Though whole nations, including Nigeria, were on lockdown in year 2020 – with no socio and economic activities, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has explained that it spent only N2.5bn rather than N18.9 billion to clear bush during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.
The ministry said it only carried out bush clearing and land preparation of 3,200 hectares in eight States of Osun, Ekiti, Edo, Cross River, Kaduna, Kwara, Plateau and Ogun as allocated by the respective State governments, at a total cost of N2.5billion.
A statement issued by the ministry’s director of information, Dr Joel Oruche, noted that other projects executed by the ministry during the COVID-19 period that sums up to the total sum quoted included the 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 (Abia State), Ibadan (Oyo State), Kaduna and FCT Abuja.
Dr Oruche pointed out that all the 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.
The statement reads in parts, “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 N18.9B 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 N18.9B in 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.”