Beneficiaries of the Rural Finance Institution Programme (RUFIN), have appealed to the Federal Government to re-introduce the programme and adopt it as national programme, to boost effort aimed at reducing poverty.
RUFIN, which commenced operation in 2010, came to end in the country, May.
The beneficiaries made the appeal on Tuesday in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
They said that RUFIN had impacted positively on their social and economic wellbeing as well as the rural populace in the country, hence the need for the continuation of the programme.
Mr Omoseyinde Johnson said though RUFIN officially ended in May, its impact on the beneficiaries made the appeal for its continuation imperative.
Johnson, a member of Lofi Men and Women Cooperative Society in Ejirin, Epe, Lagos State said the programme had particularly empowered women and the vulnerable, economically.
Johnson advised that government not only to continue with RUFIN, make it a national programme for poverty reduction but also extend it to states that did not benefited from the initial programme.
He described RUFIN as a success story with enduring legacies, adding that if re-introduced, it would benefit more Nigerians and strengthen their trust and confidence in the intervention programmes of the government.
He said the achievements of RUFIN should not be under estimated, saying that government could redesign it with adequate funding to ensure support and better coordination between government and implementers.
“If adopted and extended to every parts of the country, it will uplift the rural people living below the poverty line by 2020 and serve as a weapon to fight poverty,’’ he said.
Hajia Aminat Shabi, President, Lagos State Council of Tradesmen and Artisans (LASCOTA) and Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd, said her group had also recorded huge success through participation in RUFIN.
Shabi, who itemised achievements of her team with RUFIN in the last five years, said it was a partnership that worked and full of success story.
“My members have expanded their farms, sales outlets and workshops, because we have the opportunity to access loans through the programme.
“We have been finding it easy to repay the loan because the repayment term is convenient and no pressure like other banks,’’ she said.
Mrs Roselyn Apebe, member, Able Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Agbowa-Ikosi, Lagos State, said RUFIN narrative had proved bookmakers wrong.
According to her, one of the lessons derived from RUFIN has been that development programme, if well-structured and planned, would achieve the desired success.
“RUFIN’s intervention and achievements in only 3 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state set the tone for replication in other LGAs in Nigeria,’’ she said.
According to her, experience has shown that continuation of the programme would further bridge the supply gap for rural finance services in the implementation of agricultural programmes.
“Among the 12 pilot states, including Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Benue, Anambra, Imo, Bauchi, Katsina, where RUFIN thrived, beneficiaries have continued to count their blessings,’’ she said.
Apebe said the rural population would benefit more if intervention programmes such as RUFIN were designed for continuity.
Mr Boniface Uranta, another beneficiary of RUFIN in Anambra, said the programme provided solutions and innovations to poor rural household to have increased access to financial services.
Mrs Bimpe Ogunleye, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Bowen Mfb, Lagos, said the programme had achieved its objective of developing and strengthening microfinance institutions (MFIs).
She said it had also established linkage between them and formal finance institutions and created a viable and sustainable rural finance system in the country.
Dr Steve Ogidan, RUFIN Consultant, said RUFIN-mentored groups had grown in size and number since 2015.
He said that the 2014 mission report declared that RUFIN particularly promoted the formation of groups among women.
Ogidan said that RUFIN had enabled women’s groups to boost their internal savings and credit facilities, instead of relying on the external credit approach.
“The 2015 report also said that RUFIN has consolidated on the success stories of women’s groups, they have increased as a result of their faster rate of adapting to the savings-led approach.
RUFIN) was a loan agreement of US$27.2 million between the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The central objective of the programme was to develop and strengthen Micro Finance Banks (MFBs), other member-based Micro Finance Institutions (MFls).
It was meant to enhance the access of the rural populace to the services of these institutions in order to expand and improve agricultural productivity and Micro-Small Rural Enterprises.
The goal is to alleviate poverty with a particular focus on the rural poor and especially women, youths and the physically challenged.
RUFIN also aimed to enhance access of rural poor households, particularly woman headed households, physically challenged and rural youths to financial services. (NAN)