Thursday, January 03, 2013 / by Ernest Nwokolo, The Nation (title edited)
The Federal Government is to spend between N40 billion and N60 billion to procure 10million telephone handsets from China and the US for free distribution to rural farmers across the country.
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs Ibukun Odusote, who dropped the hint, said the handsets would be made available to the beneficiary - farmers before the end of March, this year.
She said the programme is aimed at establishing direct electronic communication between the government and farmers on agricultural matters, adding that the beneficiaries would be “women and youths” in rural areas.
Mrs. Odusote who spoke at Igan – Ipabi Community in Ijebu North East Local Government Area of Ogun State, during the sensitisation of the women and young ones on the propriety of taking farming as a viable occupation, explained that the handsets would also be accompanied with Solar powered lamps that would serve as chargers for the phones in the event of power failure.
Mrs Odusote said: “ We are talking about 10million handsets, each handset would be costing, may be N6000 or N4000 because it is in large number. We are not going to buy in pieces like that. We will buy directly from the manufacturing companies. We have agreement with some organisations in China and some in the United States, they are going to provide all these handsets for us because they are also interested in investing in the Agricultural sector in Nigeria. So you have the idea and estimate of the cost.
“And I tell you that the money is available, it’s on ground. We are looking at the first quarter of this year to roll – out the phones and by the end of the first quarter, we are done and they will start hearing about out roll – out.”
“The handsets will be the tools with which to communicate with the farmers in the rural areas, deep deep into the interiors so that we will be able to communicate with them even in the hinterlands.”
She said this is part of the incentives and the enabling environment being created by government at the centre to encourage women and young ones; particularly the graduates, to go into farming and agric-business, not only to relieve the nation’s ageing farmers in rural areas, but also to earn a honest living instead of roaming about in cities looking for non – existing jobs.
She said the government is committed to ensuring that Nigeria produces local foods consumed here by subsidising fertilisers, supplying seedlings and making them accessible to farmers.