• Saturday, March 02, 2024
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BusinessDay

Imo government defaults in agric project counterpart funding

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The perpetual foot dragging by the Imo state government in the last four years in honouring the payment of all pending counterpart funding obligations has led to the stalling of many projects, according to stakeholders.

Some of the stalled projects are the World Bank/ Federal Government’s $200 million Fadama III Extension Project in 2013 for which Imo government was to pay N100 million participation fund for 50 hectares of cassava farmland earmarked by the project. Imo government’s non-payment of its counterpart funding obligation led to the state’s consequent exclusion from the project that involves 35 other states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The World Bank in 2012 assessed its $300 million implementation of the National Fadama Development Project (Fadama III), which was aimed at increasing food security, income of its users and reduction of rural poverty in Nigeria. The global lender, after its assessment of Fadama III Project in 2012, said the project’s implementation had impacted the lives of rural farmers in Nigeria, raising their incomes by 63 percent. As a result, it extended the project from 2013 to 2015 with $200 million funding.

Other stalled projects in the state are the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN’s) N2 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF), and Bank of Industry (BOI)’s Industrial Development Fund, which would have benefitted at least 400 cooperative societies and member-companies of the Owerri Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (OCCIMA).

According to Damian Keke, the Imo Fadama Officer, in an exclusive interview with BusinessDay in Owerri, said Imo state, recognised as a heavy cassava producer in all of the federation, was selected for cassava farming in the Fadama III Extension Project.

Keke added, “Imo state government was expected to contribute N100 million as counterpart participation commitment, to be spent in bush clearing and preparation of at least 50 hectares of land. But it is lamentable that until the deadline expired in late 2013, our Governor, Rochas Okorocha could not pay. So Imo was the only state in the whole country that is not participating in the Fadama III extension programme. This has left us suffering. All our cassava farms are wasting.”

Speaking further, he said: “We needed tractors to till and prepare the land, inputs like fertilizers, irrigation water, among others; but since our Governor, Okorocha refused to pay the counterpart fund, we couldn’t get these things. The World Bank and Federal Government could not do anything for us.”

Fadama is a Hausa name for irrigable land, usually low-lying plains with underlying shallow waters found along major river systems.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey Samuel, president of SESCOOP Financing and Investment Cooperative Limited, Owerri, which also coordinates the activities of cooperative groups in the South East zone, told BusinessDay that there were over 10,000 cooperative societies in Imo state alone; adding that most of them face severe funding challenges.

Samuel said, “Sadly these cooperatives could have benefitted if Imo had accessed the CBN’s MSMED fund.

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