The plan by the ministry of Agriculture to spend about sixty billion (N60,000,000,000.00 only) naira in buying mobile phones for 10 million farmers does not pass any test of logical reason. The motive like that of other projects is questionable. More questionable is the reactions of the two top officials of the ministry with respect to the exact amount of money to be spent on the project.
While the permanent secretary, Mrs. Ibukun Odusote put the cost of the project at N60 billion, the minister of the same ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Adesina Akinwunmi, claimed that they were yet to arrive at the budget yet. Who do we believe? To me, this is very strange because before any project is proposed, there needs to be some costs at least to work with. Too many questions begging for answers from these top officials because am yet to understand the mathematical formula used in calculating the cost of the said 10 million phones to arrive at about 6 billion naira.
However, that the ministry will deem mobile phones amongst all the problems facing the Nigerian farmer the most urgent is very worrisome. Yes, mind-boggling. Both the honourable minister and the secretary have tried in their individual understanding to justify the so called e-wallet project but to me, there are other more important issues that demand urgent attention. I agree that the Nigerian farmer needs information but the basic thing should be done first which is educating the farmers on modern farming techniques. How many farmers in the country today can read and write? How many farmers in Nigeria understand the basic functions of a simple mobile phone? This ‘mobile phone for farmers’ is a misplaced priority.
How on earth does a mere access to a mobile phone affect the productivity for these farmers? Instead, the minister and his team should concentrate more on ways of providing affordable access to modern farming equipment such as tractors, trucks and other machines, fertilizers and other productivity generating resources to the farmers.
They should provide storage facilities to reduce loss of farm produce especially the perishable ones as well as agricultural extension programmes to keep the farmers up to date with modern agricultural practices. It is no news that roads in the country are nothing to write home about and the roads to agricultural farms are even worse; yet what the honourable minister sees as the most pressing is buying mobile phone for farmers that already have access to means of communication.
In spite of the poverty in the land, some farmers in the rural areas have as many as two cell phones. In this case, should they discard of the old ones they had just to collect the new ones from the government? According to the minister, given the quantity and cost of food that the country imports, nothing can be more urgent and important that to produce more food for local consumption.
This is true but he is trying to solve it the wrong way because if N60 billion naira is effectively managed, it would do a lot at addressing the problems facing agriculture in Nigeria. I’m afraid this money might be another gift to some few individuals.
Again, purchasing these phones from either China or the U.S direct from the manufactures’ companies is not only ridiculous but makes no economic sense at all as it will only sustain jobs and create wealth in other economies. If the honourable minister lacks wisdom, let him ask of the Lord and it would be granted him! Indeed, common sense is not common.
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