JUST IN: Controversy Trails FG Rice To Oyo As State Govt, Nig Customs Disagree
By Henry Odeh
The Oyo state government and the federal government through the Nigeria Customs Service in separate press statements have disagreed on true state of the 1800 bags of rice allocated to Oyo state as palliative from the federal government to cushion effect of the lockdown in the state, Sunrisebulletin.com reports.
Oyo state government through its representatives in charge of COVID-19 palliative in the state led by the Executive Adviser to the governor of Oyo state on Agribusiness, Dr Debo Akande and the honourable Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Hon Ojemuyiwa Ojekunle Jacob, had earlier made a statement declaring the state government intention to return the rice following discovery of weevils in the items making it unhealthy for consumption.
In response, the Nigerian Customs Service, has also made a counter claim in a press statement on Saturday which was signed by its public relations officer Oyo/Osun Command, Abdullahi Abiola and made available to press men, declared that the rice delivered to Oyo state government were in good condition adding that there was no way the rice could have been infested with weevils under the good condition they were kept at the Customs warehouse.
Recall that Oyo state government had expressed its desire to have replacement from FG for the allegedly infested rice but the Nigeria Customs Service has said that contrary to the claim of Oyo state government over the rice there has not been any of such complain from Osun and Ekiti states who were also beneficiaries of the FG palliative.
The Nigeria Customs Service statement reads in part: ” That in line with the Federal Government’s effort to cushion the hardship in the nation, the CGC had directed the distribution of relief items including bags of rice across the nation through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management as palliative to the vulnerable in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
As instructed, on the 20th of April 2020, the Oyo/Osun Area Command received high ranking members of the Oyo State Government in the persons of the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Jacob Ojekunle; the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs Saidat Bolatumi Oloko; Executive Adviser to the Governor on Agribusiness, Mr Debo Akande; The representative of Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management and Social Development in Oyo, Mrs MO Lasisi and other members. They visited the command twice on the same day to inspect the bags of rice that were available for allocation.
The Customs Area Controller, Comptroller, HU Ngozi led them to the warehouses where they inspected the bags of rice, checked expiration dates and expressed satisfaction and readiness to evacuate their allocation.
Before leaving the command on their second visit, they pleaded to be given those from a section of one of the warehouses they considered “fresher” and this was granted.
Subsequently, on the 21st of April 2020, the Oyo State Government team came with their vehicles under the supervision of Mr Jacob Ojekunle, Mrs Saidat Oloko, Mrs MO Lasisi and other top officials, in the presence of the Customs Area Controller, other officers and members of the press to witness the loading and exiting of the 1800 bags of parboiled rice allocated to their State as palliative to the vulnerable.
Incidentally, in the process of loading, few bags fell at different times and burst open in the presence of Mr Ojekunle and Mrs Lasisi and there was no time that any of the burst bags of rice had weevils in them. The warehouse had no signs of weevils, neither were there signs of weevils on the loaders or on the trucks under the scorching sun.
The three (3) states; Oyo, Osun and Ekiti States took delivery of the bags of rice allocated to them, returned their landing certificates to show delivery to its final destinations. They also showed
appreciation to the CGC for his magnanimity. Contrary to allegations by Oyo State Government, Osun and Ekiti States have not complained about their allocations.
The Command is therefore surprised, even embarrassed to hear three (3) days later, that the rice allocated to them were infested with weevils and unfit for human consumption.
The command wishes to reiterate that weevils do not hide and in the process of loading the vehicles, traces of weevils would have been noticed on the floor, on the bags, on the loaders or on the trucks bearing in mind that the entire process was in the presence of the CAC, Oyo State Government’s high ranking team and men of the press with full video camera coverage.”
The Nigeria Customs Service has however expressed suspicion of foul play from handlers of the rice after delivery to Oyo state government and therefore, urged governor Seyi Makinde to dig deep into the matter in order to unravel the truth and lay the controversy to rest.