The Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending has dismissed those who protested at its head office in Abuja as paid protesters.
NIRSAL said the protesters are part of the ongoing campaign against it by corrupt interests fighting against the successful agricultural reforms by the Buhari administration.
Describing the protesters as sponsored miscreants, NIRSAL said they came with “unsubstantiated and discredited allegations against NIRSAL, NIRSAL’s Managing Director and the Central Bank of Nigeria”.
It described as baseless the claim on the colourful flyers and placards carried by the protesters accusing NIRSAL and the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme of “diverting farmers money” and “killing farmers”.
The messages on the placards and flyers included: Anchor Borrowers programme is a lie; CBN is diverting farmers’ money.
NIRSAL said in a statement on Wednesday: “However, when they were engaged by NIRSAL staff, some of the protesters who looked dirty and unkempt and spoke in Hausa language revealed that they knew nothing about NIRSAL’s operations and admitted that were sponsored to protest against NIRSAL.
“They also admitted that they have no information about NIRSAL’s operations, the Anchor Borrowers Programme and the Central Bank.
“According to them, they were at NIRSAL to do a job they were paid for by their sponsor(s) who got them a police permit.”
Reacting to the incident, NIRSAL’s Head of Corporate Communications, Anne Ihugba, described the sponsored protest as a failed attempt to distort the facts about verified contributions of NIRSAL such as over N100 billion facilitated from the financial sector into the agricultural sector, which is improving the lives of farmers across the country.
Ihugba said: “Though NIRSAL found the inauspicious visit as an opportunity to engage and enlighten more young people on its agribusiness initiatives and the promise they hold, the protest smacked of witch-hunting and a well-crafted agenda to smear the organization. Questioned individually, the boys admitted to belonging to no ABP tickets and were in fact recruited from Abuja and environs, particularly from areas such as Mararaba, Mabushi and Jabi. This negates the claim that they are farmers from Kebbi State.
“To be absolutely clear, all successful ABP applications for the 2019 farming seasons have been honoured by NIRSAL. As required by the guidelines issued by the Central Bank, farmers with incomplete loan documentations are prevented from accessing the funds in their accounts until they meet the obligations.”
Ihugba said the attempt was bound to fail because “facts do not lie” and the effort to discredit the institution by persons who do not mean well for the sector and the country was bound to fail.