Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Cell Phone Palaver

opinion

Ah, I think we are over-flogging this issue. If you ask me, I feel we should put paid to this matter," said Emeka this Tuesday morning as the commuter bus made its way through the early morning traffic along the Apapa-Oshodi expressway. He said this in response to the comment made by another commuter by name Ade who had on hearing the name of the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwunmi Adeshina mentioned in the news.

Ade had commented thus; "I'm surprised the man is still there. He should be sacked. He has his priorities upside down. Imagine a minister talking about buying cell phones for every farmer in Nigeria when there are more pressing issues. It simply shows he has no plans for our agric sector.

More serious nations are talking about food security and here we are, the so-called expert is talking about buying cell phones for farmers. Is that their most pressing need at this time?" "Bros cool down. You have a point but the minister has a point too.

I think he has done well so far. If you have been following the story, when the news first broke that the ministry was to spend N60 billion on 10 million phones for Nigerian farmers, he denied it and later explained what they actually planned to do," said Moses, adding; "it's not as if the money will be given to a contractor to go and buy the phones for the farmers.

He said they will do so in partnership with phone companies and they are only going to pay part of the money while the beneficiaries pay the rest. So instead of denigrating the man, we should support him. I believe he is very imaginative, forward-looking and forward-thinking. He means well for the sector."

Said Ade; "E be like say you are the minister's spokesman. Now tell me, how many rural farmers can use the cell phone to conduct their businesses? I still don't think that is a wise decision. Cell phone is the least of their problems. There are better things to do with the money.

Give them improved seeds and seedlings, high-yielding seeds, drought and pest-resistant seeds, teach them improved farming methods, provide robust extension services, get them modern farm implements and not cell phones. Cell phones ko, cell phones ni."

Replied Moses; "I am an ordinary Nigerian like you. I have never met the minister but let's be realistic. I have followed the story from the beginning. If you look at it critically, the massive corruption in distribution of fertiliser has reduced drastically through the use of mobile phones so farmers receive these agro-inputs directly, no more middlemen/government officials who have been fleecing the sector. It will help farmers get all the information they need real-time from the ministry's officials.

"That is compounding the issue. How many of them can read messages on their phones? So if he is giving them cell phones, he should build classrooms and send teachers where they will be taught how to read and write," retorted Ade, adding; "Why not use the money to train more extension officers to reach out to these rural farmers? The so-called government officials will still find a way to steal part of the money. They have come with their subsidy again when we have not recovered from the oil subsidy wahala. Honestly, I weep for this country."

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