Journalism of Courage

Smear campaign:  Sponsored farmer-protesters storm throng NIRSAL Office, Abuja, alleging diversion of farmers’ money

 

…we are paid and mobilised for the protest – protester

…sponsors also secured police permit for us

Pockets of protesters who massed at NIRSAL headquarters in Abuja betrayed their hirers as they confessed openly that they were recruited, paid and mobilized to stage the protest against the management of the organization and the Central Bank of Nigeria over the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.

The protesters, who claimed to be farmers, displayed various placards containing unsubstantiated and discredited allegations against NIRSAL which content they did not understand when asked by reporters.

The colourful flyers and placards accused NIRSAL and the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme of “diverting farmers’ money” and “killing farmers”.

Some of the placards read : “ANCHOR BORROWERS IS PROGRAM IS A LIE, CBN NIRSAL IS DIVERTING FARMERS MONEY.’’ – all in a bid to discredit or rubbish the successful agricultural reforms of the Buhari administration.

Mr.Aliyu NIRSAL MD CEO

A scruffy-looking man told newsmen in Hausa language that he did not understand NIRSAL’s operations and the services it offers.

“We are sponsored to protest against NIRSAL. We are here to do a job we are paid for … they (sponsors) also secured police permit for us to protest,’’ he said.

Another protester, who wore a tattered dress, said:“Some of us do not have information about NIRSAL’s operations, the Anchor Borrowers Programme and the Central Bank.’’

Contacted for comments on the stage-managed protest, NIRSAL’s Head of Corporate Communications, Anne Ihugba, described it as a sponsored and a failed attempt to distort facts about verified contributions of NIRSAL such as over N100 billion facilitated from the financial sector and channeled into the agricultural sector.

She said:“The intervention is improving the lives of farmers across the country.

“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, I must say that the protest smacks 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.”

She added:“The attempt is 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 is bound to fail.

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