Exclusive: How FG, CBN Cashed In On Border Lockdown To Recoup Anchor Borrowers Scheme Loan
By Centus Nweze
Rice growers in the country might well accept that the days of land border restriction on importation foreign per boiled rice is gradually coming to an end despite whatever harm they say the policy reversal might do to their businesses.
As gathered by elombah.com, the usefulness of the policy was meant to shore up huge deficit in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN’s Anchor Borrower Scheme, ABS, meant to stimulate rice production and processing in the country.
As gathered, the N16 trillion alleged deficit in the Apex bank’s balance sheet as at the end of 2018 has its significant potion coming from non performing loans of ABS.
In August 2019, federal government instituted a Joint Border Drill, JBOD, across the country to be administered by the office of the NSA.
JBOD operations is in three sectors. Sector one covers the borders in Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers. It serves the south south and south east; Sector Two covers Seme and Idi Iroko borders; Sector Three takes care of the middlebelt border states while Sector Four covers the North East borders and the fringes of the North West.
With Operatives of JBOD drawn from the army, Nigerian Customs, police and related security agencies, the task force is believed to have made a massive haul of an estimated $3 billion in seizures of per boiled rice and it’s excise value.
But federal government, recently, effected a partial easing of land border restriction on the back of hues and cries from citizens and neighbouring countries.
As result, rice farmers, chiefly, have cried out to government stating that the policy reversal would hurt their rice farming.
”But the matter here is that government has achieved what it set out to achieve which was not to protect local farmers, per se,” explained a CBN source to elombah.com.
According to the source speaking on condition of anonymity for reason he later explained, the CBN had embarked on a rash of money guzzling interventions in agriculture, small and medium scale enterprises it believes will stimulate economic and food sufficiency growth.
The scheme was also to improve its response to liquidity sapping fuel subsidy to sustain local use, at the time.
The situation scares the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, badly. So scared was the governor that he had to put iron clad blockage on information flow from CBN.
“As I speak to you, there is an iron clad blockage on information in the CBN and close surveillance on top directors manning sensitive offices in the bank,” the source added.
The source also alleged that the surveillance is being managed by an offshore firm believed to be Israeli owned.
While efforts at getting official responses to these intriguing speculations are being stymied by CBN spokespersons refusal to pick calls or respond to texts, facts from bank’s official communications, credible analysis from observers and international financial movements put together by elombah.com investigations tends to lend credence to the informer’s claims.
CBN may have incurred as much N16 trillion deficit on interventions that hasn’t yielded dividends.
One of the intervention is ABS, meant to provide loan to rice farmers to grow enough rice for domestic consumptions.
With Over 900, 000 rice farmers captured in the scheme, the dividend in the last four years should have ensured not only rice sufficiency but also returns in terms of the capital expended in the project.
CBN sources however say that returns have been below expectations.
While more rice have been produced, there are no evidence to show that they are being consumed locally or loans repatriated to CBN.
This could be as result of several factors. One of them is rice middle men hijack and the rampancy of herdsmen attack on farmlands in the rice belt if the country.
Customs, for instance, estimated that over 500, 000 trailers of grains including rice leave the country’s borders on daily basis to neighboring Niger, Chad, Cameroun and as far as Burkina Faso. “We cannot stop them because of Ecowas protocol on free trade,” explained an NCS, source to the paper.
As also learnt, the middle men make the cross border trade because trading in French francs, the currency used by most of the countries surrounding Nigeria makes more business sense. It is, however, unlikely if the trading makes equal remittances into CBN’s purse where the ABS fund was drawn.