Agric ministry has denied spending over N18.9 billion over bush clearing.
Naijanewshub.com.ng gathered that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has denied spending the whooping sum of N18.9bn for bush clearing in some States.
It would be recalled that the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts ( PAC) had vowed to probe the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development over N18.9 billion contract awarded for clearing of bush,land preparation, rehabilitation of soil plant laboratory during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown.
Chairman of the Committee, Wole Oke, stated this on Tuesday while speaking on Auditor General of the Federation (AGF) query to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs ).
Oke assured that that the committee would be diligent in its investigation so as to unravel all the facts relating to the contract award.
He was quoted to have said: “During the the lockdown of the country as a result of COVID 19, some companies took contracts worth about N18 billion for bush clearing from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture for land preparation, rehabilitation of soil plant lab and others.
“We cannot shelve their heads in their absence.So, we have invited them to come and give us their own side by responding to the issues and show us the places they are supposed to have cleared.
“They have to take us to the land they cleared.We have invited Ministry of Agriculture and they have made submission.
“But some of our members whose constituencies these projects were supposed to be domiciled doubted the existence of these projects and for fair hearing, we have invited the companies that got the contract for them to come and tell this committee where and when the jobs were executed.
“We will wait till the end of hearing today to see if they will appear. If they are not here, we have to do the needful to get them to come here.”
However, in a statement issued on Wednesday night by Dr. Joel Oruche, Director, Information in the FMARD, said “the Committee must have been quoted out of context.”
The statement read in part:”The Attention of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has been drawn to a publication in the media on the report by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Account which stated that the sum of N18.9billion was used for bush clearing during the Covid- 19 lockdown.
“The Ministry wishes to state that if the statement emanated from the House Public Account Committee, the Committee must have been quoted out of context.
“To put the record straight however, the Ministry at no time received any audit query to warrant summon by the Committee.
“It is also important to state that the Ministry did not spend N18.9billion for bush clearing as reported.
“The Ministry only carried out bush clearing and land preparation of 3,200 hectares in 8 states of Osun, Ekiti, Edo, Cross River, Kaduna, Kwara, Plateau and Ogun States as allocated by respective State Governments at a total cost of 2.5 Billion Naira.
“In addition, other projects executed by the Ministry during the Covid-19 period that sums up to the total sum quoted included the following: construction of rural roads in the six geo- political zones of the country ,soil sampling and mapping, farmers registration as well as rehabilitation and the equipping of four National Soil Laboratories in Umudike ,Ibadan ,Kaduna and FCT,Abuja.
The statement explained that all these projects were successfully executed and verified by relevant government agencies and were part of stimulus package under the Agriculture for Food and Jobs Programme of the Federal Government to generate employment and grow the economy to mitigate the effect of Covid -19 Pandemic in 2020.