Wet Season Maize Cultivation Delayed Weeks After Flag-off In A'Ibom

The wet season maize cultivation in Akwa Ibom may not take off as planned due to many factors affecting the implementation of the scheme in the state.  Already, the leadership of Maize Growers, Processors and Marketing Association of Nigeria (MAGPAMAN) Akwa Ibom chapter, only succeeded in taking delivery of six out of 10 items as inputs from the federal government for distribution to members for the project implementation in the state.   It was gathered that four of the farm inputs such as, NPK fertilizer 20:10:10; Knapsacks sprayers; empty bags and one other item are being expected in the state from the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).  Midweek Pioneer Agric also gathered that the opening of accounts by the maize farmers with the management of Ecobank, being the implementing financial institution also constituted a major challenge to them for the smooth takeoff of the scheme in Akwa Ibom.  One of the scheme beneficiaries, Uduak Akpan, while lamenting the stress she went through in the process of opening an account, called on the management of Ecobank to extend their services to local government areas and rural communities for easy access to maize farmers thereby fast-tracking the process in the state.  Akpan said a text message from Ecobank branch in Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area referred her to the Aka Road Branch of the bank in Uyo for the account opening which she said the officials were unable to handle.  She said it was at the Aka Road Branch that a friend advised her to try Oron Road Branch of Ecobank for the opening of an account with her two passport sized photographs, valid identity cards such as voter's card, international passport or driver's license and endorsement by MAGPAMAN officials.  Akpan observed with dismay the slow process of account opening with the bank, expressing her opinion that the exercise should be decentralized to hasten the implementation of the wet season maize cultivation in the state.  Another beneficiary of the scheme, Mr Inyang Ekanem, told Midweek Pioneer in Uyo, that maize farmers from Eket, Ikot Ekpene and other local government areas of the state were made to open their accounts at the Oron Road Branch of Ecobank which, he said, should not be the case considering the stress members were subjected to in the process.   Describing farming as time bound, Ekanem said for maize farmer to reap bountiful harvest from the wet season maize cultivation, all stakeholders involved in the project implementation in Akwa Ibom should exhibit high degree of commitment to guard against adverse weather conditions.  The state chairman of the group, Apostle Etop Udo Afia, assured that inputs distribution to members would be done as soon as members were through with their account opening procedure.  The manager of Ecobank, Oron Road Branch, Mr Essien Oboh, when contacted to comment on the reported slow process of account opening for the scheme in the state, said he was not authorized by the management to entertain press interview.  Investigation, however, revealed that social distancing, due to the global Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to the slow process of accounts opening by the maize farmers as few numbers of beneficiaries were invited per time into the banking hall for documentation by the officials.   At the formal flag off ceremony of the wet season maize cultivation at the premises of the Ministry of Agriculture, Uyo, on July 2, 2020, it was disclosed by the official of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Uyo Branch that 3,610 Akwa Ibom maize farmers were registered to participate in the scheme in the state.

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