By Musa Ilallah
The history of Bank of Agriculture, BOA cannot be complete without talking about its roots. BOA’s roots started in 1972 when the Nigerian Agricultural and Cooperative bank, NACB was established with headquarters in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria as a National Agricultural production credit institution aimed at promoting agricultural production and rural development and growth of the Nigerian economy. Its name was changed to Nigerian Agricultural bank, NAB in 1978.
NACB’s choice of location in the North was not by accident as it is widely believed to be the epicentre and heart beat of agricultural activities. Major economic crops that sustained Nigeria from the 1940s to the 1970s for export included Groundnut and Cotton along with Hides and Skin. One vividly recalls with pride the Kano famous groundnut pyramids that earned forex for Nigeria.
It is not in doubt that NACB became a household name in Nigeria due to its spread, networking and the way it impacted positively on the lives of farmers and cooperative societies in the country through loans for crop farming, agric produce marketing and animal rearing among others to the tune of billions of Naira.
Additionally, NACB came on board to finance investments in equity capital of major agricultural and agro allied industrial ventures, provide finance for both domestic and international markets, financing of tractor hiring operations and agro processing in the country.
By 1973, NACB took off with 13 branches and expanded to 5 Zonal offices, 38 branches and 267 other offices manned by 1,200 staff in the country. Its structure then made it one of the best in terms of service delivery with full compliments of a board, management team, trained, well motivated, professional and dedicated staff determined to making farming not just a pastime but a life style for most Ngerians.
With the decentralisation of the bank’s operations in 1988, approvals for its loans exceeded N400 million and rose to more than N600 million in 1989 from a meagre N150 million in 1987.
Bank of Agriculture, BOA came into existence in 2000 as an outcome of government’s review of its micro credit institutions to assume the assets of NACB and the merged Peoples Bank of Nigeria, PBN and Family Economic Advancenent Project, FEAP.
Since then, BOA had struggled to control the number of loans in its portfolio that had hampered its ability to provide sustainable support to the agricultural sector of the country.
The bank witnessed tremendous growth from inception until around the late 1990s when its fortunes began to decline due to a number of reasons including absence of government’s political will, interference and deliberate attempt to sabotage through sentimental political appointments into its board and top management positions. This resulted in the inability of the bank’s official to embark on an aggressive loans recovery for the needed sustenance of the bank and its activities.
Regrettably, the Bank derailed from the vision and mission of its founding fathers largely due to failure of the civilian governments from 1999 to deliver on its mandate.
These reasons and many more have largely contributed to the present comatose position of the Bank that was hitherto the most vibrant agricultural funding outlet in the country.
With the commitment and foresight of the current Minister of Agriculture, Sabo Nanono, himself a mixed farmer of international repute to revitalise the BOA, the coast is now clearer for a return to the good old days of agricultural financing in the country. The minister is determined to change the narratives and the fortunes of the bank for the good of the country in two distinct ways.
Firstly, he has identified the taking away of a key component of agric financing from BOA by Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN on the Anchor Borrowers programme in its packaging, financing and management. This should have gone to BOA.
Secondly, the recent appointment of a seasoned banker, Malam Alwan Ali Hassan as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria’s Bank of Agriculture BOA, is not only apt but one that has “put a round peg in a round hole” given his experiences and exposures in public and private life as s public servant, administrator, banker, entrepreneur and politician spanning more than 35 years.
Born 62 years ago in the city of Kano, Malam Alwan Hassan, who holds a BSc Quantity Surveying degree and MBA from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria , is an Associate Member of Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors and Honorary Senior Member of Chartered Institute of Bankers.
Having worked with state owned Water Resources and Engineering Construction Agency, WRECA and Kano State Housing Corporation at the state level for years after graduation. He then moved to Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN as a Manager; United Bank for Africa as a Principal Manager; African International Bank, AIB as an Assistant General Manager and First Bank of Nigeria as Deputy General Manager before his appointment by CBN as Executive Director of Bank PHB ‘to institute corporate governance and recapitalise the bank’
Malam Alwan retired in November 2011 after a glorious and unblemished banking career of over 2 decades.
Prior to his appointment to BOA’s top most position, Alwan was the Chairman and CEO of Midrange Universal Biz Ltd, a property development and building materials outfit and Kankara BDC Ltd.
Malam Alwan is married with children and is widely travelled.
A number of farmers and BOA staff talked to, see the appointment of Alwan as one that will save it from total collapse and bankruptcy.
Its not a matter of debate whether or not he has the capacity to deliver on his mandate as a rescuer and a messiah with a Midas touch. Our prayer and wish is that Alwan will not let President Buhari down on this well deserved and merited appointment.
Having known Alwan for years, I have no doubt in my mind that his choice to move BOA and indeed agricultural financing to greater heights will be achieved.
Ilallah wrote in via
EMEKA ANYAOKU STREET, ABUJA