In what pundits may describe as an ignoble decision by Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, the State Lawmakers have frustrated the possibilities of poultry farmers in the State to benefit anytime soon from a Central Bank scheme known as Anchor Poultry Borrower Scheme because of their possible inability to secure slots in the scheme.
Their inability to secure a slot it was gathered had pushed them to capitalize on a technical glitch in one of the newspapers where names of beneficiaries of the scheme were published, ignoring other newspapers and online publication which had the correct version of the beneficiaries.
It could be recalled that the lawmakers had during plenary on Thursday used a newspaper where they overtime have described as not being worthy of consideration as a newspaper to make a smoke-screened case, a situation which made Member Ibesikpo Asutan, Rt. Hon Aniekan Uko to warn his colleagues on relying only on newspaper to make a case.
It was also observed that members in their various contributions openly expressed displeasure on why they were not ‘consulted’ before coming out with the list of beneficiaries, a situation the Speaker, Rt Hon Onofiok Luke pleaded with members to ignore with claim that overtime lawmakers have not enjoyed the benefit of being consulted before some decisions are taken, thus there was no need for their colleagues to hold on to the lapses as if it was strange to them. He also added that the Executive sometimes have the liberty to take some actions which may not warrant direct checks from the legislature.
Apparently not able to hide his grievance against those he suspected must have refused to observe the hitherto ritual of giving House Members slot before anything is allowed to sail through, Member Abak State Constituency, Rt Hon Friday Iwok was quoted to have said ” This is corruption and fraud. This is why we should put right people in positions. This is an aspect of what has been happening. This one is only revealing. This is someone in Due Process office but cannot apply Due process. This is a result of putting wrong people in office.”
In a related development, fresh facts has emerged as to how the suspension of the Anchor Poultry Borrower Scheme by the AKHA if not lifted immediately may thwart the chance of Akwa Ibom people to accessing N3.5 billion loan coupled with what caused the replication in the names of beneficiaries published and State government’s involvement in the scheme.
TheMail Newspaper which spoke with the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Technical Matters and Due Process Engr. Ufot Ebong gathered that contrary to speculations that the scheme is owned and managed by the State Government, private firms namely; New Face of Agriculture in conjunction with Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation, Poultry Association of Nigeria Akwa Ibom State Chapter and Akwa Prime are in charge of scheme.
While offering insight to the fact the State Government was not involved in the securing and management of the N3.5 billion loan earmarked for the scheme, the SSA noted that the only way the State Government came into the scene was its decision to publish names of beneficiaries as collected from the firms in charge of the scheme to ensure the scheme was real.
He said “one day, the SA on Agriculture, Moses Armstrong approached me and informed me that as SA to the Governor he was able to work with some private firms; New face of Agriculture owned by an Akwa Ibom Son from Essien Udim LGA, they work with FCMB, Central Bank, Nigerian Agricultural insurance Coporation, Poultry Association of Nigeria Akwa Ibom Chapter and Akwa Prime that the Governor commissioned. In all these there was no government involvement except the SA. He brought to my notice that those people have been able to secure 3.5 billion agricultural loan scheme from Central Bank even as we have close to 500 billion Naira of such loan sitting in central bank and Akwa Ibom people have not been able to access since 80s”.
“When we heard the breakthrough, I was happy and I asked how the beneficiaries will be selected which he said will be done by Poultry Association as they are the people that know actual poultry farmers and that central bank is not sharing the 3.5 billion Naira in cash rather they will be giving day old chicks and feeds .
“All one has to do is that you must have a place you raise poultry and you will just get these things for your business under the guarantee of Agricultural Insurance Corporation. People will not physically touch this money. Only at the point of selling the product that you will have money. This is done so that people will not runaway with the money.”
He explained that on having the sight on how the scheme works, he told the SA on Agriculture that for the loan to be accessed for people in the State, it was imperative for the governor to be in the know as the Chief security Officer which they objected with emphasis that the loan demands that it should be devoid of government interference and must be run by a private company which the New Face of Agriculture met the requirement.
He revealed that he latter called the group and informed them that it was still important for the Governor to come for the flag off which when he intimated the Governor, the Governor informed him that he had seen a similar scheme from the Ministry of Agriculture signed by Commissioner and anchored by the Ministry in collaboration with the organization.
He noted that it that moment that the governor inquired about the authenticity of the scheme Mandating him to ensure it was real by publishing names of the beneficiaries names on newspapers.
He added “I asked Armstrong for the names and he gave the list which contained 3, 862 different names. I gave the names to the Chief Press Secretary to publish only for me to be informed later that nine names were duplicated in several places.
“I called CPS and he said it was a mistake. I sought his permission to immediately send the original list to SA on New media which they published it on the internet. Why my name was there was that there was no provision for electronic signature. The reason was that if people have queries that the names were not real names they can contact me.”
While stressing that the decision of the House to suspend the scheme was wrongly informed by the publication infested by mistakes, names of the real beneficiaries can be found from the latest Newspapers that published the repeated names or online platforms.
Engr. Ebong maintained that the scheme was without fraud even as such loan has been accessed still by an Akwa Ibom son in cassava.
He expressed displeasure over the suspension of the scheme stressing that with the decision, Central Bank may withdraw the loan as they had warned against government interference thus making Akwa Ibom people lose out.
Contacted, the SA to the Governor on Agriculture, Mr. Moses Armstrong told TheMail that nothing was fraudulent about the scheme rather the House of Assembly were misguided through a publication that had mistakes as sent out by the Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Ekerette Udoh. He explained that correct names of the beneficiaries were found in the Nation and Sun Newspapers and some online platforms.
On his part, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor admitted that the publication which had names repeated stemmed from him but described the repetition as a technical glitch.
He added “Full names of beneficiaries were published in The Nation of Monday last week and The Sun of Tuesday last week, all 3862 names. No single name was repeated”.