Nigeria: ANPP anger over free phone plan for 10 million farmers
A Nigerian opposition party has condemned a government scheme to give 10 million mobile phones for free to farmers. All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) General Secretary Tijani Tumsa said the plan was a "mischievous vote-catching exercise" for the 2015 elections.
Last week, the agriculture minister said the phones would help farmers "drive an agriculture revolution". Akinwumi Adesina said their purchase would be financed through a tax. He denied reports that the government had already set aside $400m (£249m) to buy the phones.
Tumsa told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme the scheme was a ploy by the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) to "connect" with voters in rural areas in the build-up to elections. He said he doubted the plan would boost the farming sector.
"You are just creating business for the telecom companies. You are not impacting on agricultural production in Nigeria, unless the purpose is to have more phone coverage," Mr Tumsa added.
Defending the scheme, Adesina said Nigeria had the highest number of mobile phones in Africa - an estimated 110 million - but many Nigerians in rural areas did not have them. "Our goal is to empower every farmer. No farmer will be left behind," Mr Adesina said in a statement.
"We will reach them in their local languages and use mobile phones to trigger an information revolution which will drive an agricultural revolution." He said five million of the 10 million phones would be given to women. A government agency, the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), would help finance the scheme through a tax, he said.
"We intend to work with existing mobile operators in Nigeria through a public-private partnership," Adesina said. "Agriculture today is more knowledge-intensive and we will modernize the sector, and get younger entrepreneurs into the sector, and we will arm them with modern information systems."