SEEDAN Urges FG to Pay Up Outstanding N10.4bn GES Scheme Debt
The Seed Entrepreneurs Association of Nigeria (SEEDAN) have called on the Federal Government to clear the outstanding N10.4 billion owed its members that participated in the 2014/2015 Growth Enhancement Support (GES) Scheme.
Mr Richard Olafare, the President, SEEDAN, said this at a workshop on ethics and financial standards for seed producers in Abuja on Thursday.
According to him, the Federal Government has paid N6 billion out of the N16 billion outstanding debt owed input suppliers under the defunct GES scheme.
“The immediate past administration left over N16 billion as debt from farm inputs, including fertilisers supplied under the GES scheme. But President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has been paying us in bits, leaving an outstanding balance of N10.4 billion, which we hope to get before the expiration of this administration.”
“When the sum of N6 billion was released, the seed companies didn’t get up to N1 billion. We have been begging and lobbying to see if we can get the money paid soon, so we can continue our businesses. Most of us collected bank loans to participate in the scheme and the banks have been on our neck to pay off the loans,’’ Olafare said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the GES scheme was initiated by the immediate past Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, for Nigerian farmers.
GES was a farm support initiative through which registered farmers had access to quality seeds, fertilisers and agro-chemicals at 50 per cent subsidised price.
The scheme was, however, bedeviled by many challenges, including supply of substandard inputs to farmers.
This forced the current administration to scrap and replace it with the Agricultural Inputs and Mechanisation Scheme (AIMS).
The SEEDAN president said the association was doing everything possible to help the seed industry access funding, and by extension assure farmers of quality seeds.
Olafare said that the association ensured that its members complied with laid-down standards and regulations in the supply of inputs to farmers to protect the industry.
He said that the workshop tagged: Ethics and Financial Standards for Seed Producers- Panacea to Sustainable Quality Seed Production, was aimed at equipping industry players with technical capacities to ensure food security.
“We want to make sure that they have access to quality early generating seeds and finance by going all out to see how we can get access to seed funding, either through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or private investors,’’ Olafare said.
Dr Philip Ojo, the Director-General, National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) said that measures were being taken to ensure that the seed entrepreneurs were paid in due time.
“We, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh with the representative of SEEDAN, have met with CBN governor to address this pending debt owed by the previous government.”
“The country is talking about food security. However, we can’t achieve food security without seed security. When the seed is secured then you have good production practices. I am happy the minister is on top of the issue. These are some of the things in place to ensure this problem is out behind us,’’ Ojo said.
Hon. Dandutse Mohammed, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on FCT Judiciary, urged the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) to work closely with NASC.
Mohammed said that this would ensure that only quality seeds were supplied “to avoid future failures in terms of planting and food production’’.
He threatened to drag NIRSAL before anti-graft agencies or the National Assembly if it failed in its responsibility of engaging only registered seed companies. (NAN)