Forbes Award: Fish Farmers Set For Showdown with Agric Minister over Missing Grant by Chuks Collins
The stage may have been set for a between by the body of aqua culturists in the country under the aegis of Fishfarm Estate Developers Association with the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina over what was described as a breach of contract. Members of the association, according to its national President, Chief Maurice Ebo have already sent in the documents concerning the tripartite agreement signed by them, the Ministry and Fidelity Bank for a systematic approval and release of the Federal Government special grant to the fish farmers to study with a view to commencing a legal action.
Chief Ebo had disclosed in a press briefing to journalists yesterday in Ogidi, Anambra state alleged that the agreement with the Agriculture Ministry and the bank on disbursement of funds was in pursuit of the transformation policy of the FG to boost fish production and exports in the country.
He claimed that the implementation pattern which was formulated to the satisfaction and accountability convenience of the parties had progressed smoothly right from the era of the late President Umaru Shehu Yar’Adua, till there was a change of guards when The Forbes Award-winning Dr Akinwunmi took over and brought in a new acting director of Fisheries, Deaconess Areola.
Falling short of blaming the awry situation on the new acting director, who he accused of lacking the disposition and views of the concept of the fishing policy, having come from the Forestry Dept, set aside the agreement and started administering the fund unilaterally. Unfortunately, the association was meant to identify and guarantee the potential beneficiaries before any disbursement is made to anyone by the bank. The Fish farmers Association leader alleged that ever since the assumption of office of the acting director all contact or disbursement to known fish farmers stopped.
The situation, Chief Ebo stated has now put spanner in the works of the policy, the farmers who have already put in huge resources, expanded and employed more hands as required by the agreement. He also disclosed that all attempts to make the acting director respect the existing agreement did not work as she now allegedly resorted to divide and rule thereby disorganizing his association. Members have since become restive, hence the media briefing to see if the Minister would accede to a maiden meeting with the association as was normal before his arrival, to appraise their challenges and needs.
They therefore called on the minister of agriculture to summon a meeting of all the stakeholders to put an end to the confusion that has made so much funds to be wasted.
Chief Ebo however on behalf of the members congratulated Dr Adesina on his distinguished 2013 Forbes International award, pointing out that, “we expect him to extend his goodness and award winning magic to the fisheries department of his ministry so that the dream to make Nigeria self sufficient in fish production can become a reality.”
A member of the association, Dr Ken Nwopia who spoke to journalists at the media noted that the prevailing confusion in the Ministry has hugely negatively affected fish production as funds meant for the proposed mass production and export were now being allegedly spent on some other ventures that has nothing to do with fishery or aqua culture as programmed by the FG.