Some stakeholders in the agricultural sector have called for proper handling of the Federal Government’s plan to privatise the Bank of Agriculture (BOA).
Speaking with journalists in Abuja, they said adequate measures should be taken to guard the process against being hijacked by the elite.
The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has been on the BOA privatisation matter since 2014.
Recently, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, announced the intention of the current administration to continue with the plan.
Ogbeh told stakeholders at a rice investment forum in Abuja that 40 per cent of the bank’s shares would be reserved for farmers.
He explained that the remaining 60 per cent shareholding would go to private sector investors, the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The minister stated that privatisation of the bank would avail farmers access to loan being automatic stakeholders.
Reacting to the development, the National Coordinator, Zero Hunger and Commodity Association, Dr Tunde Arosanyin, said the privatisation exercise should be taken to the grassroots to enable smallholder farmers, especially women, access the shares.
Arosanyin said, “Women have a critical role to play in harvesting process apart from the fact that many of them are also farm land holders.
“We don’t want a situation where a few elite would just come up with names and then share it among themselves; definitely it would cause a lot of tension in this country.
“If BOA is farmers’ bank, then farmers in irrespective of their status should be able to access the shares.
“We have over 50 million farmers in this country, and if each of them buys N2,000 worth of shares, it would go a long way to capitalise the bank.”
He argued that the 40 per cent shareholding reserved for farmers was not enough, considering the fact that they form the majority of stakeholders in terms of number.
Arosanyin suggested that at least 60 per cent should go to farmers, while the other stakeholders take the remaining 40 per cent.
Mr Azubike Nwokoye, the Food and Agriculture Programme Coordinator of Actionaid Nigeria, submitted that the country had not “got to the level of privatising social services”.
“What government needs to do is to ensure that BOA and the Bank of Industry are repositioned to deliver on their mandates.
“The recapitalisation that they committed to in the 2018 budget should be implemented.
“And there should be a benchmark for measuring performance so that they can provide support to farmers across Nigeria,” Nwokoye said.
Another stakeholder, Mrs Nnanna Chukwuma, expressed fears that privatising the bank would make it a business thus resulting in increase in its interest rate.
Chukwuma, who is the Secretary, Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON), FCT Chapter, said that would not be beneficial to farmers.
“To others, privatisation of BOA is good but to us farmers it will not be good.
“We have been crying to government over the high rate of interest given to us, and if BOA is privatised, it becomes a business.
“No doubt, it will enable us access credit, but the interest rate will shoot up as well. So, it will not go on well with us as farmers,” she said.