Chief Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, has denied ever awarding contract worth N25 billion on egg production to a firm, Tuns Farms Nigeria Limited.
A statement at the weekend by Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye, the Special Assistant to the Minister, urged Nigerians to disregard the threat and outbursts of a group acting under the pretext of fighting in public interest by trying to sue the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, over a purported N25 billion egg production contract he was said to have awarded to a firm.
The civil rights group, that addressed itself as Centre for Social Justice, had reportedly sued the Minister at the Federal High Court, Abuja, as published in a national newspaper and an online news medium.
Oyeleye said the group, acting on mere imagination and insinuation, without any facts check, is asking the Minister to “release details and copy of the N25 billion contract he signed with Tuns Farms Nigeria Limited.”
The group has insinuated that the said contract was supposedly aimed at facilitating egg production in the country on a project tagged National Egg Production Scheme (NEGPRO).
It is asking for a copy of the signed agreement, the contact address of the company, the newspaper where the procurement contract was advertised and the criteria for selecting Tuns Farms for the project.
It said that a letter it wrote to the Minister under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, requesting details of the contract, especially how Tuns Farms Nigeria Limited was selected for the contract, and if the contract was advertised in any newspaper in compliance with the provisions of Public Procurement Act, was ignored.
Therefore, Oyeleye stated that no contract was awarded to any company or business organisation for the purpose of egg production.
“Rather, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, on Tuesday, June 14, 2016, in Abuja, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) worth N25 billion on National Egg Production (NEGPRO) scheme, with Tuns Farms Nigeria Limited.
“NEGPRO scheme involves many farmers who are in the business of egg production. The selection of Tuns Farms to lead the group of farmers was based on certain criteria, essentially anchored on the track record of performance.
“Under the terms of the deal, Tuns Farms will recommend eligible entrepreneurs to access the N25 billion facility as well as endorse their loan requirements and application, and monitor their activities within the scheme.
“The Bank of Industry has a role in providing finance for the take-off of the scheme an initiative aimed at increasing egg production in the country to about 50 million table eggs daily by 2018.
“The scheme, which would be funded by BoI, would create one million jobs at full capacity. As said by Chief Tunde Badmus, chairman of Tuns Farms, during the MoU signing ceremony: “The beauty of it is that the loan under this programme is single digit, so we are not paying any higher interest due to the support from the Ministry of Agric.
“So, with that, to create one million employments to produce about 50 million eggs and also to have sufficient eggs and both eggs for the school children meal in the country and that is what it is all about. And to make sure that every local government is made to be able to produce eggs in the school children programme.
“In addition, under this private sector-led initiative, the company would recommend standard specifications and costing for the scheme, monitor activities of entrepreneurs involved in the scheme, support BoI through the National Technical Committee in the selection process of commercial banks to disburse and recoup the N25 billion anchor borrower facility from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as well as select entrepreneurs and stakeholders across the country for recommendation to the Technical Committee for final ratification and appointment to participate in the scheme.
“It is therefore surprising that a group, having nothing to do with agriculture, and having no knowledge of the NEGPRO scheme, would concoct allegations and choose to sue the Honourable Minister on pages of newspaper and on social media to gain attention and sympathy.
“It needs to be emphasised that the said civil rights group is not working in the interest of social justice but on a self-serving mission for some disgruntled interest groups, hiding behind a facade of civil rights activism.
“Accordingly, the public is hereby urged to discountenance the agitators, their allegations and false claims as their accusations contain no truth whatsoever.
“Rather, they are a mechanism for distraction to bring discontent against the laudable initiative of the Honourable Minister who understands the problems of the poultry sector and has come up with a private sector-led solution to increasing egg production in Nigeria,” he said.