Insecurity and political upheaval topple Lakerice collaboration, Lagos rice mill nears completion

Six years ago, when the Lagos State government came up with Lakerice, an acronym that stands for Rice of Lagos and Kebbi States, the people of Lagos took a deep breath of relief as the initiative brought help with reducing the cost of the product. But they didn’t know it wouldn’t last long. In this article, ANOZIE EGOLE, examines what could be the reason why the merchandise is out of stock

In March 2016, the Lagos State government led by Mr. Akinwumi Ambode and his Kebbi State counterpart, Atiku Bagudu, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to offer Made in Nigeria rice.

This decision, according to the two governors, fulfilled the promises of the president, General Muhammad Buhari (retired) in 2015 to develop agriculture and ensure food self-sufficiency.

In what appears to fulfill the terms of the memorandum of understanding signed by the two states, nine months later, in December 2016, they stepped up their game with the launch of the highly anticipated Lagos-Kebbi Rice dubbed Lakerice.

This partnership was not only designed to ensure food security, but also to show Nigeria’s ability to become a food-producing nation.

During the launch held at Lagos House, Ikeja, Ambode said the development was a great historic moment for the states and Nigeria as the rice would not only be sold at a much reduced price, compared to what is obtained on the market, but is also very fresh and safe to eat.

He also said the prices for the goods were 50kg bag N12,000; 25kg N6000; 10 kg and 2,500 N, adding that individuals could only buy one bag to allow the product which was few in the market to circulate.

It is safe to say that the initiative came at a time when Nigerians needed it most due to the ban on foreign parboiled rice which resulted in the high price of the product in the market. This initiative has really brought relief to so many families because those who could not afford to buy a bag of foreign rice for their celebration resorted to Lakerice which was cheaper than others.

Meanwhile, six years later, uncertainty has started to follow this laudable decision as the Lakerice is out of the market and the Lagos State Government plans to commission a new rice mill between June and July 2022.

While others blame inconsistent government policies as the reason this laudable initiative was scrapped, others point to the security situation in a certain part of the north.

Where is Lakerice?

Farmers including members of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria told our correspondent that the agreement between the two states when Lakerice was launched was that Kebbi would be given responsibility for producing the products while Lagos, as as a commercial hub, would be in charge of selling the product.

While others say the constant attacks by bandits in the north could be another major cause for concern as to why the initiative did not last, some saw inconsistent government policies as another factor. major.

Meanwhile, there are indications that political differences between former Lagos State Governor Ambode and his successor Babajide Sanwo-Olu could also be another reason the project was scrapped.

AFAN Lagos Chapter President, Femi Oke, in a conversation with our correspondent in Lagos, said insecurity in Kebbi had affected the initiative.

“Kebbi and Lagos States were in collaboration to bring rice and immediately we had difficulties in Kebbi and because of the insecurity in that area, it affected it. Lagos is like a place of marketing while the production comes from Kebbi, that’s how they got that name”

He reiterated that Kebbi was not safe for his members to do business which is why the initiative is what it is now.

“But Kebbi, at present, is not safe for our employees to do business with, so we are not getting more returns than before from Kebbi. Bangudu happens to be the Governor of Kebbi State, he is a farmer and a member of AFAN and whatever we do in Lagos State, he is always with us. We are very surprised that the insecurity in Kebbi State is increasing every day and this may cause the problem of not seeing Lakerice in the market”

AFAN Vice President in Lagos Mr. Shakin Agbayewa said what happened in Lakerice was political.

“It’s political; you know the problem between Ambode and Sanwo-Olu, so when the outgoing governor came on board, he stopped this project. The truth is that Kebbi was plantation state, farmers do everything in Kebbi but they bring it to Lagos to sell. You will agree with me that Lagos is the commercial hub of Nigeria, so this was an agreement between the Lagos State Government and the Kebbi State Government,” he said.

Also speaking, a rice seller at the popular market in Ikotun, Lagos State, who went by the name Ifeanyi Igwe: “We are not used to seeing the rice anymore, they don’t supply us anymore. The last time we had the product was last August. We don’t know the reason why they stopped bringing the rice”

For Christian Omoba, also a rice seller, he does not remember the last time he saw rice in the market.

“I can’t even remember the last time I saw this product on the market, I think it should be over a year now. Then the product was selling because it was cheaper than the normal rice in the market, so people preferred it. But seriously, I don’t know why they stopped supplying this product to us, we can’t even see it to buy it,” he said.

Another rice seller, Jude Ogwuo, said he didn’t sell this particular rice before adding that he just doesn’t like selling it.

“I’ve never sold it before, I just don’t like it and it’s not available. I mainly deal with foreign rice bags and my customers know that,” he said.

Expectations

Speaking to our correspondent, the Lagos State Government, through the Information Commissioner, Mr. Gbenga Omotosho, said the state will soon inaugurate the Lagos Rice Mill, which will be the most largest in sub-Saharan Africa and the second largest in the world.

He reaffirms that with the move, the state is about to conceal the exit of the Lakerice.

Omotosho, when asked what happened to the Lakerice initiative, said the focus should be on the new rice mill which has the capacity to produce 2.5 million tons per year.

“What I know is that we are building our own rice mill which will be commissioned in a few months around June July. And it will be the largest in sub-Saharan West Africa. I was not there in 2019 when it all started, but the focus now is, as I know, on the rice mill which will be one of the largest in the world 2.5 million tons per year is where the “The focus is right now. If you know what’s on the ground in Imota, you won’t be talking about Lakerice”

Omotosho reiterated that he had no answers about Lakerice.

“I don’t know much about Lakerice but I think it was about the collaboration of Lagos State with Kebbi State, we get the rice during the festivities and if we talk about milling the rice , I don’t know why anyone would talk about Lakerice when we have a brand new rice mill, one of the highest in the world, which will be commissioned in two or three months”

“I don’t have any information about Lakerice but I know about the new rice mill we are building. And I think that should be the goal, it’s the biggest in Africa and one of the biggest in the whole world with 2.5 million metric tons and jobs for hundreds of people. With a good road network in the area and so many other things that will change the face of this community. If I know all this, why am I talking about Lakerice. And the whole world is looking forward to this new rice mill”

Agbeyewa, also reiterated that the Lagos State Government is planning to revitalize the rice industry with the commissioning of the Imota Rice Mill which was expected to be held around June or July 2022.

“I don’t know what Kebbi’s plans are, but the Lagos State government plans to revitalize the rice industry. The Imota rice mill that Ambode was building before he left, because at the time it was 70% complete”

According to him, “The Lagos State government is therefore doing everything possible to complete it at this time and this rice mill is the largest in sub-Saharan Africa with 32 tonnes of peer hours. So the problem is that once it’s up and running, it can’t be stopped, so they have to have paddy fields in the field to get it up and running. What you have from the field is called paddy rice, now you will take it to the milling machine, destine it and take out the paddy and so on. So they have to have a paddy field enough on the ground to maintain the milling machine, so that’s the problem. It is the largest in Africa,” he concluded.

Kebbi State Agriculture Commissioner, Maigari Abdullahi Dakingari, in a conversation with our correspondent, expressed his gratitude for the intervention of the Federal and Kebbi State governments with the farmers.

He also reassures stakeholders that Lakerice would soon return to the delight of consumers.

“Today, many people who were not rice farmers until then and who were only consumers have returned willingly and willingly to the farms. This will surely result in a massive increase in rice production, stopping the import of rice and the establishment of small and large rice mills.

He said the devastating flood of 2010 dashed the hopes of many farmers.

“Kebbi State had not experienced floods as devastating as the 2020 floods which came as farmers expected bumper harvests. Unfortunately, the floods dashed the hopes of many of them. The losses suffered especially by rice farmers in Kebbi State were colossal and immeasurable; they are in the billions of naira. Thousands of hectares of Fadama rice fields in the state were not spared by the raging floods,” he lamented.

The commissioner explained that before the big flood; the state was rapidly becoming the breadbasket of the nation.

Dakingari, said the development caught the attention of the President, General Muhammadu Buhari (Retired), prompting him to launch the State Anchor Borrower Loan Scheme in 2015,

“Who intends to provide loans and agricultural inputs such as cheap fertilizers, improved seeds, chemicals and water pumping machinery, among others,” he concluded.

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