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Afe Babalola Donates N13.2m to Revamp Agriculture in Ekiti

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Afe Babalola

By Adedapo Adesanya

Legal luminary and educator, Mr Afe Babalola, has donated N13.2 million to outstanding farmers in Ekiti State as part of efforts to encourage farming and lift farmers financially.

Mr Babalola, who is also the founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), is reputed to be the largest farmer and highest taxpayer in Ekiti State.

The gifting of money to farmers took place on Sunday at the grand finale of this year’s edition of the Annual Afe Babalola Agricultural Expo and The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Youth Empowerment, held at the university’s sports pavilion.

According to a statement, Mr Aribasoye Emmanuel, from Ado Local Government Area, got the star prize of N2 million as the overall best farmer in the state for the year.

The five best farmers in each of the 16 Local Government Areas in the state got N250,000, N150,000, N100,000, N75,000 and N50,000 respectively.

Mr Babalola said distributing money to hardworking farmers on annual basis was a fulfilment of his dream.

“This is in the realisation of my dream. It all started like a dream which translated into reality in 2015.

“The dream was my burning desire to make people realise that farming is a divine vocation.

“It is also part of my individual contributions to ongoing efforts at revitalising farming as well as reducing unemployment in the country.

“Another reason why I started this Expo was that I found it utmost painful that many Nigerians have abandoned farming for white-collar or menial jobs and also for no jobs.

“There was a time in this country when whatever one’s profession was, such a person would still have a small garden at the back of his house, if only for vegetables, tomatoes, pepper and garden eggs, among others,” he said.

He also used the opportunity to appeal to the federal government to establish a special Agriculture Bank, which will be completely different from those before it

He said the establishment of the structure would help farmers obtain loans at low-interest rates with their cooperative societies serving as guarantors.

He, however, expressed regret that farming in Nigeria has suddenly become abandoned and unattractive.

“Farming has been abandoned in Nigeria today and Nigeria is the worse for it.

“For instance, there was a time when Ekiti State alone was producing 52 per cent of the Internally-Generated Revenue (IGR) of the defunct Western Region.

“Today, Ekiti State is the poorest state in Nigeria. In fact, there was no beggar in Ekiti State at that time as everyone was gainfully employed, but today beggars are found everywhere.

“Regretfully, Ekiti State has become the poverty capital of Nigeria,” Mr Babalola bemoaned.

“Also, no thanks to the spate of insecurity ranging from kidnapping, robbery and invasion by herdsmen ravaging the country, life is no longer safe at home, on the farm, on the road or even in classrooms.

“The combination of these ills has led many farms to be destroyed with many farmers having to abandon their farms.

“Despite all these, Ekiti State farmers have been able to forge ahead. I believe in farming because I grew up on the farm and I am still a farmer as many of you know,” he said.

He added that he included the study of agriculture in the curriculum of his university, with a 50 per cent slash in tuition fee for the course.

“In my university, we provide seed money for graduates of agriculture to start their own businesses.

“That was why in addition to all of these, in 2015, I thought of how to improve the lot of our farmers.

“That is why I started this programme. I started with a prize of N5 million, but it has risen over the years, thus this year, we are giving out N13.2 million,” he said.

The Local Organising Committee Chairman and UNESCO Chair in Entrepreneurship Education for Sustainable Development, Mr Abiodun Ojo, also made a donation of 48 spraying machines to select farmers.

He said that partnering with ABUAD was to commend the good work which Aare Afe Babalola was doing to return agriculture to its old days of glory.

Mr Olugbenga Odesanmi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Ekiti State commended Babalola’s efforts and promised the government’s enabling environment at all times.

On her part, the Acting Vice-Chancellor of ABUAD, Professor Smaranda Olarinde, appreciated the founder’s gesture to farmers.

She said that the best way the beneficiaries could show gratitude to him was to invest wisely, the monies received so they would be able to fend for themselves and also provide employment for others.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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Economy

FBN Holdings to Take Over Access Bank’s Pension Fund Custodian Business

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First Pension Custodian Access Pension Fund Custodian

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

A Nigerian financial group, FBN Holdings Plc, has taken another step to enhance its earnings by acquiring the pension fund custodian business of Access Bank Plc.

FBN Holdings is making this acquisition possible through one of its subsidiaries, First Pension Custodian, and it involves the total control of Access Pension Fund Custodian Limited.

A notice from both organisations disclosed that the transaction involves the transfer of a 100 per cent stake of Access Bank in the pension fund business to FBN Pension.

At the moment, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the National Pension Commission (PenCom), the two key regulators of the two transacting companies, have given a “no objection” to the deal.

However, the sale is yet to be finalised as approvals of other regulatory agencies are being awaited.

“FBN Holdings Plc wishes to notify the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited and the investing public that First Pension Custodian, a subsidiary of FBNH’s flagship subsidiary, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, has entered into a definitive agreement with Access Bank Plc for the planned acquisition by First Pension of 100 per cent share capital of Access Pension Fund Custodian Limited held by Access Bank Plc.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the National Pension Commission (PenCom) have given their ‘no objection’ to the transaction, with completion subject to the receipt of all required regulatory approvals,” a disclosure from FBN Holdings signed by Adewale Arogundade, the acting company secretary, said.

On its part, Access Holdings Plc said it “announces today that its subsidiary, Access Bank Plc, has entered into a definitive agreement with First Pension Custodian Nigeria Limited regarding a proposed purchase by First Pension of the entire share capital of Access Pension Fund Custodian Limited held by Access Bank.

“The National Pension Commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria have given their ‘no objection’ to the transaction,” Mr Sunday Ekwochi, the company secretary, disclosed.

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Economy

CBN Laments Failure of Oyo Farmers to Repay Agric Loans

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tomato farmers in Nigeria

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has lamented that the majority of farmers who benefited from the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) in Oyo State have not repaid their loans.

This call was made by Mr Sadeeq Ajayi, a CBN Development Finance Office in Ibadan at the Agribusiness Innovation Clinic.

He appealed to farmers who defaulted in paying back the agric loans to pay back, saying that the inability of the apex bank to recover the loans from the defaulting farmers had threatened the scheme, adding that it has prevented other farmers from accessing the facility.

The CBN official made the call at a clinic entitled Fostering Innovation and Collaboration Across the Agricultural Value Chain organised by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).

ABP is an agricultural loan scheme launched in 2015 by the federal government, through CBN, to provide loans (in kind and cash) to smallholder farmers to boost agricultural production, create jobs, reduce food import bills toward conservation of the foreign reserves.

“While the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme has recorded some level of success, the failure of farmers to repay the loans has, however, been a major setback.

“Many of the farmers refused to pay back their loans due to the misconception that since CBN is the lender, the loan is a ‘national cake’ and they do not have to pay back what they consider theirs as citizens.

“This attitude has made it difficult for other farmers, who also want to access the loan, to benefit from the scheme,” he said.

Mr Ajayi said that stakeholders, including the traditional rulers, should appeal to the defaulting farmers to promptly repay the loans for the sake of others.

“Of course, we are engaging various stakeholders and we expect the narrative to change very soon so that more people can have access to the fund,” he said.

In his keynote address, Mr Olasukanmi Olaleye, the Oyo State Commissioner for Trade, Industry, Investment and Cooperatives, lauded the initiative of GAIN to tackle malnutrition in the country.

Mr Olaleye, represented by Mr Mukaila Oladipo, a Deputy Director in the ministry, said that food fortification is one of the safest, most effective and affordable ways of addressing the micronutrient gaps in the country.

Also, Mr Godwin Ehiabhi, a Senior Project Manager, GAIN Nigeria, said that improved access to safe and nutritious food would reduce the country’s high rate of malnutrition.

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Economy

Seplat Will Continue to Expand Under Guidance of Omiyi, Okeahalam—CEO

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Basil-Omiyi Adoption of Clean Energy

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The chief executive officer of Seplat Energy Plc, Mr Roger Brown, has expressed his desire to work with the company’s new Independent Non-Executive Chairman, Mr Basil Omiyi, and the new Senior Independent Non-Executive Director, Mr Charles Okeahalam.

The appointment of Mr Omiyi followed the stepping down of the founders of Seplat Energy Mr ABC Orjiako and Mr Austin Avuru, from the board.

While commenting on the development, Mr Brown said he was excited with the appointments, especially with the transition into the next chapter of the firm.

“Mr Basil Omiyi has been a leading figure in the Nigerian oil and gas sector and also with Seplat Energy, having joined its Board in 2013 and helped it to achieve a dual listing in April 2014. The vast depth of experience and his detailed knowledge of Seplat Energy will be invaluable as we continue to evolve and mature the company.

“He has provided invaluable guidance as an Independent Director and I look forward to his continued leadership as our new Independent Non-Executive Chairman.

“We will also benefit from the considerable expertise of Dr Charles Okeahalam as Senior Independent Non-Executive Director, especially his experience and knowledge of Africa’s economies and its financial markets.

“Under their guidance, we will continue to expand and consolidate our position as Nigeria’s leading energy company and the partner of choice to deliver energy transition for Africa’s largest economy and its rapidly growing population,” he said.

Mr Omiyi has been a member of Seplat Energy’s Board of Directors since March 2013 and as Senior Independent Non-Executive Director from February 1, 2021. During this period, he sat on the company’s Remuneration, Nominations & Governance, Energy Transition, and Risk Management & HSSE committees.

His experience in the energy industry is extensive, with more than 40 years at Royal Dutch Shell, during which time he held senior roles in Nigeria and Europe, including becoming Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria in 2004 and in addition, Country Chairman of Shell Companies, Nigeria, until his retirement in 2009.

Mr Omiyi has held several leadership positions in the Nigerian oil and gas industry, including Chairman, Upstream Industry Group (Oil Producers Trade Section, Lagos Chambers of Commerce & Industry) from 2007-2010; Chairman of the Energy Sector of NEPAD Business Group, Nigeria, and Board Member NEPAD Business Group, Nigeria from 2005-2010; Chairman, of the Oil & Gas Commission of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group from 2005-2010; and Board Member, Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) 2007-2010. Mr Omiyi is also the Independent Non-Executive Chairman of Stanbic IBTC Holdings, a subsidiary of Standard Bank Group, a post he has held since 2015.

In 2011, he was awarded the national honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger for pioneering leadership in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.

On his part, Mr Okeahalam joined the Board in March 2013 as an Independent Non-Executive Director and is Chairman of Seplat Energy’s Finance Committee, and a member of the Energy Transition, Remuneration, and Nominations & Governance committees.

He has extensive corporate finance and capital markets expertise and in particular, detailed knowledge of African financial markets, economies and the investment industry. He was a co-founder of AGH Capital Group, a private equity and diversified investment holding company based in Johannesburg, with assets in several African countries.

Prior to co-founding AGH Capital Group in 2002, he was a Professor of Financial Economics and Banking at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. His other roles have included advising a number of African central banks and government ministries, the World Bank and the United Nations.

He has held several board positions and is a former non-executive chairman of Heritage Bank Limited, Nigeria. Since March 2016 he has served as the non-executive chairman of the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company.

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