The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have given awards to 60 micro finance banks and institutions under the Rural Finance Institution Building Programme (RUFIN).
The agencies, selected from the 12 participating states of the programme, were given awards for encouraging, supporting and funding rural businesses in their localities.
RUFIN is a of 27.5 million-U.S.-dollar loan agreement between IFAD and the Federal Government.
The central objective of the programme is to develop and strengthen Micro Finance Banks (MFBs) and other Micro Finance Institutions (MFls) by enhancing access of the rural populace to funding to improve agricultural productivity as well as micro and small scale enterprises.
Speaking during the award, Mr Uji Amedu, CBN`s Deputy Director, Development Finance Department, commended the award recipients for their efforts to implement the rural development plans introduced in the course of the RUFIN programme.
Amedu said the prize was to spur other MFBs to extend their service delivery to the rural people and empower them to establish more small and medium enterprises.
“The IFAD, in collaboration with CBN, funded RUFIN activities; the implementing departments in the bank are Development Finance, Other Financial Institutions Supervision and Research Development.
“The provision of access to financial services through the micro finance sub-sector engenders grassroots economic growth and development.
“The RUFIN and CBN have been enjoying support in the participating states and we have seen the determination of the state governments in ensuring the continuity of the programme,’’ he said.
Dr Bamidele Amao, the RUFIN-IFAD Representative in CBN, said that the rural business plans needed to be strengthened to include more states and local government areas across the country.
Amao, who is also the Deputy Director (Research) in CBN, said that the programme’s extension would enable more farmers to benefit from the programme in efforts to generate wealth and improve their living standards.
Mr Muyinwa Azeez, the RUFIN National Programme Coordinator, said that under the programme, over N40 billion had been disbursed to people in the rural areas of the 12 participating states.
He said that the programme, which would wind down by the end of March, had contributed significantly to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Azeez, who is also the Director, Agribusiness and Marketing, in Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, assured the rural people, particularly farmers, that the government was working out modalities to institute the second phase of RUFIN.
“Before the inception of RUFIN, not many financial institutions were known, even though Nigeria has the largest number of micro finance institutions in Africa but they were just not visible.
“RUFIN is not dead, we are writing to IFAD to see how we can revive the second phase of RUFIN, in view of the successes recorded under it.
“The Federal Government is committed toward ensuring that the rural people are lifted above poverty.
“This administration wants to drive poverty away from the rural areas,’’ he added.
Mr Valentine Ezeh, the President, National Association of Micro Finance Banks (NAMB), expressed delight for been one of the implementing partners of the programme.
“What we need is diversification in our social lives, businesses and economy; that is the essence of the rural business plan.
“The programme is very dear to us because the CBN, which is our regulator, will ensure that no MFB closes down in this country,’’ he said.
Some of the award recipients called on the CBN, IFAD and the Federal Government to immediately launch the second phase of RUFIN in order to impact more on rural livelihoods.
One of the recipients, Mrs Olufunke Adeyoyin, the Deputy General Manager of TrustFund Micro Finance Bank in Edo, said that the bank started supporting the rural people in 2013.
She said the bank had disbursed over N400 million as loans to no fewer than 6,000 persons in the state.
“My expectation is that every micro finance institution should key into the rural business plan,’’ she said.
Mr David Tanko, representative of Development Exchange Centre (DEC), a finance institution in Bauchi State, also solicited the introduction of the second phase of the programme.
He said that the second phase of the programme would help to integrate more farmers, particularly those who were hitherto affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in the country.
Tanko said that about 1, 810 farmers had benefitted from the institution’s services, while over N248 million was disbursed to the farmers as loans.
The implementation of the RUFIN programme was coordinated by CBN, Nigerian Agricultural Cooperative and Rural Development Bank (NACRDB) and the Federal Department of Cooperatives (FDC).
The 12 participating states are Adamawa, Bauchi, Katsina, Zamfara, Benue, Nasarawa, Lagos, Oyo, Anambra, Imo, Edo and Akwa Ibom.
Source – NAN