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EFCC quizzes NIRSAL officials, others over wheat project scandal

Top officials of the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) have been interrogated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Daily…

Top officials of the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) have been interrogated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Daily Trust reports.

This was sequel to a report by Daily Trust over the utilization of a N5.6bn loan meant for a pilot wheat project in Kano and Jigawa states published in our Sunday edition of January 30, 2021.

The edition had reported how a multi-billion naira loan guaranteed by NIRSAL for three companies for the cultivation-to-harvest of twenty thousand (20,000) hectares of dry season wheat in Kano and Jigawa states was allegedly diverted for other purposes by the investor companies in connivance with NIRSAL officials.

The companies are Mainframe Agricultural Investment Limited; Forest Hill Agricultural Development Limited and Woodfarm Agricultural Limited.

They were said to have taken advantage of the federal government’s initiative on piloting wheat production in Nigeria and after getting technical assistance from the African Development Bank, they approached their bank (Keystone Bank) for a loan guaranteed by NIRSAL for the execution of the project.

However, farmers in the affected communities in Kano and Jigawa states had said the wheat project did not take place, questioning the utilization of the loan.

Following the report, sources within NIRSAL said operatives of the EFCC were at their office in Abuja last week and invited several top officials for questioning their roles in the wheat project.

One of the NIRSAL staff, who did not want to be named, said those quizzed by the EFCC included a former Head of Finance, the current Assistant Head of Finance, the current Head of Procurement and his assistant as well as all consultants working with NIRSAL.

Also invited, according to sources, are some directors of the three companies that were guaranteed loans for the wheat project. 

NIRSAL’s Managing Director, Aliyu Abdulhameed, had confirmed the petitions but denied the allegations therein saying they were masterminded by faceless individuals to tarnish the image of the organisation. 

Among the agencies that received petitions against NIRSAL were the EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, the State Security Services, the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit.

NIRSAL’s MD had written to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice seeking intervention on what he termed “unwarranted and multiple investigations of NIRSAL PLC by law enforcement agencies.

Consequently, the Office of the Attorney General, through the Department of Public Prosecution of the Federation, wrote to the police, asking it to proceed with the investigation while directing the other anti-corruption agencies to suspend theirs.”

Although EFCC’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, said he was yet to get information on the matter, an impeccable source within the anti-graft agency confirmed the invitation, saying investigation on the alleged corrupt practices at NIRAL were ongoing.   

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