Six years ago when the Lagos State Government came up with Lakerice, an acronym that means, Lagos and Kebbi states rice, Lagosians took a deep breath of relief as the initiative brought succour with the reduced cost of the commodity. But little did they know that it would not last long. In this piece, ANOZIE EGOLE, takes a look at what could be the reason the commodity went 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 come out with made in Nigeria rice.
This move, according to the two governors, was in fulfillment of the promises of the President, General Muhammad Buhari (retd) in 2015 to grow agriculture and ensure food sufficiency.
In what seems like fulfilling the terms of the MoU signed by the two states, nine months after, in December 2016, they stepped up their game with the launching of the much anticipated Lagos-Kebbi Rice christened Lakerice.
This partnership was not only designed to ensure food security but also to showcase the ability of Nigeria to become a food producing nation.
During the launch held at Lagos House, Ikeja, Ambode said the development was a great and historic moment for both states and Nigeria, as the rice would not only be sold at highly reduced price, compared to what obtains in the market, but is also very fresh and safe for consumption.
He also said that the prices of the commodity were 50kg bag N12,000; 25kg N6,000; 10kg and N2,500, adding that individuals could only purchase a bag to allow the product which was few in the market to go around.
It will be safe to say that the initiative came at a time when Nigerians needed it the most owing to the ban of foreign parboiled rice which led to the high price of the commodity in the market. This initiative really brought succour to so many families as those who could not afford foreign bag of rice for their celebration resorted to the Lakerice which was cheaper than others.
Meanwhile, six years down the line, uncertainty has started trailing this laudable move as the Lakerice is out of the market and the Lagos State Government is planning of commissioning a new rice mill in between June and July 2022.
While others are blaming inconsistency in government policies as the reason why the laudable initiative has been abandoned, others are pointing accusing fingers at the security situation in the some part of the north as the reason.
Where is Lakerice?
Agriculturists including members of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria told our correspondent that the agreement between the two states during the launch of Lakerice, was that Kebbi would be saddled with the responsibility of producing the products while Lagos as a commercial hub would be in charge of selling the product.
While others are saying that the constant bandit attacks in the north could be another major cause of concern as to why the initiative didn’t last, some opined that the inconsistent government policies as another major factor.
Meanwhile there are indications that political differences between the former Lagos state governor, Ambode and his successor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, may also be another reason why the project has been abandoned.
The Lagos chapter chairman of AFAN, Femi Oke, in a chat with our correspondent in Lagos, said that that the insecurity in Kebbi affected the initiative.
“Kebbi and Lagos states were in collaboration to bring rice and immediately we had some challenges in Kebbi and because of the insecurity in that area so it affected it. Lagos is just like a marketing place while the production is from Kebbi that was how they got that name”
He reiterated that Kebbi was unsafe for their members to go for business that is why the initiative is the way it is now.
“But Kebbi as at now is not safe for our people to do business so we are not getting more yields as before from Kebbi. Bangudu happens to be the governor of Kebbi State he is a famer and a member of AFAN and anything we are doing in Lagos State he is always with us. We are very surprised that the insecurity in Kebbi State is growing everyday and that might cause the problem of not seeing Lakerice in the market”
The Lagos vice chairman of AFAN, Mr Shakin Agbayewa, said, that what happened to Lakerice was political.
“It is political; you know the issue between Ambode and Sanwo-Olu so when the incumbent governor came on board he stopped that project. The truth of the matter is that Kebbi was the planting state, farmers do everything at Kebbi but they bring it to Lagos to sale. You will agree with me that Lagos is the commercial hub of Nigeria so it was an agreement between the Lagos state government and Kebbi State Government,” he said.
Also speaking, a rice seller at the popular Ikotun market, Lagos State who gave his name as Ifeanyi Igwe, “We don’t use to see the rice any longer, they don’t supply to us again. The last time we had the product was last year August. We don’t know the reason they stopped bringing the rice”
For Christian Omoba, also a rice seller, he can’t remember the last time he saw the rice in the market.
“I can’t even remember the last time I saw that product in 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 then. But I seriously do not know why they stopped supplying that product to us, we can’t even see it to buy” he said.
Another rice seller, Jude Ogwuo, said that he had not sold that particular rice before adding that he doesn’t just like selling it.
“I have not sold it before, I don’t just like it and it is not available. I deal mostly with foreign bags of rice and my customers know that” he said.
Speaking to our correspondent, the Lagos State Government, through the Commissioner for Information, Mr Gbenga omotosho, has said that the state will soon inaugurate Lagos rice mill which is going to be the largest in Sub-saharam Africa and the second largest globally.
He restates that with the move, the state is on the verge of covering up the exit of the Lakerice.
Omotosho, when asked what happened to the Lakerice initiative, said, that the focus should be on the new rice mill which has the capacity of producing 2.5million ton per year.
“What I know that is happening is that we are building our own rice mill which is going to be commissioned in a couple of months time around June July. And it is going to be the biggest in the Sub-Saharam West Africa. I was not here in 2019 when the thing started but the focus now as I know is on the rice mill that will be one of the biggest in the world. 2.5million tons per year that is where the focus is now. If you know what is on ground in Imota, you won’t be talking about Lakerice”
Omotosho reiterated that he did not have any answer about Lakerice.
“I do not know much about Lakerice but I think it was about Lagos State collaborating with Kebbi State, we get the rice during festivity and if we are talking about milling rice I don’t know why anybody would be talking 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 that we are doing. And I feel that should be the focus, it is the biggest in Africa and one of the biggest in the whole world with 2.5million metric tons and employment for hundreds of people. With good road network to the area and so many other things that will change the face of that community. If I know all of that why will I be talking about Lakerice. And the whole world is looking forward to this new rice mill”
Agbeyewa, also reiterated that the Lagos State Government was planning to revitalize rice industry with the commissioning of the Imota rice mill which had been slated to hold around June or July 2022.
“I don’t know what plans Kebbi has but Lagos State Government is planning to revitalize the rice industry. The Imota rice mill that Ambode was building before he left, as at then it was at 70% completed”
According to him, “So Lagos state government is doing everything possible to complete it right now and that rice mill is the biggest in Sub-Saharam Africa with 32 tons peer hours. So the problem is once it is operational it cannot stop it, so they must have rice paddy on ground to make it operational. What you have from the field is called rice paddy you will now take it to the milling machine, destine, and remove the paddy and so other things. So they must have a rice paddy on ground enough to service the milling machine so that is the issue. It is the biggest in Africa” he concluded.
The Kebbi State Commissioner for Agriculture, Maigari Abdullahi Dakingari, in a chat with our correspondent, expressed gratitude for the intervention of the federal and Kebbi state governments to farmers.
He also reassures stakeholders that Lakerice would soon return to the delight of consumers.
“Today, many people who were not hitherto rice farmers and were just consumers have happily and willingly gone back to the farms. This will surely result in massive increase of rice production, stoppage of importation of rice and the establishment of small and large scale rice mills.
He said that the devastating flood of 2010 dashed the hopes of many farmers.
“Kebbi state had not witnessed flood disasters as devastating as the 2020 floods that came when farmers were expecting bumper harvests. The floods regrettably, dashed the hopes of many of them. The losses incurred especially by rice farmers in Kebbi State were colossal and immeasurable; they run into billions of naira. Thousands of hectares of Fadama rice farms in the state were not spared by the raging floods,” he lamented.
The commissioner explained that prior to the sweeping flood; the state was fast becoming the food basket of the nation.
Dakingari, said that the development attracted the attention of the President, General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) prompting him to start the Anchor Borrowers Loan Programme in the state in 2015,
“Which intends to provide loans and agricultural inputs such as cheap fertilizers, improved seeds, chemicals and water pumping machines, among others” he concluded.
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