Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has said it wil soon revive its rice processing plants with a combined capacity of 210 metric tonnes per day, at Elele Alimini in Rivers State and Mbiabet-Ikpe in Akwa Ibom State.
The NDDC Managing Director, Mr. Nsima Ekere, said this after inspecting the 180 tonnes per day facility at Elele Alimini on Tuesday.
He expressed displeasure with the non-utilisation of the rice mill which was completed in 2008.
He lamented that the firm engaged to run the facility allowed it to lie fallow for 10 years, an action he described as â€œunconscionable,â€ noting that the situation would be redressed urgently.
He added: â€œWhat is important is to get this facility up and running, and stop the huge waste of government resources. We will negotiate with private investors and set the process rolling in the next couple of weeks.â€
Ekere stated that the resuscitation of the two rice mills would encourage the local communities to grow more rice, and expand the agricultural value chain.
â€œYou canâ€™t put the kind of resources that NDDC committed to this project and then allow it to just lie waste,â€ he said.
The NDDCâ€™s Chief Executive Officer stated that the wasting rice mill in Elele Alimini had the capacity to impact positively on the Nigerian economy, adding that it could have created many jobs and increased the countryâ€™s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He said: â€œNigeria as a country is still importing a lot of rice and we spend billions of dollars importing food, yet we have a facility here that can actually help to reduce the amount we spend on food imports and we just leave it idle. Going forward, we will immediately go into partnership with the private sector to put this facility to use. We want to see that this mill is functional, so that we can begin to employ people.
â€œHundreds of Nigerians will be gainfully employed if we get this facility working and functional. Many other people will be employed indirectly.â€
Ekere explained that the re-activation of the rice mills would also encourage local farmers to produce more rice, noting that the Commission â€œwill develop what we call out-growers scheme where members of the communities will be encouraged to grow rice.â€
He said NDDC would provide seedlings and other technical support to encourage local farmers to increase their production knowing that they would have a guaranteed market.
According to him, â€œthree months after they produce, their products will be bought and the economy in the rural communities will be positively affected and wealth will be created for the people. That is what we want to do.â€
Ekere said NDDC would do everything possible to ensure that farmers derived maximum benefits from the rice mills so as to guarantee massive cultivation and production of rice in the Niger Delta.
The NDDC boss assured the people that the contract terms for the operation of the rice mill would be reviewed because the contractor had failed to perform.
He added: â€œWe will terminate the existing contract because the contractor evidently does not have the capacity to run the facility. What is important to me and the government is to get this facility to be functional so that we can put food on the table of Nigerians.