Monday, 21 November 2016

Anchor Borrowers Poultry loan latest: Petition hits House of Assembly

Anchor Borrowers Poultry loan latest: Petition hits House of AssemblyAnchor Borrowers Poultry loan latest: Petition hits House of Assembly
 *AKHA has no constitutional powers to investigate or probe ABP 
*Consulting firm to challenge Ad-Hoc Committee’s legislative competence in court 
*Lawmakers must apologize to farmers - Lead consultant insists


The Ad-Hoc Committee that was set up to investigate the list of the first batch of beneficiaries of the Poultry Anchor Borrowers’ Programme Scheme from Akwa Ibom State may not be finding it easy to get away with it as the consulting firm anchoring the programme, New Phase of Agriculture Limited have petitioned the committee and may drag the House of Assembly to court over legislative competence.

 It could be recalled that the House of Assembly two weeks ago had ordered the immediate suspension of the implementation process of the Scheme. The House, in a resolution, had directed that the disbursement and implementation of the Scheme be suspended until after the conclusion of investigation and action taken at plenary following a motion by Hon. Nse Ntuen, who drew the attention of the House under Matters of Urgent Public Importance to the list published in some newspapers which had over 3,800 names of beneficiaries. 

Nse Ntuen, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, had alleged that the entire process of the selection of the names of the beneficiaries was a fraud and was not transparent in anyway. Since then, the Ad-Hoc Committee headed by Hon. Idongesit Ituen, has been sitting on the matter as well as summoning those concern to appear before it investigative committee.

But it looks like the matter has taken a new dimension as the lead consultant to the programme; Atuekong Austin Ndaeyo has taken a legal action against the House of Assembly, challenging the legality of the House of Assembly to investigate the process of the programme.

In a petition, titled ‘Petition against legislative competence of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to investigate newspaper publication of beneficiaries for the Poultry Anchor Borrowers Programme of Central Bank of Nigeria’, signed by Martins Ekung, Esq of Innih – Archibong & Co (Liberty Associates), and made available to THE INK, the firm anchoring the programme in Akwa Ibom State, New Phase of Agriculture Limited, stated that the Anchor Borrowers Programme is purely Central Bank of Nigeria initiative programme as a solution to the challenges of huge food import bills and ramping up local production of identified commodities along the agriculture value chain through providing access to finance by small-holder farmers.

The petition indicated that the background of the scheme shows that it is entirely Federal Government initiated through Central Bank in partnership with private sector, and it has nothing to do with any Ministry or Department of Akwa Ibom State Government neither is Akwa Ibom State money required to fund the programme.

Parts of the petition read, “In recognition and acknowledgement of the Office of Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State and the need to notify the Government of Akwa Ibom State of the existence of an Anchor Private Sector Processors in Akwa Ibom State to pilot the programme in the State, a letter of invitation to flag-off the programme in the State on 3rd and 4th October, 2016 was forwarded to His Excellency, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State on 12th August, 2016. 

However, in acknowledgement of the pragmatic and foresighted initiative of our client and also in preparation for the formal flag-off of the programme in the State, the list of all the beneficiaries were published in some newspapers which publication attracted the “investigation” and “probe” by the Ad-Hoc Committee of the House, the subject of this epistle”

“The comprehensive background as captured above clearly present a programme initiated by the Central Bank of Nigeria to be driven by the private sector and does not in any way involve any arm of Akwa Ibom State Government or Akwa Ibom funds provided for it. Against the backdrop, the only competent legislative body that can investigate or probe the programme is the National Assembly under Section 88 and 89 of the 1999 constitution (amended) since the programme is initiated and funded by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

 That Section 128 (1) and 129 (1) (c) of the constitution upon which your committee drives power to investigate or summon a person to appear before it is only applicable to matters with respect to which Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has power to make laws and CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme does not fall within the ambit of matters that Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly can exercise legislative function”

Furthermore, the petition emphasised, “Arising from the above, we are of the opinion that your Ad-Hoc Committee and indeed, the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has no-constitutional powers to investigate, probe or look into the procedure adopted by our client or any third party associated with her, to select or choose the beneficiaries as published in some newspapers.”

While the petition urged the lawmakers and indeed, the entire leadership of the House to suspend or annul the proposed investigation, as it would tantamount to ultra-vires and ultimately null and void ab intio, the petition also warned that their client (New Phase of Agriculture Ltd) reserves the rights to challenge the legislative competence of the committee’s investigation in the Court of Law should the AKHA committee ignore the wise counselling and go ahead with the fruitless exercise.    
However, chatting with THE INK in his office over the weekend, the lead consultant to New Phase of Agriculture Limited, the consulting firm that is anchoring Anchor Borrowers Programme in the State, Atuekong Austin Ndaeyo said according to the CBN guidelines, the responsibility of selecting farmers that are supposed to benefit from the programme is the sole right of the consulting firm and not the House of Assembly.

Atuekong Ndaeyo said the programme is strictly a business and that the House of Assembly has no right to investigate the programme, maintaining that the programme was formerly inaugurated by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari on 17 November, 2015. He said the programme is initiated by the Central Bank of Nigeria to make sure that private sector processor who must be willing to be off-taker for the farm outputs or produce harvested.

He disclosed that so far, 12 States in the country have ventured into Anchor Borrowers Programme and that the programme is a private and not a State Government programme. In his words, “The Nigeria’s constitution states clearly that the House of Assembly does not have the judicial and legislative competence on issues that they don’t appropriate, legislate or make laws on, and the Anchor Borrowers Programme is strictly a Federal Government Programme. 

So it’s in the jurisdiction of the National Assembly. So they don’t have any constitutional right to sit on the matter. I told them that they should disengage themselves from the programme because if they don’t, we will not have any other choice than to challenge their competence in the court of justice. For a House of Assembly to tag a scheme that was inaugurated by President Buhari as a fraud is an affront. We are asking the House of Assembly to openly apologise to farmers and if they continue to tie down this programme, we will take them to court.” Ndaeyo insisted.

When contacted the Chairman, House Committee on Information, Rt. Hon. Ime Okon, he said that he was not aware of the petition and that the Speaker of the House of Assembly have not told him of any petition. He however said that if the Consulting Firm have petition or go to Court, that they are expressing their human fundamental right.

However, effort to speak with the Ad-Hoc Committee Chairman - AKHA, Hon. Idongesit Ituen, proved abortive as his mobile line was switch off as at press time.

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