House Committee Lauds NIRSAL for Agric-Business Transformation

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Aliyu Abbati Abdulhameed

Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja

The Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives has applauded the Managing Director/CEO of the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System For Agriculture Lending (NIRSAL), Mr. Aliyu Abdulhameed, for his efforts to position the risk-management agency as a major driver of agricultural business development in Nigeria.

A statement by the Corporate Communications Department of the company stated that the commendation came during an engagement with NIRSAL’s management to clarify and share ideas on NIRSAL’s mandate, track record and accomplishments.

Chairman of the committee, Hon. Oluwole Oke, was quoted as expressing his satisfaction with the performance of NIRSAL’s Managing Director, adding that NIRSAL had now found a friend in the National Assembly.

Other committee members described Abdulhameed as a round peg in a round hole and a man of undoubted capacity, while congratulating NIRSAL for its commendable performance in terms of agribusiness financing, noting that other agencies should learn from NIRSAL’s rigorous processes of due diligence.

In his remarks to the committee, Abdulhameed gave members an in-depth analysis context and rationale that informed the creation of NIRSAL, the corporation’s mandate and transformative achievements in Nigeria’s agribusiness space.

He explained that prior to the creation of NIRSAL, financiers were unenthusiastic to lending to agriculture, citing perceived high risks in the sector, especially in the upstream segment of the agricultural value chain where primary production takes place often referred to as the “black hole” in agriculture.

‘’In response to these concerns and as part of efforts to diversify Nigeria’s economy from crude oil-dependence, the CBN formulated NIRSAL to catalyse the flow of much-needed financing into Agriculture by redefining, measuring, re-pricing and sharing agribusiness-related credit risk with financiers,’’ the NIRSAL’s boss explained.

Abdulhameed noted that the CBN, in its foresight, established NIRSAL as a Public Liability Company registered under the Companies and Allied Matters Act, saying this gave financial institutions more confidence and ease to do business with NIRSAL as opposed to the limited transactions they could enter into with public sector institutions and the legal complexities therein.

In terms of NIRSAL’s mandate, Abdulhameed informed the committee that the agency is built on five broad pillars of risk sharing, insurance, technical assistance, incentives and rating, adding that these strategic pillars are geared towards increasing bank lending to the agricultural sector by over 6% in the short to medium term, hence, bridging the gap between the finance and agricultural sectors.

According to him, ‘’Principally, NIRSAL is facilitating finance to agriculture through its Credit Risk Guarantee (CRG). Through the CRG, NIRSAL shares either 30%, 50%, or 75% of agribusiness-related risk with financiers depending on the agricultural value chain segment receiving finance.

‘’Through the NIRSAL CRG, NIRSAL has attracted investment into agribusiness and guaranteed 697 agribusiness loans worth USD505.9Million, paid N1.274Billion Interest Draw Back to 271 obligors, creating over 400,000 direct jobs and impacting over 2,000,000 lives in the process.

‘’In terms of insurance, NIRSAL has developed and launched the Area Yield Index Insurance (AYII) product and protected up to N6.47Billion in revenues of 35,492 farmers over 37,399 hectares of land with N122Million paid out in compensation to farmers.’’

Abdulhameed further explained that NIRSAL had facilitated the granting of licenses to five insurance companies by the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC) to underwrite index-based agricultural insurance.

‘’Leveraging on its Technical Assistance pillar, NIRSAL builds the capacity of financiers and agricultural value chain operators on agricultural lending and Good Agronomic Practices (GAP) respectively. Accordingly, NIRSAL has trained 1,221 middle Management and Agric Desk Officers of commercial banks and provided training on GAP to 700,000 farmers and 74 Extension Workers.

‘’Continentally, NIRSAL has overseen the establishment of Risk Sharing Facility (RSF) models for African countries under the aegis of the African Development Bank (AfDB), and recently, concluded the setup of the Togo Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (TIRSAL), known locally as Mécanisme Incitatif de Financement Agricole Fondé sur le Partage de Risques (MIFA).’’

He said other African countries had also sought NIRSAL’s guidance on how to set up similar agribusiness risk-sharing sharing models. They include Ghana and Benin, among others.

Based on the success of the deliberation, the committee recommended a workshop whereby NIRSAL will enlighten both the Senate and House of Representatives who will, in turn, educate their constituents, and by extension, all Nigerians, on NIRSAL’s operations for smallholder farmers continued benefit and poverty alleviation.