By Shuaib Sadiq
Kaduna – The Federal Government on Tuesday says it will restructure the Bank of Agriculture (BOA), to support the diversification programme of the present administration.
The Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe gave the hint at the launch of Capacity Building and Institutional Strengthening of Bank of Agriculture in Kaduna.
Represented by Mr. Godwin Obinna-Opara, an official of the ministry, Ogbe said the present administration had approved the restructuring aimed at strengthening the bank for optimal service delivery to farmers.
According to the minister, restructuring, re-capitalising and repositioning of BOA is one of such programmes President Muhammadu Buhari has given his approval.
He said the bank remains key instrument required for funding agricultural activities to help diversify the economy and move away from over reliance on oil.
“At no other time in the history of Nigeria that government had taken such interest and time to assess the operations of BOA with a view to exploring these potentials by adopting appropriate financing measures needed.
“Our country currently needs a financing mechanism that will help small holder farmers, agro-prenurials and SMEs access credit facilities at affordable cost.
“As a matter of fact, we’re looking at single digit interest rate, that is what we believe in the Ministry,” Ogbe said.
Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor on Development Finance Institutions (DFIs), Mr Paul Eluhaiwe said that the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) “is sick and needs restructuring.”
Eluhaiwe, however, explained that BOA had the needed resources to turn its fortunes for the better.
“Posterity will not forgive us if we fail to turn it around because the bank has all the resources in this world to be turned around for the good of Nigerian farmers.
Also, Dr Vincent Akpotaire, Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) said that BOA would be restructured to meet a model that would assist in doing agro- business particularly with rural populace who are mostly farmers.
“Specifically, policy and regulation of the bank would undergo the needed restructuring, staff capacity and financial base.
“Its Information and Communication Technology (ICT) will also be restructured to meet international standard in agro-allied enterprises.
“I wonder why BOA will not succeed in Nigeria, if others have succeeded somewhere else in the world; there must be checks and balances in loan being given out.
“BOA should not just be a conduit for giving out loan, it should also be a conduit to recovering the loan being given out,” Akpotaire said.
Meanwhile, Mr Andoh Mensah, Chief Country Programme Officer, AfDB, said the on-going economic downturn had financially weakened BOA in bridging the gap between rural and urban populace in terms of accessing loans.
Mensah pledged the support of the AfDB to BOA even as he said, “we remain committed to working with BOA.’’
Earlier, BOA’s Acting Managing Director, Mr Babatunde Igun said that the bank was financially weak in addition to other challenges militating against its optimal performance.
He said the bank was working to improve its staff skills to enhance their capacity for effective service delivery.
Igun assured that the bank would brace up for modern agricultural activities that would attract competitiveness and deliver its core mandate to farmers.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the AfDB had recently approved a grant of $1.1 million dollars for the Bank of Agriculture to undertake the restructuring programme aimed at staff training to strengthen service delivery.