The Federal Government says it is replacing the Growth Enhancement Support scheme of the Goodluck Jonathan administration with a new one, Agricultural Implement and Mechanisation Services to facilitate inputs distribution.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said this during the inauguration ceremony of tractors supplied by John Deere Agricultural Equipment Company in Gwagwalada, FCT, on Thursday.
Ogbeh said that AIMS would facilitate the distribution of inputs such as certified seeds, fertilisers and chemicals as well as spraying services to farmers in every local government area of the country.
He said that the programme would be implemented in collaboration with Tractor Owners and Hiring Facilities Association of Nigeria and Tractor Owners Operators Association of Nigeria in council areas.
The minister expressed regret that the GES scheme was marred by fraud and irregularities.
He gave assurance that AIMS would encourage adequate tracing of suppliers, to ascertain distributors of fake inputs.
He said: “We are putting in place something in the ministry called AIMS.
“We are hoping to have a distributor or two in every local government area in the country, who will distribute certified seeds, fertilisers, chemicals and spraying services.
“They will work in close collaboration with the TOHFAN and TOOAN.
“This is going to replace the GES scheme. It was a very good scheme but the governors got into financial difficulties and were unable to pay their own portion of the subsidy.
“When we came in 2015, our ministry was in debt of N67 billion from GES, which was twice my budget of 2016.
“We are still paying; we are sorry that we have not finished paying those who supplied inputs but when we pruned it, we found that the bill was less than N67 billion; so, we will substitute it with AIMS.
“We can also trace to the supplier where the inputs came from, especially if it is the wrong kind of input, wrong fertiliser, seeds, and chemical.
“Traceability is important in modern agriculture.’’
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the GES was a special scheme introduced by the Federal Government under the previous administration’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda.
The objective of the scheme was to increase farmers’ access to subsidised inputs such as fertilisers and improved seedlings, through private sector participation.