Sunday, 2 December 2018

Mismanagement, embezzlement cripple Lagos Agric-YES Project

Ten years after Lagos State Agriculture Youth Empowerment Scheme (Agric-YES) kicked off, the project has suffered serious hiccups, which have led to the two centres at Epe and Badagry being rendered inactive.

While the Epe centre has been partially taken over by weed, especially the administrative building and green houses, the Badagry centre is still kept neat, despite the fact that activities have been grounded.

The Guardian investigation revealed that the lull experienced at the facilities was occasioned by the alleged mismanagement and embezzlement of funds by representatives of government as well as beneficiaries.

On a visit to both centres, no beneficiaries were on ground, neither were the centres admitting new trainees. In fact, the few workers who were on hand said they had no idea when new beneficiaries would be admitted.

The Agric YES programme, which started in 2009, ran successfully until 2015 when things took a different turn owing to the stoppage of allocations to the centres by the state government as alleged by some stakeholders.

According to them (some stakeholders), this resulted in the centres’ inability to admit new set of trainees after the last batch passed out.

The programme, a three-phase initiative, includes a six-month intensive hands-on practical based training in aquaculture, poultry, vegetable farming and bee keeping.

Thereafter, the trainees are exposed to another six-month practical experience in aquaculture, poultry, vegetable farming and bee keeping in a commercial farm, before they are permanently settled in farm estates in various locations across the state.

Even though there were allegations that the Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration technically stopped the programme, investigation revealed it did not, but only changed its focus and philosophy for the provision of takeoff grant for participants that have completed their training.

Before the present administration came on board, the state government provided direct loans to the enrollees, but Ambode asked the only set of participants trained in the first year of his administration to apply to the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund for their takeoff grants to enable them set up their farms and poultries.

This, it was gathered, did not go down well with the managers of the scheme, as the step effectively cut them off the highly lucrative fund disbursement style of the previous administration.

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