Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State has warned political farmers to stay clear of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme of the state to avoid being jailed for default.
Okorocha gave the warning on Thursday in Owerri while launching the training and input distribution to rice farmers participating in the programme.
Represented by Iyke Njoku, his Special Adviser Economic Matters, Okorocha noted that the programme was designed to favour only genuine farmers.
Okorocha said: “The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme has the potential to transform serious and sincere farmers to millionaires but can as well mess up any person with intention to defraud government.
“Participants should take advantage of this programme to change the economic frontier of the state by rescuing Imo people from unemployment, food scarcity, and youth restiveness.”
The governor said that he had engaged rice experts from Kebbi State to assist farmers in Imo, adding that every relevant support would be provided for the participants to succeed.
Anayochi Jonathan, the Programme Manager, Imo State Agricultural Programme, said the agency had registered more than 5,000 rice farmers and identified over 20,000 hectares for rice cultivation.
Jonathan said: “Though Imo has more than 20, 000 hectares for rice cultivation, we will start with 2,800 and cultivate only 2,000 hectares for the dry season rice farming this year.”
Jonathan, who reiterated that the programme was for only genuine farmers added that, enough input and money have been set aside for the programme.
Dr. Edwin Uche, the Executive Assistant to Okorocha on Human Capital Development and Poverty Alleviation, said that training and input distribution to registered farmers would take place between February 16 and February 20.
Uche, who doubles as the state Coordinator, Anchor Borrowers’ Programme explained that participants would be trained on key areas to enable them to have full grip of the entire circle of rice production.
He said though other crops would be introduced later, rice farming alone would provide more than 10, 000 direct jobs.
Alhaji Abudullahi Argungu, the expert from Kebbi State, said Imo State had the potential to surpass his state in rice production, if the farmers showed serious commitment.
Argungu said: “Kebbi is an agrarian state; but Imo State is seating on a lot of agricultural opportunities and has the potential to surpass Kebbi in rice production, if the people are serious.”
He encouraged the people to embrace rice farming in order to stop importation of the commodity.
In a remark, Kenneth Ejie, the state Manager, Bank of Agriculture, told the participants that the money they would receive in the programme was loan which attracts nine per cent interest.
Ejie said: “If you are not a farmer, better withdraw at this stage because government will not take it lightly with any defaulter.”
Others who spoke included Cajetan Ajaelu from the Central Bank of Nigeria and Louis Onyeishi of ‘Oku na Erere’ Farm, Enugu.
They assured intended rice farmers in Imo of ready market for whatever they produced.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the governor’s representative presented 25 kilogram bag of high yielding rice and a water pumping machine to each of the three farmers from Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe.