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Agric Ministry dismisses N18.9bn ‘bush clearing’ claims

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The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development says it did not spend N18.9 billion on bush clearing contract during COVID-19 lockdown.

The Director of Information in the ministry, Dr Joel Oruche, made this known in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja.

The ministry was reacting to a publication that alleged it spent N18.9 billion in bush clearing during COVID-19 lockdown and received an audit query to warrant summon by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Account.

The ministry said it only carried out bush clearing and land preparation of 3,200 hectares in eight states of the federation.

Oruche named the states as Osun, Ekiti, Edo, Cross River, Kaduna, Kwara, Plateau and Ogun.

He said it was allocated by the respective state governments at a total cost of N2.5 billion.

Oruche said it was other projects executed by the ministry during the COVID–19 period that summed up to the total sum quoted which included the construction of rural roads in the six geo-political zones of the country.

Others are soil sampling and mapping; farmers registration; and rehabilitation and equipping of four national soil laboratories in Umudike, Ibadan, Kaduna and Abuja.

He said the projects were successfully executed and verified by relevant government agencies.

“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,” Oruche said.

He explained that the various projects were part of a 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 the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

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Doris Esa

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