…Caretaker Chairman sets up 7 man c’ttee
The Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House Abakaliki, Hon. Okechukwu Nwakpu, on Wednesday, October 16, had a meeting with Abakaliki rice millers, where they discussed government’s decision to redesign and modernize Abakaliki rice mill.
He told the millers that the government wants to upgrade the Abakaliki rice mill to Abakaliki Industrial Cluster, so that it will have an international outlook.
“We are not happy that His Excellency is touching every other sector in the state and Abakaliki rice mill is still looking like the formal Abakaliki property. So he wants to convert it to an enviable international standard” he stated.
Nwakpu said that the millers will have to partner with the state government on the prototype of the new rice mill, adding: “you will have a befitting rice mill, we will renovate most of the old buildings, and we will assist you to procure modern milling machines that will meet the present day standard.
“Governor is not happy that up till now, you people can’t have toilet facilities here and it is the intention of the government to help you to put it in place. There will be bank, water; street light, tarred roads that will give the Abakaliki rice mill a facelift so that it will meet the international standard which is the standard of our government.
“You will not only attract customers from within Ebonyi state but from other neighboring countries of the world.
“Government will link you up to access loan from Bank of Industry, so that you will use it to put the rice mill in the way it should be. Government has a lot of packages for rice mill, but what we need is your cooperation.
“We need two different committees, one, will produce the prototype of how you want the rice mill to look like, while the other committee will liaise with SA to the Governor on SME so as to form you into cooperatives. For you to access some of these funds you have to form cooperatives”.
The Deputy Chief of staff made it crystal clear to the millers that the government has not come to take over the mill from them, adding: “It is still your property, but the only thing is that it has to meet up the standard in which the present day Ebonyi State is looking for. You will own your property; you will choose and form your cooperatives.
“We will help you to access the money to develop your mills, but if you have the money you can go ahead and develop your mills”.
He noted that government will also produce its own prototype and they will come together with what the millers have and take a decision on which one to be used.
Interacting with newsmen, the caretaker chairman of Abakaliki rice mill, Hon. Ogodo Samuel, said the idea to modernize the rice mill was a good one, stating that the benefits cannot be over emphasized.
Ogodo acknowledged that most of the machines they are using are outdated and that bringing in advanced machines will enhance their productivity and give them better services.
Adding that Abakaliki rice mill will appear better and compete favourably with other rice, and that the millers will give their full support to ensure that the proposal is implemented.
“It is for our own good, the essence of the advanced technology is to make things easier for man. So when we bring in new machines it will help us a lot,” he stated.
Asked if problems wouldn’t come up since the machines would be owned by cooperatives not individuals as it’s the present situation at the mill, Ogodo reiterated that those that will form the cooperatives will be people of like minds, who must have come together and agreed to buy the machines.
He said that people will not be forced to join the cooperatives rather it will be done on volition. “They must also have a kind of MoU that will contain a clear definition of role, partnership with mutual understanding. I think it will work” he added.
On if there will be enough paddies to sustain the modern equipment when brought in; the Chairman maintained that Ebonyi State is one of the highest rice producers in the country.
Stating that the only challenge they are passing though is the dry season rice farming. “So we just need little irrigation in some areas to balance this. The only challenge is that here, our people are not so much into mechanized farming, so our problem is that the quantity of rice required to be milled by a modern machine is so high that an individual cannot raise enough paddies for that rice to be milled for him at a point in time and this has been a serious challenge.
“So, I’m advocating that the machines to be brought should be smaller. Let’s have from three, five, six tons capacity so that individuals can make use of these machines effectively. It’s the tons required that are the problem, not that we don’t have enough paddies to make the modern mill functional.
One of the mill owners, Ebenzer said the proposal to modernize the Abakaliki rice mill is a welcome development, adding that the new machines will enhance productive.
He said the problem will be how those who are not buoyant enough can get the new machines, stressing that they can easily fix their old machines and that is the reason they are more comfortable with it.
On his part, Comrade Idike Emmanuel, Chairman, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners, expressed joy over the proposal to modernize the Abakaliki rice mill, appealing that whatever grants/loan that is given to the millers should also be extended to transporters, so as to assist them get befitting vehicles for the new mill.
Another mill owner, Mrs. Obasi Martina, said she will prefer the modern machines adding: “If I can get anything that will give one a better service than the one I’m using at present, I will like it”.
She noted that it’s not going to be an individual thing, but that with the management of the association, it will be possible to get.
Mrs. Obasi said that the present machine they use gives them 100 bushels of rice a day if it works from 9am-1pm.
Meanwhile, the caretaker chairman set up a 7-man committee on grants/loans. The committee is chaired by Emmanuel Onu.Ebonyi Govt.