By NBF News

MEMBERS of the Senate Committee on Agriculture yesterday expressed concern over alleged non-payment by the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) of jumbo loans disbursed to politicians and other influential Nigerians, standing over N12 billion.

The legislators who were at the corporate office of BOA in Kaduna yesterday, as part of their oversight functions, pledged to ensure that the National Assembly do everything possible to recover the unpaid loans and also revolutionise the activities of the bank in order to redress the mounting problems of the agricultural sector in the country.

Speaking after a meeting with the management of BOA and members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, the chairman, Emmanuel Bwacha, told journalists that 'we as a committee are essentially charged with the responsibility of intervening, particularly legitimately where it becomes necessary,' pointing out that the level of indebtedness and unpaid loans recorded by the Bank of Agriculture is alarming and that something must be done to tackle the situation.

Bwacha argued: 'One thing we have come to understand in the bank is that there is no sufficient stringent measures in place to ensure 100 per cent recovery of loans. Like any other commercial bank, this bank ought to operate or adopt measures in recovering loans.'

The Senate Committee chairman explained that some influential Nigerians took advantage of the lapses in the policies of the BOA in securing huge loans as farmers and never to repay, promising that the National Assembly would ensure that those who took the loans and did not pay back are brought to justice.

Besides, the Executive Director, Business Development of BOA, Alhaji Waziri Ahmadu, who received the Senate committee, said the bank has not been able to meet its challenges of granting farmers loans because of shortage of funds.     According to him, the total application for loans stood at over N42 billion while the bank has been making frantic efforts to recover the unpaid loans of over N12 billion.

Ahmadu said: 'The position of the bank has been like this over the last few years, and the bank has not invested adequately in loan recovery. It is true that some loans were given to influential people in the society and these loans have been looked upon as their share of the national cake, and no much effort was made in the past in recovery.

'Until today, we have about N12 billion standing out there as loans unpaid. This management sees this reserve of unpaid loans as money we should recover completely. But there are difficulties with a number of them. Some, you find out that when they were disbursed, they were not properly secured.'

He disclosed that the bank has resolved to prosecute those who have refused to pay back loans, pointing out that a good number of them were already in court.

'We are already in court with most of the people that had jumbo loans. In some cases, we have received judgment in our favour and there have been appeals too. As to those loans at the macro level, we are pursuing the strategy we can adopt to get them back,' he said. Some of the bank loans, he noted, 'were granted to borrowers that are industries and were victims of Federal Government policies.'

'There is a company, for instance, that borrowed money from us and immediately after disbursement, the government changed its policy on agricultural import and the company suddenly found itself on the receiving end. That company owes us a lot of money,' Ahmadu noted.