Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The federal government has said it will support youths in the Niger Delta region who chose to go into agriculture as a way of reducing crime and enhancing food security in the region and the country.
This is as the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has concluded plans with a private firm, Elephant Group Plc, under a private-public-partnership (PPP) to revitalise the multi-million naira rice mill built by the commission at Elele-Alimini community in Emohua local government area of Rivers State.
Speaking while addressing a meeting of the board and management of the NDDC and the private firm in Port Harcourt yesterday, the Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, expressed the hope that, when fully functional, the Elele-Alimini Rice Mill would serve residentsâ€‹ of Imoâ€‹, Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers and other states in the Niger Delta region.
He said the mill would also provide employment opportunities for youth in the region and opportunities for farmers to reap from their produce.
He stated that even some former militants in the Niger Delta region had embraced agriculture and were employing youths in the region.
His words: â€œAs one of the steps towards reducing youth restiveness in the Niger Delta region, we have to drive youths of the Niger Delta into agriculture. Go to Peremabiri today, Ogunboss is already growing 50 hectares of rice and we are ready to support him.
â€œThe Elele Rice Mill is strategically located along the East-West Road. When it becomes functional, it will serve Imo, Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers States and others in this region.â€
He recalled that the federal government was spending $5 million monthly to import rice but said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration was bent on reversing the trend by encouraging states and regions to go into agriculture.
Also speaking, the Managing Director of the NDDC, Nsima Ekere, said the decision of the commission to revitalise the Elele-Alimini Rice Mill through PPP process is in line with the federal governmentâ€™s commitment to zero tolerance for wastages.
He stated that the NDDC built two rice mills: one each in Rivers and Akwa Ibom States about 10 years ago. He however expressed sadness that the facilities were left to rot without achieving the aims for which they were built.
Ekere stated that the NDDC would use the rice mill, when fully functional to prepare the Niger Delta region towards non-reliance on oil alone but also on agriculture.
He said: â€œWith the rice mill functional, we will be preparing the Niger Delta for a future without oil. We are looking to a future where we will no longer rely on oil but agriculture.â€
Earlier in his presentation, Group Managing Director of Elephant Group, Olatunji Owoeye, said the company would rejuvenate the rice mill with modern equipment and create employment for youths of the region.