There is no plan to spend N60 billion on procurement of 10 million cellphones for farmers under the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) Scheme, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina said.
Akinwumi stated this while addressing State House correspondents in Abuja on Monday in reaction to a statement credited to the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr Ibukun Odusote.
Odusofe was quoted as saying that the Federal Government was planning to buy 10 million telephone handsets worth about N60 billion from China and the US for free distribution to rural farmers across the country.
But the minister said: “We are talking about 10 million handsets; each handset would be costing, may be N6,000 or N4,000 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.”
“When the story of 10 million phones costing 60 billion naira for Nigerian farmers first made the headlines, I immediately put out a press release denying that the Ministry of Agriculture was planning to spend such a huge amount of money on cell phones.
“Since then, I have read several comments on the Internet and in the newspapers and I find that it is necessary for me to enlighten the public about what the ministry of agriculture has been doing to help our farmers.
“Let me say this loud and clear. 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: there is no 60 billion naira anywhere to be used to buy cellphones.”
According to him, the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Communications Technology are partnering to provide the cellphones to the farmers through the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES).
He said that the phones would be sold directly to the farmers by Local Mobile Service Providers.
“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 fertiliser and seeds at subsidised rates.”
The minister gave a detailed background of his global experience in helping other countries such as Kenya and Malawi to develop their agricultural sector, saying he would not be distracted by criticisms of political farmers who were part of the sleaze that was perpetrated in the last four decades before the advent of the incumbent administration.
Adesina frowned at those criticising him for introducing the Cell Phones Scheme for farmers across the country
“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.”
“I have stolen no man’s silver, nor demanded any man’s gold, and will continue to drive bold innovations and reforms to fully modernize and transform the agricultural sector of this country.
“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.”
The Minister reiterated his determination to transform and revolutionize the nation’s agricultural sector.
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