Hours before the government released money to pay maize farmers, President Uhuru Kenyatta publicly scolded his Agriculture and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri daring him to pay cartels.
Turning to his minister, and physically frustrated by the incessant corruption scandals, President Kenyatta pointed at Mr Kiunjuri and warned: “Mungiriha nimukuona,” – meaning you will be in hot soup if you pay the cartels again.
During the last instalment, billions of shillings meant for farmers was paid to a few brokers and cartels – leaving thousands of farmers with nowhere to sell their produce. Most of the brokers and cartels had exported their maize through a duty free window.
In the maize scandal, which has seen several National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) officials charged in court, maize importers were paid millions of shilling for deliveries while genuine farmers were left out.
Mr Kiunjuri recoiled in his seat, seemingly shocked by the unexpected outburst. President Kenyatta, thereafter, continued with his off-the-cuff message.
“I don’t want to say much … but let me just say one thing. I have heard the cries of maize farmers who say they have not been paid and the CS has just informed me that from today they have started to pay the farmers.”
He continued: “But I would like to say this because the truth must be spoken. Money for paying maize farmers was in our budget for the previous financial year. And we know for sure that these people from the NCPB, instead of paying the maize farmers who have toiled so that they could get some little money to educate their children, they decided to start by irregularly paying the powerful suppliers and importers.”
“I promise you … and I swear before God, you try that again and you’ll see what is going to happen to you. We don’t want these jokes anymore.”
Maize farmers are yet to be paid part of Sh3.5 billion for the produce they delivered to the depots over eight months ago.
“We have not been blind to what has happened. And those that have engaged in this fraud, we shall follow them. Government funds are monies belonging to the citizenry,” he said in his official speech.
The President said he was happy about this year’s efforts by farmers to increase the acreage under maize.
“Maize output is expected to rise from 34 million to 41 million bags. Indications that we’re most likely to harvest six million bags from the short rains season, which will bring the total supply in 2018 to nearly 47 million bags.