BY OUR CORRESPONDENT |
A Management team from a new generation bank, Keystone Bank, has commended the expansion projects at a farm settlement owned by the Nigerian Farmers Group and Cooperative Society (NFGCS) in Nasarawa State.
The bank made the commendation after a surprise visit to the farm on Wednesday, saying it was impressed with the ongoing expansion works at the farm.
The Keystone Bank team from Lagos and North Central led by the Divisional Head (Abuja-Wuse Division), Mr. Akinsanmi Falaki, said the visit to the farm was part of the efforts to monitor the Central Bank support for the farm, verifying progress and also providing further support for the farmers.
The team leader said the visit was part of the bank’s routine monitoring and checks on credit facilities availed to farmers by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The farm, which is owned by over 500 farmers and managed by the NFGCS in Kokona local government area of Nasarawa State, is one of the single largest community-based farm settlements in Nigeria currently supported by the CBN.
“What I saw on ground is that there have been significant improvement on ground. The rice mill is now automated. They also now have automated poultry, cold room, they are now concluding the setting up of their greenhouse, they have planted variety of crops.
“I am here today as a top management staff of the bank, part of our routine check is to ensure that costumers utilise the funds availed to them properly and translate same into profitability.
“So far, so good, I do not have any doubt that Nigeria Farmers Group will perform and they will continue to meet their payment obligations and translate all the investment we have seen on ground to naira and kobo.
“So, it is just to encourage them to continue to work hard. I am happy that I saw the principals on ground working very hard, even when we came to the farm unannounced,” Falaki told journalists on the farm.
The financial expert, however, advised management of the farm to continue to build good relationship with creditors so as to continue to support them even with professional advice.
Also speaking, the national coordinator of the group, Mr. Retson Tedheke, said he was impressed with the visit as it provided ground to strengthen the existing relationship with Keystone Bank as well as the CBN.
“I am happy they were overwhelmed by what they saw with crop cultivation ongoing for the season by over 500 farmers.
“They saw a 45-ton rice mill, they also saw 30,000-capacity automated poultry for birds completed. They saw indoor ranch with the capacity of holding 500 animals for fattening, including cow, sheep and goats. Construction of greenhouse ongoing,” Tedheke said.
He added that the farm has positioned itself as an example of what the federal government want to see as farm settlements or RUGA as some will prefer to call it in the entire country.
“We already have a farmhouse and settlement where majority of the staff live. A standard football pitch and sports complex for indoor and outdoor recreations,” he added.
Tedheke, therefore, expressed confidence that the support gotten from the federal government through the CBN and currently monitored by Keystone Bank would no doubt yield positive results, noting that the government needed to invest more to expand the capacity of the farm so as to increase the number of staff from over 500 to at least 1,000 and above.
He said: “You can use this as a way of fighting insecurity because the truth is, this is an economy question. If you are able do this in all the local government areas or expand what we already have on ground, you can take 10,000 youths away from the streets.
“The farm has committed 100% of the facility given to it towards upgrading. More need to be done urgently to empower Nigerians knowing that we may have issues with draught.
“The farm has been able to build a dam and a powerline. The dam has been able to account for support of farmers and communities around the area farming all year in the last one year.
“A lot has been done but more need to be done,” Tedheke said even as he commended the CBN low interest rate facility.
He, however, appealed to the apex bank to summon the courage to release more funds for farmers like the group, who have dedicated their life to building the nation’s agro sector.