By Kikelomo Adegoke
First, let’s start by debunking the lie that this headline portraits. Oyo State is not set to lose out on any World Bank Project. And the reference to “irresponsibility” by the authors of this rather malicious write-up is clear mischief.
In fact, the recently conducted Joint Technical Mission by the World Bank and the Federal CARES Support Unit (FCSU) was targeted at specific states with huge commitments. Oyo State, as the state with the second largest commitment in the South West and third in the entire country, was selected for this visit.
Oyo State Government is clearly committed to the Nigeria COVID-19 Action, Recovery and Economic Stimulus (NG-CARES) programme domesticated as OYS-CARES and has released funds for all result areas. There are three result areas and five delivery platforms in Oyo State. But the writer chose to focus only on Result Area 2. This already raises a red flag regarding the intent of the writer.
To be clear, the purpose of the visit was to rub minds with the operational officers implementing the programme to prepare them ahead of the visit by the Independent Verification Agent (IVA) to all states of the Federation and FCT in October 2022 for assessment and reimbursement.
The question raised by the World Bank was: Should the IVA visit Oyo State today, will the state scale through the IVA assessment to earn reimbursement? All activities, questions and comments passed during the technical mission were to ensure that after the IVA assessment visit in October, Oyo State would qualify for the reimbursement of state funds already expended on the OYS-CARES programme.
So, what was the state of preparedness of the Oyo State Government as assessed by the World Bank representative? Should the IVA visit for an assessment today, Oyo State will not only scale through the IVA assessment, but the State will be reimbursed over and above 300% of what has been invested so far.
For the avoidance of doubt, since the release of funds for Result Area 2 of the project, activities have been ongoing to ensure that all the processes set forth by the World Bank are followed to the letter. This is why the report noted that, “activities [need to] be accelerated in Result Area 2 for targeted results to be achieved.”
Thanks to the proactive measures taken by Oyo State in 2020 during the distribution of COVID-19 palliatives to farmers, the state has a verifiable database of about 9,000 farmers. So, the distribution of inputs will go to real farmers in the state. Also, in July 2022, the training of 66 Facilitators and Desk Officers that will implement the programme across all LGAs was done.
More recently, inputs and assets to be distributed to farmers have been procured. It should be noted that the programme is not for all crops. To ensure that needs of real farmers are met, the World Bank stated that only farmers involved in the cultivation of specific crops could be supported.
These include cassava, maize, rice and horticultural plants. Oyo State decided to provide support for cassava farmers. Cassava planting begins in mid-September and ends in about mid-October. This explains why input distribution begins later in the year.
And so, each of the 5,000 farmer-beneficiaries in this stage of the project will get 25 bundles of cassava, 2.5 bags of fertilizer, one litre of herbicide and cash support for mechanization at 30% of the cost. This would amount to N200,000/cluster of farmers.
Activities have been rolled out, and distribution of inputs has been done for 100 youths at 0.5 hectares per youth at the Fasola Agribusiness Industrial Hub. The next distribution will go out to farmers in 9 LGAs in Oyo State, namely Atiba, Itesiwaju, Iseyin, Ona-Ara, Irepo, Ogo-Oluwa, Saki-West, Atisbo and Oyo West. All of this will happen before the visit of the IVA in October.
So, the claim that “N200m has been spent on procurement of 250 bundles of cassava cuttings and 90 bags of fertilizer” and that “the inputs were hurriedly distributed to 50 youths at Fasola government farm” is untrue. The writer also claimed that the above distribution is “ineligible expenses according to the project implementation manual.” Another lie.
As stated earlier, the World-Bank-Assisted programme has three result areas and five delivery platforms. Let us reiterate that the Oyo State Government is not on the verge of losing the CARES intervention. Oyo State has not failed “to execute the project and disburse funds appropriately.” The implementation for Result Area 2 alongside the two other Result Areas is on course and will be achieved.
Mrs Kikelemo Adegoke is the Head, State CARES Coordinating Unit, Oyo State.