Thursday, 21st December, 2017 was another red-letter day in Ogun State. In one iconic gesture, unprecedented in the annals of the state, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, the governor of Ogun State, unveiled the MITROS Rice Processing Factory and MITROS Rice.
Against the backdrop of the role rice plays in the lives of the overwhelming majority of Nigerians and that close to one trillion naira (N1 trillion) of our money is expended annually on importation of the commodity, one cannot but agree with Governor Amosun that the inauguration of MITROS Rice Mill and MITROS Rice was a â€œwatershedâ€. This water should now flow over the arable land across the country with rice pyramids levitating in every nook and cranny till we the nation achieves zero rice importation.
Rice is like water in Nigeria. To appropriate the inimitable Fela Anikulapo Kuti, â€œRaisi, e no get enemy!â€ (Rice has no enemy). Tell me one house where rice is not a staple food and I will tell you no such home exists in Nigeria. Itâ€™s quite possible, but Iâ€™m yet to encounter a child who does not like rice. Fried, jollof or white, rice it is for millions of Nigerians!
How rice became a staple food, attained a larger than life image in our country, is outside the scope of this exercise. It suffices to emphasize that a situation where humongous part of our scarce Forex is expended on importation of rice is not sustainable.
The current Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, once lamented the culture of rice importation: â€œWe cannot afford $5m a day for rice shipments in this country. It has gone on for 40 years. And I assure you that it is our reckless policy of importation that has brought Nigeria down to where she is now. Those who keep talking of imports either do not mean Nigeria well or simply refuse to recognise the fact that we cannot afford the imports.â€
It is even more embarrassing that we import this staple from the strategic reserves of developing countries. Most of the imports are of doubtful nutritional value, some of the grains having been stored for upward of ten years. Why should Nigeria with unemployment problem continue to create millions of jobs for other countries through mindless imports? Why should we continue to put pressure on our foreign exchange by expending two billion dollars ($2 billion) yearly on rice importation? Canâ€™t we eat what we grow? Canâ€™t we grow what we eat? What about the vast hectares of God-given arable land to this country?
President Muhammadu Buhari would no longer stomach the abnormal situation, hence the setting up of Anchor Borrowersâ€™ Programme (ABP) on November 17, 2015 and later Presidential Task Force on Agricultural Commodities and Production. Governor Amosun as well recoils at this gargantuan amount of money used to fund the economies of other nations, hence his indefatigable commitment to break the jinx and ensure we plant, process and package what we consume.
According to Amosun, â€œOur past efforts at tackling poverty in all ramifications will amount to nothing if concerted efforts are not taken to ensure food security to people at all income levels. This is why today is a significant day, not just for Ogun State, but for Nigeria as well. The MITROS Rice Mill, the first of its kind in Ogun State, will create jobs for our farmers. From now on they will no longer need to travel far and wide in search of milling facilities.â€
The MITROS Rice, especially the popular Ofada rice, is of better quality, hygienic and fresh in comparison to imports of contentious nutritional value. The MITROS rice, apart from creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs, costs less than the imported ones and has been bagged for the benefit of every segment of the society – 1kg, 5kg, 10kg, 25kg and 50kg.
â€œLadies and Gentlemen,â€ enthused Amosun at the landmark event, â€œthis is a day of great pride for our State. Today, Ogun State joins the proud league of rice-producing States in Nigeria, and MITROS Rice becomes part and parcel of the unfolding story of Nigeriaâ€™s rice revolution. The journey of a thousand miles, it is said, begins with a single step.
Today, we take that step, confident that the journey ahead of us will yield results and impact our people beyond our most ambitious expectations. We will be keen learners, and strive to get better with each passing day, and each planting season. And, we are extending our hand of partnership to the private sector; we welcome you to take the lead in this agricultural revolution that is unfolding in Ogun State.â€
The Amosun administration has now blazed a trail in rice revolution. Big (and small businesses) should now take advantage of the enabling environment created by the current government by investing massively in rice plantation, processing and packaging in Ogun State.
The Governor of the Central Bank, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said the apex bank would give credit facility to farmers at five per cent interest rate as part of the Muhammadu Buhari governmentâ€™s strategy to increase food production and self-sufficiency in the country.
We congratulate Senator Ibikunle Amosun for another feather in his cap. President Muhammadu Buhari deserves all plaudits for walking the talk in agriculture. Things can only get better in Ogun State and Nigeria at large.
â€“â€“â€“Soyombo, media aide to the Ogun State Governor, sent this piece via firstname.lastname@example.org