Tuesday, May 7, 2019 1:47 pm
In spite of the massive investment of the Federal Government in building silos to boost food security, many of the facilities which are in decrepit condition have become drain pipes.
A survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) across some South West states and Kwara revealed that the poor state of the facilities and lack of synergy between farmers and management of the silos had been impeding the cause of food security.
In Ogun, the 45 silos, most of which were built during the old Western Regional Government, have become moribund.
The Special Assistant to Gov. Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun on Agriculture, Mr Tosin Ademuyiwa, confirmed to NAN that “none of the silos is functioning’’.
He disclosed that two new silos were constructed at Ikenne during the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration, adding that both had, however, been concessioned.
The Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) planned to concession 20 Grain Silos across the country out of the 33.
The Federal Government in 2018 approved the concession of the 20. It claimed is expected to earn a whopping N6billion in the 10-year period of the first instance.
The governor’s aide explained that the concession arrangement was not working because farmers were not carried along in the arrangement.
He said that the farmers were not really benefiting from the concession arrangement because the cost of production of the grain for the farmers were usually higher than the prices being offered by the management of the silos.
Ademuyiwa said that in most cases, the farmers, particularly those who are far away from Ikenne, found it difficult to transport their grains to the location because of huge transport cost.
“They have therefore devised means of storing their grains, though crudely, to avoid losing money to the owners of the silos.
“They often lose some of their grains to pests and infection in the process, but they have continued in order to avoid being cheated by the owners of silos who often make huge profit when they eventually sell to feed millers when the grains are in high demand.
“Farmers know that when the concessioneers buy from them at the rate of N70, 000 per tonne, they later sell at the rate of between N120, 000 and N130, 000 per tonne at peak period and so they are discouraged,” he said.
Proffering solution, Ademuyiwa called for the return of Commodity Boards which were used during the Western Region administration.
“A lot of the private sector businessmen are only interested in making huge profit without necessarily considering the interest of the farmers or the ordinary citizens.
“The commodity board system is different because the government buys at encouraging prices from the farmers and then sell at controlled prices to the people and at the end of the day everybody is happy.
“In those days, the Northern Region used the system to sell their groundnut while the Western Region used it to sell their cocoa,” he said.
He also called for construction of smaller silos across the state for easy access by the farmers, adding that the location of the two silos in Ikenne “were politically motivated”.
The Secretary of the Ogun branch of the All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr Abiodun Ogunjimi, confirmed that the silos in the state had been concessioned.
He recalled in an interview with NAN that the farmers were called to a meeting on June 14, 2016 in Ibadan where they were informed that the Federal Government had concessioned all silos across the country to the private sector.
He, however, explained that many farmers do not even have enough grains to sell and had no cause for storage in silos.
Ogunjimi said that the farmers who often have excess and needed silos for storage could not benefit from the ones available because of the tendency of the silos owners to make excessive profit and thereby underpriced their products.
“I think that the government should first put measures in place to ensure massive production otherwise there will be no need for storage.
“Secondly, the government needs to carry farmers along in arrangements that involve farmers produce and their lives.
“They should therefore interface and facilitate regular meetings between the farmers and the people they have concessioned the silos to,” he said.
In Oyo State, many of the silos located in the numerous farm settlements across the state have become moribund, including those in Saki, Monatan, Ogbomoso and Iseyin.
The outgoing administration of Abiola Ajimobi, however, is constructing a 10,000 metric tonnes automated silo in Oyo town which is nearing completion.
Ajimobi had during the inspection of the project described the automated silo as the first of its kind in the country, adding it was part of his administration’s effort at enhancing diversification of the economy through agriculture.
He said that the silo, which was a project of the Agric-Oyo programme was purposely sited close to Owode Grain Market in Oyo believed to be one of the largest grain market in Nigeria.
The governors said that the silo when inaugurated would generate 50,000 jobs, fortify the grain market and save grains for many years.
Mr Oyewole Oyewunmi, the State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the facility had way bridge, trailer park and other modern facilities.
But Mr John Olateru, the Oyo State AFAN Chairman insisted that there were only two silos in the state in use.
“The silo owned by the Federal Government and located at Monatan area of Ibadan is currently on concessioning.
“The other owned by the state government is a refurbished one. The two silos are not functioning as expected,’’ he said.
He said that the relationship between farmers groups and the management of the facilities was poor, describing the present status of the silos as a “drain pipe”.
Similarly, Alhaji lsiaku Adam, the Chairman of the Kwara House of Assembly Committee on Agriculture, said there was no collaboration or synergy between the management of Federal Government-owned silos in the state and the state Ministry of Agriculture.
He said that the silos located in Oke Oyi, headquarters of the Ilorin East Local Government, was not living up to expectation in its operations.
The House Committee Chairman noted that genuine farmers in the state and officials of the state Ministry of Agriculture were aware of the statutory functions of the silos.
He said that if the management of the silos had collaborated with the Ministry of Agriculture, post-harvest losses for grains would have reduced.
The lawmaker called on the Federal Government to promote synergy and collaboration between the management of the silos and state government to achieve food sufficiency in the state.
Mrs Benedicta Falodun, Acting Manager in charge of the Federal Government Silo in Ondo State, on her part, told NAN in Akure that there was no activity in the facility because of the ongoing concession of silos across the country.
Falodun said that the silo in Akure was among the 33 grain silos upon which the Federal Government had concluded the processes of financial bid opening, evaluation and selection of successful bidders.
She said that the concession of the silos at an indicative value of 51.66 million dollars had reached the final stage.
“What I can say is that the silo is under concession all over the country but I believe that after the concession must have been over, there would be activities.
“Only what we have in our store here is garri which was brought last month by some contractors,” she said.
Mr Emmanuel Giwa, former AFAN Chairman in Ondo State, also said the silo located in Akure was not beneficial to most farmers in the state.
He explained that grains are not produced in commercial quantity “as we have more of subsistent farmers here in the south west region as compared to the northern region of the country where they practise more of mechanised farming.
Giwa further explained that although authorities of the silo had not restricted subsistence farmers from using the facility, the yield of small time farmers during harvest was too small to store in the silo.
Mr Martins Donatus, an agriculturist in Oba Ile, Akure North Local Government Area of the state, said that the silo located in the state was not functioning as expected.
“It is not serving the purpose for which it was built.
“It was aimed at preventing wastage during bumper harvest and we know that one of the problems of agriculture in Nigeria is inability to save farm produce,” he said.
Donatus added that if the silo was well equipped and optimally used, there would be food security.
According to him, many farmers are not aware of the silo and its importance to them.
“There should be public enlightement concerning the usage of the silo because many farmers are not even aware of it and its importance.
“If this can be efficiently used, government can build more to ensure food sufficiency,” he stated.
In Ado-Ekiti, the 100,000 metric tonnnes capacity silo started since 2010 had yet to be completed.
A visit by NAN correspondent to the site located on Federal Polytechnic Ado-Ekiti road revealed that the site was now moribund.
There was no bona-fide person to attend to visitors, except for a couple of ad-hoc security guards who claimed ignorant of the goings on of the project.
Sources in the state Ministry of Agricultute revealed that the silo project was conceived by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
By design and projection, the project was initially expected to be completed in December 2010 at a contract cost of N4billion.
A commercial farmer, Mr Jinadu Olorunnisola said that the abandoned silo project had negatively affected the food security programme of government in that part of the country.
Another farmer, Mr Kolade Adenigba said that it was wrong for any government to have started a gigantic project such as silos without bothering to complete it.
According to him, the project ought to have been pursued to a logical conclusion since its primary intention was to promote and encourage commercial farming.
“We are not in any way happy that a whole 100,000 metric tonnes silo estimated to cost N4 billion, and started almost 10 years ago in Ado-Ekiti is yet to be competed up till now.
“Much as Ekiti is an agrarian state, it needs a grain storage silo; the abandoned silo raises doubts about the sincerity of those who conceived the idea in the first place.
“If nine years after the construction began, it is yet to be completed, then, it means something serious is wrong with our goverment and their agents,” he said.
The new Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Folorunso Olabode, who was sworn-in by Gov. Kayode Fayemi two weeks ago, said he had just resumed duty and would need time to study what went wrong with the federal project.
He however gave an assurance that the present administration in the state would do a follow-up on the project and work for its completion.
But in Osun, NAN reports that some of the silos are in good condition and being leased out to farmers.
Dr Bukola Aluko, the Coordinating Director of Ministry of Agriculture in the state, said there are 92 silos across the state.
Aluko said the silos were being monitored by the state government to ensure that they were properly managed.
He said that farmers who managed the silos had been meeting the terms and conditions given to them and also ensuring that the silos were maintained properly.
He said that the benefits of public and private partnership on silos given to individuals and groups to manage could not be over emphasised due to its merits.
Mr Moses Oladipupo, the Vice President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria in Osun equally confirmed that the silos in the state were being put to good use.
He, however, said the silos had minimal capacities as they could only store one or two tonnes of grains.