At least 10,000 contractors are bidding for different contracts in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development this year, the minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has said. Ogbeh made this known in an interview with newsmen in Abuja on Monday.
The minister frowned at the increasing number of contract bids, saying it was responsible for the slow pace of work in the ministry. He noted that the documents presented by the contractors were still being processed to determine their competence for the jobs. According to him, the ministry was given N30 billion from the 2017 budget. The minister called for a single digit interest rate to encourage the youth particularly, and the public and private sectors to embrace agriculture and other businesses. “By law, we have to spend six weeks on procurement, open and look at people’s bids, process them, cross-check and ensure that all the companies are registered, as well as know the names of the companies and their owners. “10,000 people bidded for contracts in our ministry this year. There is a team of 10-12 people to look through every document, they haven’t finished yet. “The N30 billion is still sitting there, apart from some debt which we paid, we have not been able to apply it yet to what we want to do. “Why are there so many contractors, because the economy is now totally dependent on government. “There is no country where you see many people in the ministry wanting to see the minister. In Kenya, South Africa, Tunisia, Senegal, Uganda, visitors don’t come like here. “There are days in my officer that there are 60-70 people with all kinds of problems, you can’t blame them. If we had reasonable interest rates, this country would be the headquarters of private enterprises in the world. “Every Nigerian wants to do his or her own thing and be free to make money. These delays are happening,’’ he said. Speaking on some upcoming projects, Ogbeh said that Wallmart had ordered for cashew nuts worth seven billion dollars a year. He said if actualised, the delivery would earn for the country a significant amount of foreign exchange. The minister said that BZ Foods, a group of companies based in Spain had shown keen interest in setting up a tomato paste production factory in Katsina State. Ogbeh noted that the investment, between $30 and $40 million, would require no fewer than 300,000 farmers to grow tomatoes to meet the raw material needs of the factory. He added that the country would engage in the production of yam flour to meet the raw material needs of companies in the pharmaceutical industry. “The yam export is going on and we are going to start making yam flour for the pharmaceutical industry. ‘’But then, this is not cheap because we need stainless steel machines which are very expensive,’’ the minister said.