One George Oghenekevwe, who claims to be a member of Delta state civil society community may have run into troubled waters for reportedly linking the name of the Delta state commissioner for agriculture, Julius Egbedi, with fraudulent acts in the poultry development programme of the Delta state government.
In a long letter addressed to the state governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Oghenekevwe alleged that the corruption activities of the agriculture commissioner was capable of undermining the usefulness of the poultry production programme of the state government, thereby bringing it to public ridicule and mockery.
He alleged that about 2000 members of poultry farmers in Delta state were short listed for a two-day training, having fulfilled all necessary criteria stipulated by the ministry of agriculture and were trained at the Delta state agricultural and rural development agency in Ibusa, Oshimili North local government area of the state. He said they all participated in the training.
However, he alleged that a week after the training, “Hon. Egbedi changed the narrative for us and dashed the hope of trained poultry farmers who were duly selected and trained by his own ministry and substituted them with imported names who are aliens to the entire process of the poultry development programme.”
He accused the commissioner of single-handedly picking 24 beneficiaries out of the 100 the ministry invited from the local governments, alleging that the commissioner was running an agenda known only to himself and his cronies., saying “this is an aberration and obvious deviation from the minimum laid down standard for the job creation of your administration.”
But in a meeting with select journalists under the aegis of Online Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria (OMPAN), the commissioner denied the accusation, giving step by step details of how the ministry organised the training for the poultry farmers in the state. He said the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, approved different programmes as a way of developing the agricultural sector of the state.
The commissioner explained that for the poultry farmers which is generating crisis, a number of them were actually invited for the training but not all were short-listed for the loan empowerment.
In the poultry development programme, he said: “We trained both those who may not be able to get the loans so that the skills acquired from the training could help them to improve on their farms. That is the essence of the training. If it was only for those that will get the loans, the trainees will be very few.”
According to Egbedi: “we also made them to understand that the training is not for all of them to get the soft loan. It is limited because what was approved could only take about 28 persons. We made it known to them during the training. So, after the training, because of the limited number of slots, we decided to spread it based on those who we feel merited the loan.”
He explained further that after the training he vetted the list to ensure it has a geographical spread, saying “we did it in such a way that the three senatorial districts of South, Central and North were properly taken care of.” He explained that the training was not essentially to give loans to all of them but to give them technical knowledge to improve their farms.”
He said: “the programme is not for those with big farms but for the upcoming ones whom we feel they are struggling, who don’t have the funds and means to expand their farms. Such persons we cater for, to at least help some people to live above poverty level so that they will be able to do well in their businesses.”
But arising from the corruption allegation against him, the commissioner said he has, through his lawyer, written to the Department of State Security (DSS) while his lawyer is also set to formally petition the author over the content of his letter. Though he wrote apology letter, the content, according to the commissioner, did not show remorse.
He said: “I will take necessary action. Next time he should cross check his facts before rushing to the press.” Mr. Egbedi described the letter as useless and loaded with unfounded allegations.
“He will go and meet DSS and explain to them how he got those information against us. I’ve written to the DSS and he will soon be invited for explanation.”
Giving more details on the issue, the director of livestock services at the ministry, Mr. Omunizua Chukwuemeka Julius, noted that such a letter was unfortunate as the content was not true.
He queried: “On what basis does he know he was selected. Everybody profiled was invited for the training. He erroneously assumed he was selected. Let him give evidence that he was selected. He said 2000 people applied but only 800 people applied. His name was not among those selected. The guy has taken a wrong step.
“The letter, as unfortunate as it is, has no basis. What evidence does he have that he was selected? If you say you were selected, you must have seen a list where your name appeared or they must have sent you a text message telling you that you were selected or you must have been given a letter of selection. The programme has several sections; one part of the programme is training, the other part is credit support to the farmers.
“We sent text messages out inviting people for the training. That is not to say all of them will be given credit support because of the resources available. Now, there is usually a second phase of it. Everybody that was profiled was certainly invited for training. That does not mean you have been selected. His name was not among those recommended not to talk of being selected.”
“Everybody that was selected was present during the stakeholders meeting we held last week. The message to the 28 persons was specific that you have been selected for the programme and at such you are invited for a stakeholders meeting to discuss the modalities. So, those were the people that were selected. Others applied, were profiled, but did not qualify.”