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General News of Saturday, 7 April 2018

Source: The Herald

EOCO must investigate Agric Minister - Concerned farmers

The Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO), has been asked to invite the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie-Akoto, to account for funds used for government’s flagship programme, Planting for Food and Jobs.

A group of farmers, who are not pleased with the way the Minister is steering the affairs of the programme, have threatened they would put an injunction on the second phase of the programme, if the Minister is not asked to account for the funds spent so far, because he been on a one man mission.

The group accused the Minister of failing to consult a notable group like the Ghana National Association of Farmers and Fishermen (GNAFF), although they wanted to make inputs into the Planting for Food and Jobs programme.

“We want EOCO to investigate Dr. Afriyie-Akoto for the first tranche of the money used for the Planting for Food and Jobs, before the next phase starts or as farmers, we will put an injunction on the programme”, the farmers have warned.

The group also wants the Agric Minister to account for the money that was earmarked for last year’s Farmers Day celebration, since according to them, Dr Afriyie-Akoto, said there was no money for the event, yet awards were given out to some framers.

The concerned farmers want to know the sources of the items and how they were distributed insisting, successive government, cannot continue to use the name of farmers to source for money and then they as farmers do not benefit from such money.

“Dr. Afriyie-Akoto and his team are not transparent at all without us they are nobody. They have taken our money for long. Farmers don’t feel the money. How many warehouses have they built since the programme started?

It is our money as farmers. Every time they go and borrow money in our name not NPP or NDC, its Ghanaians our money. We want them to account for every penny since the President said he does not want corruption, we will help him fight it in that regard”, the group charged.

The group demanding the investigation, Concerned Farmers Association of Ghana says, the Minister failed the very moment he decided to exclude the various farmer groups by sitting in a small corner drafting and implementing the programme with people who know nothing about farming.

According to the President of the Association, Nana Oboadie Opambour Boateng Bonsu II, farmers are not happy that the Minister upon all the available groups that were willing to partake in the programme, he by passed them even after they called on him to do so.

“None of the associations was involved, we approached them at the Ministry but they said they are doing the right thing. The whole programme was done in a rush”, he told The Herald.

He said groups such as his, the Ghana National Association of Farmers and Fishermen (GNAFF) had availed themselves but the Minister instead asked them verbally to register as individuals and so they were not motivated to take part.

“Planting for food and jobs are they involving us the farmers? They are just doing things on their own because of pure partisan politics”, he said.

He decried while there are many abandoned warehouses and silos built by Dr Kwame Nkrumah that needed only rehabilitation, the Minister was adamant “sitting in Accra” even in the face of his claim that they have recorded bumper harvest.

Earlier this year, Dr. Afriyie, boasted the success of the programme and in one of his press conferences claimed, it had created some 745,000 jobs across the country.

This was challenged by groups, individuals and even party members such as Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin Central, Kennedy Agyapong.

Nana Oboadie Opambour Boateng Bonsu II, has also questioned why the Ministry, whose duty it is to provide education and training for farmers, will go to the extent of hijacking the Planting for Food and Jobs meant for the various associations, which are important players and say that “They are doing the right thing”?

Nana Boateng Bonsu II, who in the same interview called for the removal of the Board Chairman of COCOBOD, Hackman Owusu Agyeman, turned his guns on the Minister, firing “Afriyie Akoto should be sacked”, saying they had sat down unconcerned, while foreign companies are cutting down cocoa trees for rubber plantations.

He expressed deep concerned, how Ghanaian farmers, who are largely the aged suffer to work to feed the nation but incentives such as scholarship, cocoa clinics etc, do not benefit them, but politicians who claim to be working for them, live lavishly at their expense.

“If they clam there was bumper harvest – under the Planting for Food and Jobs -, then they should account for it. They should publish the districts and names of the farmers and individuals they have paid these money too. If they have not paid, then it means causing financial lost to the state”, Nana Boateng Bonsu said.

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