’s ABP intervention scheme on rice under the state chapter of RIFAN.
“It then became clear to us that this may be connected with the hike in paddy price as complained by RIFAN.
“As such, we commenced an investigation into the matter which led to the arrest of some executives of the association sequel to complaints about difficulty in loan recovery as it was discovered that most of the beneficiaries are fictitious, which makes the recovery of the N10bn loan difficult.
“Presently, less than five percent has been recovered.”
Rimin Gado added that when the commission tried to reach the beneficiaries through their contacts captured on the list, it was discovered that most of the names were fictitious.
He further said the commission was also investigating another intervention loan for the rice farmers through the Bank of Agriculture (BOA), where the state government served as guarantor in 2016 to the tune of N1bn.
According to him, the ABP loan, which was issued in 2018 to farmers in the state, was not in cash, but in agricultural services and inputs that included fertiliser, seeds, chemicals, insurance and water pumps.
The anti-graft boss revealed that the repayment of the loan was not supposed to be in cash, but in the form of paddy rice so as to reduce the cost of rice in the country.
He maintained that the threat by RIFAN to exclude Kano State from the list of beneficiaries of ABP scheme would not deter the commission from investigating the N10bn alleged fraud in its Kano chapter.
He said the commission would arraign the executive members of RIFAN for failure to appear before it after being released on bail on Thursday last week.
It was reported in the media that in 2016, all rice mills in the state refused to vouch as off-takers in the scheme for Kano rice farmers, hence the state government stood for them. In that year, however, the loan was not recovered, which led to the suspension of the scheme in the state for a year.
It was, however, gathered that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) decided to continue with the scheme in the state through RIFAN, and ever since, the recovery of the loan meant to be a revolving fund has proven difficult.
The Deputy Secretary General of RIFAN, Alhaji Ado Hassan Yakasai, faulted the commission’s N10b fraud claim as baseless and false.