FG Has No Plan For N60bn Cell Phones For Farmers, Says Adesina
MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE, DR. AKINWUMI ADESINA
SAN FRANCISCO, January 14, (THEWILL) – The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Monday, cleared the air on the controversy trailing the purported plan by the Federal Government to spend a whopping N60billion on cell phones for farmers, saying there was no plan for such a project.
Adesina,who maintained that no such amount was ever earmarked for such project, disclosed that the type of phone that would be purchased and the mode of its distribution was yet to be determined.
The minister gave this clarification in a statement titled, Cell phone for Nigerian Farmers, delivered to State House correspondents, saying the government was planning to distribute only two million phones to farmers this year. He stressed that there will be no direct procurement of the phones by government.
While explaining that no contract for the purchase of the cell phones would be given to any contractor, Adesina said the Ministries of Agriculture and Information Technology were partnering on how to make the phones available to the farmers.
“There will be no direct procurement of phones by the Federal Government. We are also not going to give anyone contracts to import phones from China or anywhere else. Let me also state loud and clear that there is no N60 billion anywhere to be used to buy cell phones,” he said.
According to the minister, “The Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Communications Technology are partnering together to implement this policy. We intend to use the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) to distribute these phones.
“To be entitled to a phone, farmers must be registered on the e-wallet platform. Paper vouchers will be issued to farmers who do not have phones. The government will provide a subsidy to the farmer through the voucher to buy the phone.
"The farmer takes the voucher to the local mobile phone operator and pays the balance which is the difference between the value of the voucher and the cost of the phone.
" Once a farmer buys a phone and a SIM card, his new phone number will be updated on the e-wallet database and he will be able to receive his e-wallet voucher which will entitle him to purchase fertilizer and seeds at subsidised rates.”
Adesina explained further: “Phones will be sold directly to farmers by local mobile phone service providers. The government simply subsidises the cost of the phone directly to the farmer.
"Government will work with interested mobile phone service companies to achieve its goal. We intend to start by first targeting farmers who live in areas where there is network coverage already but who do not have phones.
“We will then encourage phone companies to increase their coverage and as they do we will target farmers in those areas. By so doing phone companies will have the incentive to expand to rural areas because our program will assure them of customers in those new areas.
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Ibukun Odusote, had stirred the hornet nest when he stated that the government was planning to buy 10 million telephone hand sets worth about N60 billion from China and the United States for free distribution to rural farmers across the country.
“We are talking of about 10 million hand sets; each hand set would be costing, may be N6000 or N4000, because it is in large number. We are not going to buy in pieces like that. We will buy directly from the manufacturing companies. We have agreement with some organisations in China and some in the United States, they are going to provide all these handsets for us because they are also interested in investing in the agricultural sector in Nigeria. So you have the idea and estimate of the cost,” Odusote was quoted as saying.
At the presentation on Monday in Abuja, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, had earlier observed that there is a tendency to politicise everything in the country.
Stating that the Ministry of Agriculture is one of the star ministries in the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Abati said it has tackled corruption in the distribution of fertilizer, tractors and other agro-allied products.
And the minister, who cleared the air on the matter and also gave a detailed background of his global experience in helping other countries such as Kenya and Malawi to develop their agricultural sector, said he will not be distracted by criticisms from those he described as political farmers who, according to him, were part of the sleaze that was perpetrated in the last four decades before the advent of the incumbent administration.
“I will not be distracted. We will rebuild the broken walls of Nigeria’s agriculture and unlock wealth and opportunities for our farmers. For those calling for my crucifixion, let me say that when Jesus was before Pilate, they had accused him falsely. Pilate, after listening to his case, found no cause for condemning him.
"Nonetheless, should anyone still want me crucified, let me say this, along my faith: I am crucified with Christ already. Nevertheless, I live and the life that I live, I live by the grace of the son of God, who died for me," the minister said.
Adesina, who maintained his innocence in the furore, said "I have stolen no man’s silver, nor demanded any man’s gold, and will continue to drive bold innovations and reforms to fully modernise and transform the agricultural sector.
" That is my remit from the President and that is exactly what we will do, as I continue to serve my nation with the highest level of vision, passion, personal integrity and dedication. I am crucified with Christ already and we are determined to transform and revolutionise the agricultural sector.”
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