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Kicks, knocks trail rice pyramid unveiling

By Joke Falaju, Abuja
20 January 2022   |   4:28 am
Stakeholders have faulted the launch of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) rice pyramid unveiled by President Mohammadu Buhari...

A Nigerian police officer walking with a sniffer dog inspects a rice pyramid during the launch of the largest rice pyramids in Abuja, Nigeria, on January 18, 2022. – The bags of rice which were planted and harvested by Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) from states in Nigeria, are one million rice paddies stacked in 15 separate pyramids which is expected to solve the food crisis in Nigeria. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

Stakeholders have faulted the launch of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) rice pyramid unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, describing it as another political jamboree ahead of the 2023 election.

According to them, there is nothing to celebrate as a 50kg bag of rice still sells at N24,000 as against N8,000 it was sold before Buhari took over.

While Nigeria is said to be the largest paddy rice producer in Africa, rice millers are still faced with high costs of production and poor access to paddy.

Stakeholders also queried the exclusion of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and other relevant research institutes in the scheme.

This comes as some sources claimed that part of the rice used to build the pyramid was imported from northern Cameroun; Cotonou, the Republic of Benin; Niger and Togo.

The Chairman, Pyramid Sub-Committee of RIFAN, Shehu Muazu, said the paddy was collected from the beneficiaries of the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) of the CBN under its business strategy partnership.

However, an agriculture expert, Dr. Bello Musa, said: “We await to see a crash in the price of local rice from the present N24,000 to N10,000. We are not unmindful of the fact that we are in an election year and anything is possible.”

Speaking recently in Abuja, the National President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kabir Ibrahim, said that the CBN and the handlers of the ABP must explain to Nigerians where the rice and maize they unveil in pyramids were cultivated.

He said: “With the high level of insecurity in the major rice and maize producing states, forcing farmers to keep off farmlands, we need to know where the rice was produced. Who owns the rice and maize?” He said while the ABP has supported agriculture greatly in the financing of smallholder farmers, the pyramid was a deceit.

“If we have surplus food as depicted by the pyramids, why do we still have food shortages? Why are the prices still high in the market?” he questioned.

The National President of the National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria (NPPAN), Alphonsus Inyang, said it was unfortunate that the CBN has resorted to showmanship. He said instead of the apex bank to focus on activities that would ensure sustainable economic development for the nation, it has decided to go for quick fixes and things that will earn it applause.

He said: “We keep saying that the money the CBN is spending is development money, managed by the development finance department of the Bank and that they should sit down and work out the best way to spend the money to give the country maximum benefit.

“You don’t spend development money to get applause; you use it to develop the economy, to spread prosperity and to improve livelihoods. But the CBN is more interested in getting people to clap for them. That is the reason for the rush for pyramids. Is CBN telling us that the rice pyramids in Ekiti State were rice cultivated in Ekiti?”

But for the National President of Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (MGPMAN), Dr. Edwin Uche, said the pyramids are symbolic and to show that efforts are being made.

“The pyramids signify a lot, depending on how you define it. It tells you the level of efforts being put in place to ensure that maize is grown and that the challenges associated with maize farming are being addressed gradually. It also shows you that the farmers are working hard to support food security in Nigeria.

“It is also to motivate people within the value chain that it is possible to attain self-sufficiency in food if we all work together. Yes, there are questions about why the pyramids when there is scarcity. Of course, we have to do the pyramids to show the world that we are doing something to address the scarcity.”