The Minister did not give a specific sum of money for the project.
The Minister of Agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina, on Friday released an ambiguous statement that failed to give clarity to the government’s position on the 10 million telephone handsets to be purchased for an equal number of farmers.
Mr. Adesina said that while his ministry intends to buy phones for 10 million farmers, it will not spend N60 billion on the project.
On Thursday, Permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Ibukun Odusote, was quoted as saying the Federal Government will procure 10 million telephone handsets worth about N60 billion for farmers.
The Agriculture Minister said it is untrue and that his permanent secretary was quoted out of context.
Even he, however, failed to give a definite cost or source of funding for the phones.
In a statement released by Mr. Adesina, he said that his permanent secretary was misquoted.
“My permanent secretary was totally misquoted out of context. There is no 60 Billion Naira for phones anywhere.
“As a responsible Minister, who takes public accountability and probity very seriously, there is absolutely no way in the world that I will even contemplate or approve such expenditure. All our focus as government is on creating jobs in Nigeria, not exporting jobs elsewhere,” Mr. Adesina said.
The minister stated that the provision of the phones is a partnership between different public and private bodies.
“The distribution of the phones will be supported through an MoU signed between the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Communications Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, with the Ministry of Women Affairs. Out of the 10 million phones, 5 million will go to women.
“The Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), which supports expansion of mobile operators into rural areas, through a tax, will support this initiative, in partnership with Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. We intend to work with existing mobile operators in Nigeria through a public-private partnership,” he said.
He, however failed to provide details of the total cost of the phones, and how much each partner would contribute to the expenditure, thereby fuelling claims of the original N60 billion mentioned by the permanent secretary.
While Mr. Akinwunmi was trying to salvage his and his ministry’s reputation over the proposed expenditure by denying the speculated amount involved, the presidency was defending the figure.
Omokiri defends N60bn
The Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on new media, Reno Omokiri, strongly defended the N60 billion proposed spending, revealing a blurred strategy in the Federal Government’s financing of the project.
While the Minister of Agriculture insists that N 60 billion will not be spent on the phones, Mr. Omokiri, on Twitter, said 10 million farmers will get phones worth 6,000 per unit.
“For those who have an objective mind, 60 billion divided by 10 million farmers gives you a unit cost of 6000 Naira per phone,” Remo Omokiri said.
Mr. Adesina, however, said his policies in the Agricultural and Rural development Ministry is to ensure sure that no farmer is left behind in the ministry’s agenda to move Agriculture in Nigeria from a development program to agriculture as a business.
Efforts made by PREMIUM TIMES to get a detailed breakdown of how the ministry arrived at the 10 million figure for farmers, as well as the total cost of the project and contribution by each partner, failed as the minister’s spokesperson, Tunde Oladunjoye, declined to respond to telephone enquiries and text messages.