We have read the two-part series of the views of a certain Ustaz Abubakr Siddeeq Muhammad, who used a faith-based column in the Leadership newspaper on Friday, May 12 and 19, 2023, to impugn the integrity of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and its officials over alleged unfair treatment of his companies following their application for facilities under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), which he has dubbed: “Anchor Borrowers’ Fraud”. Specifically, the writer claimed that his companies – Comerel Farms Limited and Wallmark MultiConcepts Limited, were either blacklisted and barred from participating in the ABP or denied disbursements after meeting set conditions.
As an institution that respects the rights of persons to express themselves freely in print or electronic media, the CBN would ordinarily not bother responding to views raised in Opinions and Editorials (Op-Eds). However, when people use platforms that should be propagating the truth to peddle half-truths to discredit an institution and a programme that has helped our country avoid a major food crisis in the advent of the deadly Corona Virus pandemic (COVID-19), we are left with no option than to state our part of the story, for the records.
In this case, we have decided to trigger the clause of “Right of Reply” to state the facts as they are in respect of the applications of Messrs. Comerel Farms Limited and Wallmark MultiConcepts Limited for facilities under the CBN-ABP so that the views of Ustaz Muhammad, as published in his column in the Leadership Friday, May 12 and 19, 2023, respectively, would not be taken as the truth.
While we will never question the editorial decision of a newspaper to allow a columnist to use a faith-based column to ventilate what they perceive to be wrongdoing against their interest, we find it curious that some persons go to great lengths in discrediting a policy that has been adjudged hugely successful just because the interest they serve has not been met.
Our Brief Response
For the records, we shall not join issues with Ustaz Muhammad. Still, we will give a chronological sequence of what transpired in respect of the two companies in which he has interests as far as the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) is concerned: The CBN received an application from Keystone Bank, a participating financial institution (PFI), in favour of Comerel Farms Limited on June 25, 2020, in which it requested for funding of 8,000 hectares of rice cultivation in the 2020 wet season in Sokoto State. After due process, the sum of N1,725,680,000.00 was approved by the management of the CBN on July 13, 2020, for the cultivation of 8,000 hectares. A week after, on July 20, 2020, the sum of N1,725,680,000.00 was disbursed to Keystone Bank Ltd in favour of the anchor – Comerel Farms Limited. However, following the non-disbursement of the funds to the anchor by Keystone Bank Ltd, the CBN was left with no option but to recall the full amount on November 23, 2020 – four months after its initial release. For the avoidance of doubt, the recall was purely based on the inability of Muhammad’s Comerel Farms Limited to utilise the approved fund for reasons unknown to the CBN but between the anchor and the PFI. Moreover, the wet planting season for the period had ceased.
In the case of Wallmark MultiConcepts Limited, the CBN received an application from Keystone Bank in favour of the company on April 23, 2021. Keystone Bank requested for 10,000 hectares of maize in the 2021 wet season in Kaduna State. The bank received approval for N1,057,921,100.00 for the cultivation of 5,000 hectares on July 27, 2021, as the first tranche in favour of Wallmark MultiConcepts Limited. Accordingly, the sum of N684,090,190.00, representing about 65 per cent for planting activities, was released on August 6, 2021, in favour of Wallmark MultiConcepts, for the cultivation of 5,000 hectares, being the first tranche. However, following the inability of the PFI to disburse the released funds, the CBN recalled the total amount on September 29, 2021 – Fifty-four (54) clear days after disbursement – as it had become impossible to start the wet season farming at that time. It should also be noted that the company did not meet the collateral requirement to access the fund.
We have taken time to present a chronology of the transactions in respect of Messrs. Comerel Farms Limited and Wallmark MultiConcepts Limited and their effort to access funding under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme to enable the reading public to realise the extent to which the CBN went in meeting its part of the process.
As a credible institution, the CBN will not succumb to blackmail and would not be hoodwinked into bending the rules in favour of companies and persons that see the Bank’s development finance interventions as privileges. We have, therefore, stated the fact here to correct any misinformation being peddled by vested interests who think otherwise.
While we need not employ a megaphone to amplify the success of the CBN Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, particularly with regard to the cultivation of rice and maize, it is on record that the ABP, launched by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 17, 2015, to link processors and smallholder farmers (SHFs) of the required key agricultural outputs, is one of Nigeria’s most successful agricultural interventions.
We wish to restate our commitment to our developmental mandate of stimulating access to finance for the real sector, particularly agriculture. We shall also continue to monitor the performance of disbursed funds to ensure that we meet the objective of stimulating economic growth and supporting the Federal Government’s drive for food security.
We bear no resentment against any media house that chooses to allow its platform to be unduly critical of the Bank’s policies; still, we urge that facts should be employed at all times since it is our sacred duty, as the Fourth Estate of the Realm, to protect the truth and not be used as platforms to distort the truth.
Isa AbdulMumin, PhD
Ag. Director, Corporate Communications Department,
Central Bank of Nigeria.