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Ministry of Agriculture denies spending N18.9b on bush clearing 

Abuja—The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has refuted claims that it spent N18.9billion on bush clearing during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.

The Nation newspaper reports that the ministry in a statement by its Director of Information, Dr. Joel O. Oruche, noted that the statement, which emanated from the House Public Account Committee, must have been quoted out of context.

According to the statement, the Ministry didn’t receive any audit query to warrant summon by the Committee.

It noted that the ministry only carried out bush clearing and land preparation of 3,200 hectares in eight states, namely, Osun, Ekiti, Edo, Cross River, Kaduna, Kwara, Plateau and Ogun as allocated by state governments for N2.5billion.

Other projects executed by the ministry during the COVID-19 pandemic, it said, sums up to the total sum quoted, which included the construction of rural roads in the six geo-political zones, soil sampling and mapping, farmers registration as well as rehabilitation and the equipping of four National Soil Laboratories.

It added that the projects were  executed and verified by relevant government agencies and 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 COVID -19 pandemic in 2020.

The statement reads in part: 

“The attention of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has been drawn to a publication in the media on the report by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Account, which stated that N18.9billion was used for bush clearing during the COVID-19 lockdown.

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“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 a summon by the Committee.

“It is also important to state that the Ministry did not spend N18.9billion in bush clearing as reported.

“The Ministry 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 state governments for N2.5billion.

“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 Abuja.”

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