By Itohan Abara-Laserian
AgroNigeria, organisers of Feed Nigeria Summit on Sunday said it would hold the fort for the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agriculture Landing (NIRSAL) and its activities against corruption allegation.
Mr Richard-Mark Mbaram told a news conference in Lagos, against the backdrop of a virtual media report accusing the management of NIRSAL of corruption.
According to Mbaram, who is also a legal practitioner, investigations shows that none of the said allegations, including withholding of N1 billion intervention fund is true.
He said that he owed Nigeria’s economy and the agriculture sector a duty to guide and challenge what was wrong and with negative intent to mislead Nigerians.
“Over the past week, a malicious and defamatory publication targeting NIRSAL and it’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Abdulhameed Aliyu has been circulating in the virtual media space.
“It is pertinent to state that no objective reader of the said story, will be left in doubt as to the grave nature of the allegations therein contained.
“In consideration of the fact that the subject of these allegations, NIRSAL, is an apex actor in the Nigerian agricultural sector.
“One which AgroNigeria has systematically followed from inception, the Editorial Board decided to subject the publication to an in-house investigation.
“The findings from this investigation points to the fact that a deliberate campaign of calumny is being waged against NIRSAL by persons who have sinister, self-serving motives and have had their operations circumscribed by NIRSAL, in the course of the latter’s execution of its mandate,” Mbaram said.
He disclosed that the carrier of the said publication were faceless as there was no traceable address to the online firm.
“To begin with, the main purveyor of the allegations:“Per Second News” is a faceless online medium with no traceable address.
“It is trite that the ethical code of the Media Profession and the extant laws of the country make it unacceptable to re-broadcast unverified and injurious allegations.
“However, AgroNigeria, in its role as the `Voice of the Nigerian Agricultural Sector’ has investigated these allegations and found them to be baseless.
“For instance, the so-called `Corruption Magazine” in a post on the 24th of April, 2019 and captioned, `NIRSAL Caught up in Another N342m Misappropriation Scam’, alleged that `NIRSAL under the current leadership has been accused of withholding N1 billion intervention fund in Owerri, Imo State and another in Delta State”.
“We sought to hear from the officials of these governments as to who the alleged ‘expropriated’ funds belonged to, and the conclusion was to the end that it is was an exercise in fake news,” he added.
Mbaram also said that a transaction involving Hope Concepts Investment Cooperatives and Credit Union, in which N342 million belonging to the entity was allegedly misappropriated by NIRSAL, investigated by AgroNigeria’s revealed that the monies had since been returned to the coffers of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“After the result of NIRSAL’s due-diligence revealed a number of questionable dealings which run foul of the De-risking Entity’s pre-disbursement requirements, the said amount was returned to CBN.
“As the leading agricultural media and communications entity in Nigeria, AgroNigeria is raising its voice in support of NIRSAL, an entity which today is an embodiment of the present administration’s resolve to drive job creation by fixing the agricultural value chain.
“Thereby, making it possible for the financial sector to provide services to a sector which has hitherto been starved of financing.
“Indeed, we commend the foresight of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and in particular, its Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, for empowering NIRSAL to deliver on its mandate in the manner which it has done, he said.
According to him, NIRSAL is not a lending institution. It is a de-risking entity that provides third party guarantee on transactions consummated between Participating Financial Institutions (PFIs) and their customers.
He said that the role of NIRSAL was that of a catalyst for growth in the agricultural sector of the Nigerian economy and has so far been remarkable in its activities.
Mbaram said that NIRSAL had so far granted over N85 billion worth of agricultural loans and the renewal of Emefiele’s tenure was an evidence that the current administration had resolved to sustain its economic policies around import substitution.
He therefore, urged the agricultural community to reject and disregard the ‘attention seeking exercise’ and remain focused on moving the sector forward by working with the institutions and agencies that are doing their very best to bring the dreams of farmers to reality.
Also, Mbaram urged the NIRSAL Team to stay focused and committed to their terms of reference as he called on the media to insist on verification of information before lending their platforms for publishing or re-publishing same.