THE Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has denied spending N18.9 billion on bush clearing.
The ministry’s spokesperson, Joel Oruche, refuted the allegation in response to enquiries by The ICIR on Wednesday.
This newspaper reported that the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts (PAC) had commenced an investigation to unravel how the ministry spent the said amount on bush clearing across the country in 2020.
Chairman of the Committee, Wole Oke, who disclosed this at an investigative hearing in Abuja on Tuesday, said that the House was interested in finding out the location and significance of the projects executed with the N18.9 billion, which include land preparations and restoring soil plant laboratories.
He also disclosed that the committee had invited the ministry and the companies involved.
The revelation has generated mixed reactions and anger among Nigerians on social media.
However, in his reaction, Oruche said that the House of Representatives committee might have been misquoted in the media.
He also noted that the ministry had received no audit query to warrant summon by the committee.
According to him, 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 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 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 ministry noted all the above-listed projects were successfully executed and verified by relevant government agencies and were part of the 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 outbreak.