Some stakeholder in the North Central Region of the country have lamented that some silos in the region have been converted to store food and other items for distribution to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), nation-wide survey on the state of silos in the country showed that in the North Central states, some silos had been turned into stores for food and other items contributed by governments, NGOs and individuals for distribution to IDPs in some states.
Some of the silos, which were inaugurated in 1991, by retired Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, military president were designed to store grains such as sorghum, rice, maize, cassava flour, among other food items.
The grains were expected to be mopped up from farmers to reduce glut and minimise post-harvest losses, and later sold at heavily subsidised prices to members of the public,
The silos were, thus, expected to be very strategic to the food security programme of the Federal Government.
In other states, NAN found that the facility had been abandoned with its depreciating structures left desolate.
In Plateau, for instance, NAN found that the silo 25,000 metric tonnes facility was still under the ownership of the Federal Government and was never leased out to private hands.
“The silo here is never leased out. We are still managing it. This is where the Federal Government stores grains being distributed to IDPs in Benue and Nasarawa States,’’ Mr Zakari Ochifo, the Manager in charge of the silo in Jos, told NAN.
“In the last two years, we have not put this silo into proper use.
“The Federal Government wants to lease out all silos in the states and only allow the ones at the geo-political zones to exist, but the one in Plateau is under the ownership of government,” he said.
In Niger State, NAN learnt that the 25,000 metric tonnes capacity silo had been leased out, but no payment had been received in respect of the agreement sealed in 2014.
Mr Callistus Okolo, Silo Manager of Niger Resources, in charge of the facility located in Minna said that no payment had been made since the grains reserve was leased by the Federal Government for 10 years.
He said that the facility had not been taken over by the firm owing to non-payment and other documentation involved.
The manager said that the facility was designed to store grains such as sorghum, rice, garri, cassava flour, and maize.
“Some of the food items taken to IDPs across the country come from this reserve,” he said.
Okolo said that after the deal with the company, the Federal Government redeployed some of the staff because the private handlers were not ready to absorb all of them.
“The government is still making use of the silo until further notice,” he told NAN.
Okolo said that the private partner would retain the technical staff to guide them in their operations, when it would be fully taken over.
He said that there was a smaller capacity facility in Suleja, which had not been completed, however, he did not give further information on the facility.
NAN also found that the facility had not been completed in some states owing to changes in government and paucity of funds, while those completed in other states had been leased out to private hands.
In Nasarawa State, NAN found that the 25,000 metric tonnes facility located in Lafia, the state capital, had been completed, but had not been put to use.
An official of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, who preferred not to be mentioned, took a NAN correspondent to the site, saying that the contractor, who handled the project had handed it over to the ministry after test running several times and certification.
He said that the silo project in Lafia was not among those leased out to private companies.
“From information available to us, the silo will be stocked by the Federal Government through the ministry as part of its strategic grains reserves programme,’’ he told NAN.
Meanwhile, Malam Ishaq Muazu, the immediate past Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), in Nasarawa State, said that farmers were not aware of the presence of silo in the state.
“I know that silo is constructed in Lafia, but most farmers in the state are not even aware of the facility,” Muazu said.
He, however, said that the construction of the silo in the state would reduce post-harvest losses incurred by farmers.
In Kogi State, NAN found that the silo construction project had not been completed more than nine years after commencement of work.
Mr Agene Thomas, the state Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that the project was stalled after reaching 87 to 95 per cent completion.
NAN learnt that work on the project, which is located along Okene-Kabba road in Zango, near Lokoja, began in 2010 and was expected to be completed in 2017.
“Work on the project was supposed to be completed in 2017 but was halted after the change in government in 2015.
“The fall in the value of the naira also contributed to the stoppage of work at the site,’’ he added.
Thomas said that the 25,000 metric tonnes capacity facility would be run by private organisations through a Public Private Partnership (PPP), agreement under the supervision of the Federal Government.
When asked when the silos would be completed, the director told NAN that it was dependent on the availability of funds, pointing out that no work was currently ongoing at the site.
Mr Simon Adams, a farmer in Lokoja, appealed to the Federal Government to hasten the completion of the silo so that they would be put to use to reduce perennial waste after harvest and boost food security in the state.
“Farmers in the state are facing the challenge of how and where to store and preserve their farm produce to enable them have value for their money. The grains silos will be a massive relief for us,’’ he said.
NAN reports that Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, had in September 2018 said the Federal Government had approved the concession of 22 out of the 33 silos in the country, which should generate N6 billion in agreement for 10 years.
Ogbe said that in line with the international regulations, government would retain six of the silos and keep five per cent of all the grains harvested yearly, while the rest would go to private sector groups. (NAN)