Maryam: The senator’s wife who plans to be NIRSAL CEO

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When you search Maryam Yaro on Google, what appears is quite discomforting. For a veterinary doctor with experience in the agriculture sector, one may expect to see, at the least, expert statements on agriculture or veterinary practice. But what turns up on your screen is a series of articles about a philandering woman who revels in the spoils of her hobby.

You find several newspaper publications on how she allegedly romanced her way to the top of Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) personnel list and got recruited into the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System For Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL). One of the reports published by the Premium times on June 2, 2013, alleged that Mrs. Yaro was hired in breach of due process as an assistant director in 2012 by then CBN governor now Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, because of an alleged romance between the two.

Premium times wrote: “Investigations by this newspaper revealed that Mr. Lamido hired his latest mistress, Mrs. Yaro, without complying with the CBN recruitment policy that stressed, ‘all appointments shall be made on the basis of merit, through a fair and open selection process…”

The paper reportedly contacted Mrs. Yaro but she refused to make any comments about how she secured the job and her alleged romance with Sanusi.

But the CBN reacted to the publication and denied the allegation that Sanusi used his position and involvement with Mrs. Yaro to bring her into the CBN. A statement by Isaac Okoroafor, spokesman of the bank said it was the then Minister of State for Agriculture that recommended her for the appointment and not Sanusi.

“In the course of establishing NIRSAL, the Hon. Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, through a formal letter, recommended Dr. Yaro to participate in the project as a Specialist on Rural Finance Access. Dr. Yaro was hired after a rigorous selection process conducted by the NIRSAL Project Implementation Office. This clearly contradicts the claim that Dr. Yaro was brought in by the CBN Governor.”

The statement stated further “We wish to state the fact as follows: Dr. Maryam Yaro is not and has never been an employee of the Central Bank of Nigeria. She was one of four consultants (three of whom were male), hired by the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk-sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) Plc; on a one-year contract, renewable on the basis of satisfactory performance. NIRSAL Plc is a special purpose vehicle (SPV) set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria, through a partnership between the CBN and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD).”

Mrs. Yaro has however moved on from the scandal that surrounded her appointment into the CBN and subsequent deployment to NIRSAL. Six years after, she has rising to top management position in the organization and even has her eyes set at the summit. Sources close to her said she fancies herself as the CEO of NIRSAL and boasts the ‘connection’ to make it happen. Between 2013 and 2019, she has changed her name from Mrs Maryam Yaro to Maryam Yusuf apparently to blot out the past scandals and position her for further exploits.

Aside her so-called connections, Maryam also boasts of a husband willing to sacrifice every and anything for her to reach the top. Her new husband, Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf, who represents Taraba Central at the Nigerian Senate, has been in the news for the wrong reasons. The senator has been making promises to his colleagues in the National Assembly to help in his wife’s project.

A popular online newspaper, Newsdiaryonline wrote that Senator Yusuf, who is a member of the senate committee on banking, insurance and other financial institutions, plotting to ensure his wife becomes the next CEO of NIRSAL. The Committee on Banking performs oversight on NIRSAL. Senator Yusuf had reportedly boasted to friends that his wife would be the next CEO of NIRSAL. Maryam was also assured by her senator husband that the position would be hers by end of this year.

But the only headache for husband and wife is Aliyu Abdulhameed, the current CEO of the organization who is entitled to a second term, especially considering that he has been able to positively impact the agricultural sector in the last four years. NIRSAL’S mandate is to stimulate the flow of affordable finance and investments into the agricultural sector by de-risking the agribusiness finance value chain, fixing agricultural value chains, building long term capacity and institutionalizing incentives for agricultural lending through five strategic pillars of risk sharing, insurance, technical assistance, incentives and rating.

Abdulhameed’s tenure ends in December, but it is believed that his performance has impressed the CBN and other stakeholders who may wish to bring further consolidation to growth in the sector by re-appointing him for a second term.

This is not what Senator Yusuf wants and he is said to be doing his best to bring down Abdulhameed in order to ensure he doesn’t stand in the way. The senator had been linked with recent unsubstantiated damaging stories against NIRSAL and Abdulhameed in the last one year to prepare the ground for the eventual launch of his wife to the summit of the organization by end of year.

It is a project Senator Yusuf is said to take seriously. False information had been fed to the media that Abdulhameed had withheld intervention funds and circumvented due process by misappropriating funds for the Anchor Borrowers Programme released by the CBN.

Some of the false allegations were often repeated in the media to make them assume the garb of truth all in a bid to weaken Abdulhameed’s chances of been re-appointed to pave the way for the senator’s wife. When these lies were not flying, Senator Yusuf resorted to the various Senate Committees to harass the management of NIRSAL. For example, one of the committee requested NIRSAL’s management to come and account for budgetary allocations from 2013 to 2019 whereas NIRSAL does not take any money from federation account.

Another committee was asking for details of unremitted funds collected on behalf of FGN when NIRSAL is not a revenue collector. A number of senators are beginning to see the smokescreen behind all the negative stories circulated by Senator Yusuf.

While one may argue that Maryam is qualified to hold whatever positions she had occupied in the past and now, questions had always emerged about her route to the top. Again, many would consider her ambition to be CEO of NIRSAL as legitimate, but not a few would scoff at the way she planned to get there.

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