Adebayo Obajemu

As part of measures to help the federal government at promoting agricultural businesses as well as Small and Medium Enterprises, four banks in the country have contributed N54.6 billion to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Agri-Business/Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS) in 2019.

Investigation revealed that Access Bank Plc, among three banks, had contributed N34.1 billion to the scheme in 2018. The scheme that was introduced on February 9, 2017, was an initiative of the Bankers’ Committee in which banks were required to set aside five per cent of their Profit After Tax (PAT).
The fund is domiciled with the central bank of Nigeria.

For the financial year ended December 31, 2019, Access Bank Plc contributed N9.69 billion to the scheme as against N5.86 billion reported in 2018.  Guaranty Trust Bank Plc (GTBank) contributed N22.1 billion to AGSMEIS as against N14.41 billion reported in 2018, an increase of 57.9 per cent. Coming close was Zenith Bank Plc with N22.1 billion contribution to the AGSMEIS in 2019 from N13.8 billion in 2018 while Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc contributed N40.8 million to the scheme in 2019, 133per cent increase over N17.5 million reported in 2018. The CBN had said it would issue loans at five per cent and with no collateral to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) through the NIRSAL Micro Finance Bank (MFB).

The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele said the loan would be issued under the AGSMEIS. Emefiele said the apex bank as well as the Bankers Committee which comprises of all the banks and regulators in the banking industry are not happy with the level of disbursement of the several interventions. He noted that while some of the intervention funds are being taken up, the level of deployment was not encouraging. “It is very true that we have the MSME fund and indeed many other funds that are meant to be targeted at smallholder farmers as well as those who are into micro or small businesses in Nigeria.

“We have disbursed part of that money but even we in the banking community are not happy that not all those funds have been disbursed so far and I must also confess that sometimes I feel embarrassed when people say are these funds here and how come we have not heard about it or how come we have not been able to access it. “So issues bothering on access to credit is a major bottleneck which the bankers’ community felt we needed to rectify and then think of how to resolve the issue.

Under the central bank we have the commercial agriculture lending scheme, we have N210 billion set aside for MSMEs, we have close to N60 billion that is available to fund agric and small businesses and yet these monies are lying there, they are not been deployed to the people. “We know we are doing our best in the area of Anchor Borrowers Programme where over 850,000 farmers have accessed the loans and where over N100 billion have been disbursed, but we are saying it is not enough. We are saying there are still more people who need to access this and then create jobs for people particularly in the rural communities and also improve the wealth in our rural areas. It is permeating but it is not moving as fast as we thought.”