…Gives Millers 14 days ultimatum to register their cooperatives or…

Hon. Nwakpu addressing mill and property owners

Ebonyi state government has made it crystal clear that it is not interested in taking over Abakaliki Ricemill as government moves to modernize the industry.

The Deputy Chief of Staff, Hon. Okechukwu Nwakpu, stated this during a meeting with mill owners, property owners and landlords at the Abakaliki Ricemill Conference Hall, on Tuesday November 26.

He noted that after his last visit to Ricemill on October 16, there have been rumours that the state government wants to take over Abakaliki Ricemill, and that it’s the reason government wants to redesign it and bring in modern equipments.

Nwakpu maintained that the state government has enough ricemills which are working effectively with up to date modern equipments. He declared that the state governments interest was to encourage millers and to boost their business and for the Abakaliki Ricemill to receive a facelift so that anyone coming from outside the state will appreciate what is on ground.

“People have been so much worried over the state governments involvement in the ricemill. I want to state categorically, that the state government is not interested to acquire and own this mill. Governor David Umahi, has nothing to do with Abakaliki Ricemill as an individual or as a state government.

”His interest is to make sure that this mill receives a facelift such that anybody coming from outside the state to the mill will know that actually, this is Abakaliki Ricemill that produces the rice that feeds the country, not with this analog machines, but modern machines,” he stated

The Deputy Chief of Staff, also pointed out that the state government was not interested in removing Abakaliki Ricemill from its present location, stating that Ebonyi State government has enough mills and is still building more.

Adding that everyone should not be clamouring for political appointments or white collar jobs, stressing that modernizing the mill will create more job opportunities.

“I have heard from some of you that why you are afraid is that state government wants to take over the mill”.

“Everybody must not get political appointments, white collar job or be on the streets. Here, you will be in a comfortable environment, a conducive atmosphere and do your business, that is the interest of governor, not to acquire your property”, he said.

Nwakpu also gave the millers 14 days ultimatum to register their cooperative societies or their shops will be closed down pending when they register.

He noted that while government was expected to assist them, they should also play their own part by coperating with the state government, stating that the state government has not requested any money from the millers but to form themselves into cooperatives and register it.

He frowned that after visiting with the SA on Small Enterprise, to educate them on the importance and steps in registering cooperatives, that nothing has been done by the millers.

Nwakpu reiterated that in their record, there are over 130 mill owners, not to mention rice dealers, landlords that require cooperatives, but only about 14 cooperatives were registered.

“We came to inform you that from today we are given you one week ultimatum, if you don’t have your registered cooperatives we shut down your mill, you are not qualified to do your business here, whether as a mill owner or as a rice dealer or as a landlord.

“Our reason is this, government will soon bring in some expertise that will go round the mill to ascertain the type of building that will fit into the modern mill. If we need to destroy the old buildings, we will do so and rebuild it, if it needs to be renovated, we will do so, but we cannot do these things when you don’t have your cooperative societies
“Government is ready to go to anywhere and borrow money for you people and will still sign as your guarantor and your surety, you don’t have to do anything concerning that, your own is to answer the owner and agree on the mode of repayment of the loan which will just be 5% interest annually since its agric based industry”, he stated.

He also noted that having observed indiscriminating packing by drivers at the mill, they approached the chairman of the Ricemill, Hon. Ogodo Samuel, to provide a place where government can build a parking lot, though not permanent, so that any defaulter will be sanctioned.

“If you make use of cooperatives, you will benefit more than the state government. Last time I came with the Branch Manager of NIRSAL Bank which is a baby bank of the CBN made to promote Agribusiness, who said they are here for you, I don’t know how many of you that have visited that bank.

“Their major purpose of coming into the state through the governor is for the bank to help our business men and women, especially, those of you who their businesses are mainly anchored in agriculture, it is for agric based industry.

“When you register your cooperatives, take the certificate, go to that bank and open an account. When you deposit and withdraw your money, the more you are doing it, you favour yourself, by the time you need money to do your business, you stand a better opportunity of getting loan more than individuals who have an account there. Interestingly, the loan is five digit interest for one year, while other commercial banks are five digit interest for one month. So these are provisions made by Gov. Umahi to help us”, he noted.

He reiterated that those who have properties in the Ricemill that were not developed should also register them free of charge, adding that what is needed for the registration is the property documents, including survey plan if the property has been surveyed, C of O or ordinary agreement, whatever document that proves that such building belongs to the person.

“Don’t give anybody money, the governor has not asked anybody to collect money, just go and register the property for your own good. Submit the photocopies of your documents.

“The essence of this is that, assuming the government finally takes decision to destroy these buildings and put up new structures, it’s those who registered with us that we will submit their names as those who have buildings here.

“We will not create room for anybody to jump in and say I want to have building when you don’t have land and building here. So the earlier you do this, the better for you. We don’t want anyone to lose his property. Help us to also inform those who have buildings here but are no longer in Abakaliki”, he urged.

He further announced that the contract to wall Abakaliki Ricemill has been given by the state government for security purposes.

In his reaction, Mr. Tony Mouneke, former Chairman of Abakaliki Ricemill, pleaded with the government to give them 14 days instead of 7 days, stating that ember months are the only periods they have surge of buyers and as such, has been one of the reasons why the cooperatives have not been registered.

The plea was considered by the Deputy Chief of Staff, who extended the deadline for cooperatives registration to 14 days.

On his part, Chairman of Abakaliki Ricemill, Hon. Ogodo, urged his colleagues to do the needful so as to benefit from the state governments packages.

He assured that his office will set up measures to get the millers to register their cooperatives.

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