*war over FG grant to Farmers

The department of fisheries of the federal ministry of agriculture is currently enmeshed in crises that can reduce the dream of the nation’s self-sufficiency in fish production into a night mare if not handled with dispatch.

The crises according to source made available to newsmen in Awka alleged that the trouble started when Deaconess Foluke Areola was arbitrarily appointed the acting director in the Fisheries department, over and above a list of about four substantive Deputy Directors. The neglected Deputy Directors include A.N Atanda, A. O Cheke, A.O Abioye, and M. Muazu who are all at least two years her senior on the job and in hierarchy.

Ministry sources who spoke to journalists during a two-day workshop in Awka, Anambra state claimed that as soon as the acting director who was unilaterally ferried over to the Fisheries Department from the Quarantine Department took over the rein of power in the Fisheries department at the departure of the former Director who retired, she adopted all manner of arm-twisting tactics to frustrate, intimidate, embarrass and disgrace all the four senior principal officers who were her administrative seniors. Apparently, our sources revealed was with a view to frustrating them out of service and the way since since it was alleged she enjoys a very chummy relationship with the Minister, Dr Akinwunmi Adeshina. However, many suspect the the Minister was merely being used as a pawn as he may not even know all the undercurrent moves and effects of Areola’s conducts, and or misconducts.

One such unilateral act of hers was denying them the opportunity of going for an oral promotion interview after successfully undergoing the written examinations for the substantive position of the director in the department.

It was alleged that because the Deaconess lacks the working experience she now regularly employ the use of intimidation, fake suspension orders she readily procures from the Director of Human Resources, and her other cronies, particularly some Commissioners(names withheld)in the Civil Service commission to perpetrate her agenda of dealing ruthlessly with the four officers so that she would continue run a one- man- show affair in the department like her private estate. All these which according to internal sources have negatively impacted on the production of fish in the country contrary to the President Goodluck Jonathan’s reformation agenda on fish production/sufficiency and export to the outside world.

A stakeholder in fish production and National President of the Fish Farm Estate Developers Association of Nigeria, Chief Maurice Ebo while reacting to the development described it as unfortunate and demoralizing, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to set up a panel of enquiry to look into the activities of the newly appointed director who has impaired the initial high hopes fish development in the country .

He alleged that the a whole confusion has given room for the unilateral frustration and disbursement of the about Nine hundred million naira (N900m)funds from the tripartite contract agreement signed by the Fish Farm Estate Developers Association, Fidelity Bank Plc and the (FG) Fisheries Department . He pointed out that the whole money has been withdrawn to almost zero level with the Acting director signing out money to un known beneficiaries who were never part of the arrangement. That she achieved this through manipulating the stipulations of the tripartite agreement and the relevant signatories to the account. The banks were also required to explain what has been going on.

Chief Maurice Ebo disclosed that the first tranche of N600m which was released under the era of the late President Musa Shehu Yar’Adua saw the disappearance of about N160 m. And since then, more funds have gone down the drain without any accountability since the new inexperienced Acting Director could not account for those she has been disbursing the funds to. he bemoaned the situation where none of the registered fish farmers has received any loan subvention from the fund since Areola took over. He therefore want the acting director to tell the world what she has done with the money meant to boost fish production in the country .” This recklessness in disbursement of funds must stop, she has used everything at her disposal to keep our association in disarray , there is no transparency in her policy implementation”, Chief Ebo emphasized.

He accused the acting Director suffusing the Minister of Agriculture with lies that the project has failed so that she can do whatever she likes with the resources.

Every effort so far made by the Fish Farm Estate Developers Association to have audience with the minister since he assumed office has always been frustrated . He pointed out that the minister could not keep the six different written appointments he had fixed with the group which he noted gives an indication that the minister is acting out the scripts written by Deaconess Areola who has been shielding him away from stakeholders in the ministry.

He however called on the minister of agriculture to look into the department of fisheries and see how he can restore normalcy into the system to justify the huge investment of the President Jonathan’s administration in the sector .

Chief Ebo also urged the senate committee on agriculture to beam their search light on the department as part of their over sight function to ensure accountability as the present development in the federal fishery department if not checked on time may snowball into monumental national disgrace .

He said that only about only 60 of his members had benefitted form the special funds, long before the coming of Areola and Adeshina. And that his group may be forced to consider court action for redress if the acting director continue to waste fully disburse the fund she knew nothing about as she was not in the department when the deal was sealed.