WHOSE N150 BILLION IS MISSING ANYWAY?
Once again, our attention has been drawn to a story published by a certain First News Online titled “EXPOSED: Alleged N150bn fraud rocks NIRSAL”.
Whilst NIRSAL Plc has adopted the strategy of having to intermittently make clarifications about public misconceptions regarding its mandate, chiefly, its status as a non-bank and therefore a not-funds-disbursing financial institution, it has also had to contend with the publication of outright lies by willful blackmailers and detractors, ad-nauseum.
These conscienceless forces, who have been running a campaign of falsehood against NIRSAL Plc are obviously getting more frustrated by the day as their evil schemes are failing to bear the desired fruit. And, as the level of their frustration edges higher, their desperation is producing ever more ridiculous and hilarious results.
Consider their latest gambit.
A TALE OF MISSING MONEY THAT NEVER EXISTED
Over the past weeks, they have been peddling an invented tale on dodgy media platforms declaring that a certain “N150Billion fund has gone missing” in the organisation, swallowed up by “corruption” and “fraud”, an allegation which, as usual, is not supported by any credible evidence nor articulable explanation. Because their previous lies have not achieved whatever goal they are aiming for, they have now contrived a new fictitious N150 billion fund, declared that it is missing, then inexplicably claim that this fictitious sum was taken away by real people within NIRSAL Plc. Next, their shoddy scriptwriters then attempted to link this contrived fiction with forged documents to give some sense of credence to their claims.
REMINDER: WHO WE ARE, WHAT WE DO
For the umpteenth time, it is worth educating stakeholders and well-meaning Nigerians (again and again) on what NIRSAL Plc is, what it is not, and the unique, peerless, and smart way the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) set it up as an organization.
To clarify again, NIRSAL Plc is a wholly-owned investee company of the CBN, operating on a debenture loan as a capital base and incorporated with the mandate to de-risk agriculture and facilitate agribusiness along the following pillars:
1. Risk Sharing: De-Risk Agriculture and Facilitate Agribusiness by sharing credit risks with lenders and borrowers across the agricultural value chain.
2. Insurance: Bring about an increase in innovative agricultural insurance products available to smallholder farmers and boost the uptake of same.
3. Technical Assistance: Provide technical assistance to players across agricultural value chains, supporting them through the transition from agriculture as a way of life to agriculture as a business.
4. Incentives: Incentivize institutions – especially commercial banks – that are responsive to Nigeria’s new agricultural paradigm, and
5. Rating: Rate these institutions according to their responsiveness.
SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF WHAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED FOR THE AGRIC SECTOR AND NIGERIA
Though our mandate may appear too technical for the layman, the results and benefits are clear and measurable, some of which include the below:
▪ From inception to date, NIRSAL Plc has provided its Credit Risk Guarantee (CRG) cover on over N124 billion in commercial loans and investments to agriculture and agribusiness, keeping loan crystallization below 1%. A further N40 Billion has been facilitated from non-commercial sources.
▪ NIRSAL has worked with the insurance industry to develop five (5) NAICOM-approved index-based agricultural insurance products which are currently being marketed by 9 private insurance companies. In the last 5 years, over 1.4 million new policies have been sold to farmers as the innovative products truly compensate them to the tune of their average expected return in the event of losses arising from pests, adverse weather conditions, and diseases.
▪ NIRSAL Plc’s mandate activities have created and sustained over 590,000 direct and indirect jobs across agricultural value chains and positively impacted over 3.5 million Nigerian lives.
REMINDER: WE NEITHER KEEP PHYSICAL CAPITAL NOR GIVE OUT LOANS
NIRSAL Plc is neither funded by Government appropriation nor does it draw its operational subventions from the CBN.
NIRSAL Plc’s total capital base is N72.5billion. Perhaps more importantly, this capital is technical, not physical and is held within the CBN system, permanently invested in FGN Bonds, Treasury Bills and other money market investments. It is the proceeds from these that the company’s Board of Directors approves, through budget processes, for the Management to pay salaries, pay out on crystallized guarantees given to farmers and other Agribusiness investors when their loans are unpaid, fix the Agricultural value chain through its Technical Assistance services, train farmers, bankers, insurance industry players, and rate and incentivize good borrowing and repayment behaviour by borrowers when they use NIRSAL Plc’s guarantees. The CBN is also NIRSAL’s banker, supporting its day-to-day operations.
WE ARE PRUDENT, RIGOROUS AND WE COMPLY WITH STRINGENT RULES
All the foregoing are monies prudently spent for the public good by NIRSAL Plc from its very modest earnings. Yet, it is within this modest financial provisioning that the organization continues to declare profits, pay dividends, amortize/pay back its own debenture loans and remain a going concern like any other company incorporated under CAMA and regulated by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
More. NIRSAL Plc reports its finances in full compliance with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Additionally, as a fully compliant public liability company, it has been filing its annual returns with the CAC and Financial Reporting Council (FRC) and holding its AGMs regularly throughout these 6 short years of its operational existence. NIRSAL PLC’s financial reports are regularly filed at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) as required by law and are publicly available.
AN OVERDOSE OF RIDICULOUSNESS
From the foregoing clarification, the fabricators of the N150 billion fraud story may wish to explain the suction point at which that humongous sum, which, by the way, is exactly double the company’s capital base, was taken out from the system. Which business will have double its capital base “fraudulently” removed, yet remain a very successful going concern. Incredible!
Accordingly, the claim of an “alleged fraud involving a whopping sum of N150billion is currently rocking the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending” and “EXPOSED: N150bn Farmers Fund Fraud Scandal Rocks NIRSAL, Emefiele, Malami Fingered” by a few unscrupulous online platforms is baseless and a click-bait online media propaganda.
Indeed, it is the height of ridiculousness to make such allegations about a company that is not only under the rigorous oversight of the Central Bank of Nigeria but whose funds are domiciled in the apex bank. It is also a fact that NIRSAL PLC, by its mandate, is not a lender that directly provides loans to SMEs or MFBs or any other business for that matter and does not keep farmers or anybody’s funds. How can the leadership of an organization steal funds that it never had, funds that simply didn’t exist in the first place? And since these funds did not exist, pray, what funds did the “created culprits” in these ridiculous stories steal? A classical chicken and egg situation arises here.
This bewildering fabrication, untenable calculus, illogical accusation has, for obvious reasons, not found vent in any responsible, mainstream media – online or offline. Instead, it is fringe platforms who are out to earn their daily bread from blackmail, that, for the preceding 2 years, have been carrying these ridiculous tales handed to them by individuals with a shady agenda. These individuals are financing the emergence of more and more purveyors of fake news, a plague that is perilously tugging at the fabric of our nationhood.
EXPLORING LEGAL OPTIONS AGAINST BLATANT FALSEHOODS
This statement has been made to address the lingering untruths in the public. In a business climate made precariously fragile by the COVID-19 pandemic, these lies, for a company that operates in a trust-based industry (Financial Services) could disconcert our partners, clients, and all well-meaning Nigerians if not promptly addressed. While this is being done, legal proceedings against platforms like First News Online who peddle these baseless allegations are well on course.
On this same subject matter, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in suit No: FCT/HC/BW/M/108/2021 between Mr. Aliyu Abbati Abdulhameed Vs. Mr. Adekunle Tom, Thomas, Town Crier Newspaper Limited and Unknown Persons, gave an Interlocutory Order restraining the defendant whether by themselves, their executives, agents, servants, privies, representatives, nominees, or any other person or persons however described from publishing any article, petition, or complaint related or similar to the article published by the defendants about the claimant in the manner of the publication dated 2nd day of February 2021 on any online platform or any other regular media platform pending the hearing and determination of the suit. We’ve thrown down the gauntlet. Anyone of these sponsored agents of reputational and institutional destruction can approach the Nigerian Legal system or investigative agencies to substantiate and defend their “facts” if any. We are patiently waiting.
Undoubtedly, the publication by First News Online and others of their ilk point to a possible contempt of court, given the high likelihood that the individuals behind this vicious campaign of calumny sponsored it.
OUR COMMITMENT TO LIFTING AGRIBUSINESS IN NIGERIA REMAINS INVIOLABLE
It bears repeating to these detractors and their sponsors that NIRSAL Plc will not be deterred by their unethical and evil antics. We will continue to work with relevant ministries, agencies of Government, private sector partners and other stakeholders to move Nigerian agriculture and agribusiness many notches higher in the interest of the Nigerian people. In the interim, the long arm of the law will continue to trail all those behind these defamatory publications until they account fully for their crimes.