Worried over the inability of farmers in Ebonyi State to repay the 2016 Central Bank of Nigeria Agricultural loan under its Conditional Agricultural Credit Scheme amounting to N2 billion, the State Government has set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate all issues pertaining to the handling of the scheme.
The decision was part of the outcome of the State Executive Council meeting held on Wednesday at the Government House, Abakaliki.
Briefing newsmen at the end of the meeting, the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for justice, Cletus Ofoke, noted that the decision was the outcome of Executive Council’s consideration of the report of the Ministry of Justice, which was charged with preliminary investigations on the matter.
He stated the Commission of Inquiry has become necessary in order to ascertain the immediate and remote causes of the delays in recovery of the funds as well as determine whether the farmers actually received the funds accordingly.
Ofoke stressed that Governor David Umahi in setting up the Commission exercised his legitimate powers as provided in section 3 (subsection 1) of the Commission of inquiry laws of Ebonyi State of Nigeria 2009.
The Commission, which was given four weeks to submit its report to the public through the Executive Council, is headed by the Senior Special Adviser to Governor Umahi on Religious and Welfare Matters, Rev. Fr. Abraham Nwali.
They were empowered by the mandate of the Executive Council to summon persons, bodies and agencies of Government involved in the disbursement of the loan directly or indirectly with the aim of facilitating recovery of the loan.
Ofoke Explained: “Exco received a report from the Ministry of Justice headed by myself urging the Exco to approve that a commission of inquiry be set up to look into the activities to wit: disbursement, reimbursement and of course Agricultural activities that took part as a result of that loan of N2 billion.
“So, this report was received by Exco and approved that the Governor of the state, who is the Chairman of Exco, should set up a commission of inquiry to look into management, mismanagement or the like as the case may be.
“So, the Ebonyi State Government through the Governor of the state has set up a commission of inquiry to look into the disbursement of N2 billion CBN commercial agricultural credit scheme for 2016 dry and wet season rice farming.
“The Committee is headed by SSA to the Governor on Religion and Welfare, Rev, Fr. Abraham Nwali.
“We expect from the terms of reference and the mandate given to the committee that that report will be made public and to the Exco within four weeks.
“The Exco also resolved that whatever agencies, persons or the like who were directly or indirectly involved in the disbursement should be called upon to answer one or two questions with a view to determining whether the amount was dutiful spent on farmers; who and who got what.”
The Central Bank of Nigeria Conditional Agriculture Credit Scheme is a Federal Government loan initiative through the apex bank aimed at encouraging commercial agriculture.
Reports, not only in Ebonyi State, indicated that most farmers, who were said to have been given the loan since 2016, have so far failed to repay the loan, a development viewed as sabotaging the modest efforts of Government toward agricultural development.
Source: The Eagle Online