60 Billion Naira For Mobile Phones: FG Insists Nigerian Farmers Need Cell Phones
The Federal Government on Monday insisted that despite the deluge of criticism trailing its plan to provide 10 million farmers in the country with cell phones, they actually needed the communication equipment.
The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, made the government’s position known at a news briefing at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said despite the media war launched by those he described as detractors claiming that the Federal Government would spend N60bn on the cell phones, he would not be distracted from his resolve to “rebuild the broken walls of Nigeria’s agriculture and unlock wealth and opportunities for our farmers.”
Adesina said when he took over as agriculture minister in July 2011; he inherited a corrupt and totally inefficient fertilizer sector, where the government was spending huge amounts of money on direct procurement and distribution of subsidised fertilizers but with less than 11 per cent of the farmers getting the input.
He said a similar situation held sway in the seed sector, where middle men and rent seekers were the ones benefiting from the billions of naira spent every year by the government for subsidies.
The minister said it was clear to him at inception that there was a need to end the corrupt system, if the nation must free Nigerian farmers from the shackles of rent seekers and opportunists, who had for decades disempowered the farmers and hampered the growth of the sector.
He added that with clear directive and support from President Goodluck Jonathan, his ministry ended four decades of corruption in the fertilizer sector within 90 days of his assumption of office as minister.
This, Adesina explained, was achieved by getting subsidised high quality fertilizer and seeds to rural farmers through the introduction of the Growth Enhancement Support scheme in April 2012.
He said the GES scheme delivered inputs to farmers directly by using their cell phones.
The minister said, “In the first year of the GES scheme, 1.2 million farmers received their subsidised fertilizers and seeds via their cell phones. We expect to have reached 1.5 million farmers by the end of the dry season. Let me say that this singular effort to get inputs to farmers directly resulted in the addition of an estimated 8.1 million metric tonnes of food to the domestic food supply.”