In what could be termed a revolutionary move to expand financial inclusion, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), last week, announced a new policy guideline that will govern a new non-interest financing regime.
Tagged Non-Interest Guidelines for Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme, the CBN said the objective was to engage a minimum of 370,000 youths in agricultural production over the next three years.
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The scheme is expected to provide interest-free financing through Non-Interest Financial Institutions under its Agri-Business, Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund.
Put simply, the policy is expected to allow young farmers and others in the value chain to access financing to boost agricultural production in the country and provide employment to the teeming youths.
It is needless to say that the policy is long awaited.
For decades, millions of Nigerians had been excluded from numerous interventions by successive governments because of their insistence on payment of interest in any financing that came with such interventions.
What this meant was that such interventions made little or no impact on the large number of the population and made it difficult to lift the teeming population out of poverty.
In addition, it has become increasingly difficult for the apex bank to attain its target of 80 per cent of financial inclusion by 2020.
This is to the detriment of our economic progress.
Over the years, the few Non-Interest Financial Institutions have found it difficult to cope because of their low capital base, but with this new policy, it is expected there will be more avenues to access such loans.
Thus, this policy must receive all the support from all Nigerians because the agricultural sector and the SMEs employ millions of citizens.
As we welcome this bold move by the CBN, it is also important that key players in the implementation of this laudable policy ensure its full realisation.
The apex bank needs to take the lead, in collaboration with other relevant government agencies, to ensure adequate enlightenment of the potential beneficiaries of the scheme.
It should be remembered that most of these are based in the rural areas and lack access to information.
In this regard, community-based Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and religious and community leaders have a key role to play in enlightening the populace.
The CBN must also employ all necessary measures to ensure only those that are qualified benefit from the policy, while the beneficiaries are made to repay the loans promptly.
We should not, under any circumstance, allow this laudable programme to go the way of the others either because of bureaucracy or dishonesty.
Millions of naira is yet to be recovered from the beneficiaries of the Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP). This programme should never be allowed to go the same way.
State governments also have a big role to play in ensuring its success as its execution largely depends on their actions or inactions.
On no occasion should the programme be seen as a means to reward political hangers-on.
The real and willing youths must be identified and enrolled in this programme for the greater benefit of our country.
They must also take the lead in enlightening their people to key into the programme.
Finally, beneficiaries must realise that the success or failure of this programme largely depends on them.
Under no circumstance should it be viewed as a means to get a share of the national cake.
We, therefore, advise anyone who is not ready to abide by the rules or has other motives besides the development of this nation to stay away.