Successive governments have spent huge sums of money to build silos with capacities to store up to 100,000 tonnes of produce each across the states. But everything seems to be going down the drain. Alo Abiola (Ekiti), George Okojie (Lagos), Achor Abimaje (Plateau), Yahya Sarki (Kebbi), Beatrice Gondyi (Bauchi) and Abu Nmodu (Niger) write.
…7 years after, silos still under construction
…Storage facility overgrown by weeds
…7 years after, silos still under construction
…Storage facility overgrown by weeds
Agriculture has always been one of the important programmes and policies of successive governments in Nigeria. This is responsible for the huge investment by all levels of government in the sector in order to ensure food security and sufficiency in the system.
In spite of this, the country is consistently faced with food crisis occasioned by insecurity, citizens’ low interest in agricultural activities among other factors. To bolster food security in the country and raise the national strategic storage capacity to one million tonnes, grain storage and silos were constructed by the federal government in different grain producing states.
The 100,000 metric tonnes capacity silos was meant to store rice, beans, maize, soya beans, millet, wheat, and other food items. Ekiti, being an agrarian state, has majority of its citizens and residents actively engaged in subsistence and commercial farming.
But the construction of the silo, seems not to have added any value to food production and preservation in the state. This in not far-fetched, because the silo meant for storage of farm produce to be made available when needed was yet to be completed and as such, cannot serve the purpose over six years after it was constructed.
Most farmers in the state fear that they will be able to contribute just little to the food basket of the country, which could lead to food supply crisis as they are not sure of what will become of the surplus produce in terms of preservation.
Past and present governments, at different times in the state, have expressed worries over the non-completion and abandonment of the silo which would have boost food security in the state and the country at large.
A source at the silo located along Ado -Ijan Ekiti road, says the contractors handling the project which started in 2009 and has reached 90 percent completion, are still waiting to be mobilised for the completion of the project.
According to him,” The silo is yet to become operational because funds have not been made available to the contractors handling the projects which has reached 90 per cent completion. The contractors are still around waiting for the government.”
The source who pleaded anonymity, says about 10 private security personnel were engaged to watch over and secure the silo. He added that the silo has its paths overgrown by weeds and will be test-run before it is handed over to the government after completion. The present state of the silo has raised doubts about the sincerity of those who conceived it, as it is yet to be completed years after its construction began.
The fact that Lagos is not an agrarian state or is not into mass production of grains may have formed the basis of excluding it in the agricultural transformation agenda of successive governments that was meant to build additional 20 silos to complement the existing 13 in the country billed to have 100,000 metric tonnes capacity.
Thus, the basic method of storage in Lagos and most parts of south-west is a storage system that cannot really curb food wastage.
LEASERSHIP Friday checks show that in the storage of cocoa bean, the crops were removed from the pods and cleaned manually. The produce were packaged into 60 kg sack at 17 percent moisture content, wet basis, and stored on iron pallet in warehouses.
The same applies to some of the small scale storage levels where the farmers use unoccupied ventilated rooms to store shelled grain packed into 50kg sack bag.
In Badagry zone of Lagos State, small scale storage level farmers use unoccupied ventilated rooms to store hard hairy shells of coconut palm after removing the nut for about five months.
As a way out of the wood, the Lagos State government has said it will soon set up strategic food reserves across the state, to guard against food shortage and ensure affordability.
According to the special adviser to the governor on Food Security, Mr. Sanni Okanlawon, about 40 per cent of perishable foods brought to Lagos got spoilt due to inadequate storage facilities in the state.
Okanlawon said, “Looking at the area of food preservation and storage, we have what we call Strategic Food Reserves which we are addressing in this year’s budget.”
“We want to put in place silos and food preservation devices like cold rooms and other cooling devices to preserve perishables like tomatoes, onions and other fresh foods. This is because 40 per cent of what is brought into Lagos as perishables actually get wasted because of lack of preservation.”
“So, we are fixing two silos of about 3,000 metric tons capacity for a start; so, those are the things we are doing to address food shortages.”
Investigation carried out by LEADERSHIP Friday in Kebbi reveals that both the federal and the state government have constructed food reserve storage facilities. The federal government under the late Yar Adua administration, has awarded contract for the construction of silos in some states of the federation including Kebbi State. The silos, under the Strategic Grains Reserve, have been completed in Kebbi. According to Engr. Suleman who is the manager in charge of the silos in Birnin Kebbi “I don’t have the permission to talk to the press unless if Abuja permits me to do so and I have placed a call to my boss but he said he was in a meeting and will call me back later “. As at the time of filing this report, the silos manager in Birnin Kebbi did not call.
On the part of the Kebbi State Government, the commissioner of agriculture, Alhaji Muhammadu Dandiga told LEADERSHIP Friday that although the state government does not have modern silos in the state, he however admitted that the state has ‘warehouses’ located at different local governments including the state capital, Birnin Kebbi. He mentioned Bulasa, Tudun Wada and Rima areas in Birnin Kebbi where such storage warehouses were located. Other big storage warehouses in the state according to him are located in Bunza, Argungu Yauri and Zuru local governments. He says warehouses can store up to 250,000 metric tons of grains. He could not confirm if all the reserves have food in them but said, “At this time I cannot say if all the warehouses have food in them but certainly others contain some food “.
According to him, the government as the custodian of the welfare of people, cannot operate without making provision for food reserve or storage “If there is any emergency like flood or shortage of food, the government usually goes for its storage to assist the people “.
There are three grand silos In Bauchi State, situated at Bauchi, Azare and Boto areas of the state. Each of the three silos has a capacity of 4000 metric tonnes of grains. The state government concentrates on purchasing grains such as maize, millet and sorghum.
Investigations by LEADERSHIP Friday indicated that as at the moment, the silos are empty. They have not been used for over eight years now and the present administration of Mohammed Abubakar is planning to invest about 500 million Naira to purchase grains for future use.
The silos, according to the director of Engineering, ministry of Agriculture, Mohammed Saidu, are empty because in the last eight years, there has been no scarcity and shortage of food. But considering the economic meltdown, the state is planning to buy during bumper harvest. He said the grains, when purchased, will be sold to the public at subsidised rates to cushion the effect of the hardship faced by the populace. He said there is provision in the 2016 budget to buy the grains since the economic situation is hitting hard. Saidu added that the government has more plans of constructing more silos as the three on ground will not meet their needs.
Report from the federal ministry of Agriculture, Jos, Plateau State has indicated the presence of large quantity of grains stored in the Jos silos.
According to a source who sought anonymity, the grains from Jos have been released for Maiduguri where it is highly sought.
He pointed out that security of farmers who produce these grains should be the priority of the federal government.
“If we are to ensure food security in the country, they should ensure the security of the food producers themselves too.” According to the source, farmers in the area are very resilient despite the fear of being attacked by allegedly armed herdsmen while on their farms.
He added that the federal government should support the effort of large scale farmers in the community because they have the capacity to produce more grains. “Grains are supplied to Jos Silos from Mangu, Bokkos and Jingre, all in Plateau State and Saminaka in Lere local government of Kaduna State.
According to him, the body in charge of releasing grains should ensure that “the grains that overstayed should be given out to those who produce livestock feeds, saying that the grains have already been released, effort should be made to restock the silos” he said.
There is a national strategic grain reserve in Minna, Niger State that usually sell grains to the public every year from the buffers. They did not enjoy such privileges this year.
Findings by LEADERSHIP Friday revealed that grains from the reserve are usually released to bring down the prices of food commodities when they are increasing.
When LEADERSHIP Friday visited the silos located along western bye-pass in Minna where the office of the strategic grain reserve is located, it could not be ascertained officially whether there was enough in the silos or not.
It was however gathered that there are grains like maize, millet and sometimes rice in the silos as the major items often mopped up from the market when in excess.
Meanwhile, there are some grain reserves run by the Niger State government from where the government releases grains often especially during celebrations when prices of commodities are high.