Spoilt Rice for Palliatives: As Customs, Oyo State Government Engage in War of Words

The Federal Government of Nigeria has been under attack over alleged distribution of spoilt rice as palliatives to Oyo State Government

The alleged spoilt rice, which were supplied by the Nigerian Customs Service, became a subject of controversy after the state government made the development public.

Rotten rice and spoilt rice to South West

The controversial rice

However, the Nigeria Customs Service on its reaction to reports on the spoilt rice through the Oyo/Osun Command, described the claims by the state government as “mischievous and deliberate falsehood”.

In a statement issued by ABDULLAHI-LAGOS ABIOLA, the PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER OYO/OSUN AREA COMMAND of the customs service, the alleged spoilt rice were supplied in good condition.

The Command noted that as “a responsible agency of Government whose functions include ensuring that nothing that could compromise the security, economy and general being of Nigerians are allowed into the Country, we cannot turn round and be associated with giving anything that will negatively affect our people”.

The Service explained that in line with the Federal Government’s effort to cushion the hardship in the nation, the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service 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”, the Customs said.

Speaking further on the spoilt rice saga, the Service explained that “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.

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“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 Command is also aware that for whatever reason, some pictures of bad rice have been circulating the social media.

“We disassociate ourselves from such false images and we suspect foul play on the part of the handlers of these allocated 1,800 bags of rice. The State Government may wish to dig deeper.

“It is surprising how bags of rice that exited the Command HQ in good condition suddenly became so bad after 3 days as being circulated in the social media”, the Customs Command stated.

However, the government of Oyo State has insisted that it rejected the 1,800 bags of rice meant as Covid-19 palliatives by the Nigeria Customs Service because they were spoilt rice, truly bad and unfit for consumption.

According to a statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the State Governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, who equally serves as a member of the Covid-19 Task Force, noted that any claims to the contrary was a disservice to humanity and attempt at endangering the lives of the people in the state.

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“No government that is worth its name would agree to serve its people with food items that are infested with weevils that are clearly visible to the eyes,” the statement asserted.

Recalling how it all happened, the state government noted that “On Friday, April 24, members of the Food Security sub-committee of the Oyo State Covid-19 Task Force embarked on an early morning meeting that lasted close to three hours.

“The meeting was to review the report of the technical team that had been conducting tests on the 1, 800 bags of 50kg rice presented to the state government by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in respect of Federal Government’s Covid-19 palliatives.

“The Committee eventually invited the Media, after coming to a conclusion that more than a majority of the 1,800 bags were not fit for human consumption as they had been infested with weevils that freely move about on every of the bags kept at the storehouse in the Secretariat, Ibadan.

“The weevils were clearly noticeable as each or the warehouses was opened. Television cameras were allowed to film the bags of rice just to show the clear reason why the bags were being returned.

“A letter that was co-signed by the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Commissioner for Special Duties and the Executive Adviser on Agribusiness, was also prepared for onward delivery to the Oyo/Osun Command of the Customs which supplied the rice in the first instance.

“The state government neither intended to dramatize nor politicise the development.

“It was just out to state the facts as they are: we cannot serve our people expired rice and replace hunger with another disease.

“The Executive Adviser to the governor on Agribusiness, Dr. Debo Akande, who addressed the media clearly stated that if the Customs could muster other bags of rice in good condition, the state would readily receive such.

“But the immediate reaction from Customs, Oyo/Osun Command was a bit comforting as it passed a message to the state government that the bad bags of rice must have been picked from the wrong store.

“We also got confirmation that Customs was ready to immediately send in 600 bags to replace the bad ones and that representatives of the state were free to immediately come for inspection.

“The state’s team that went for the inspection, however, returned another sad verdict: at least 30 percent of the 600 bags promised as replacement were also infested with weevils.

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“To our surprise, statements started flying to town, detailing confusing messages.

“We wish to place on record that the statements credited to the Customs Service were at best a poor colouration of the truth.

“Besides, the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, which commented on the matter, was merely dabbling in what it knows nothing about. This is not about politics and political grandstanding.

“The Customs claimed that the Special Adviser on Security, Commissioner of Police Fatai Owoseni (rtd) was part of the team that inspected the rice. That’s a white lie.

“The team that inspected the rice while at the Customs warehouses came from the State Operations Coordinating Unit (SOCU) domiciled in the Ministry of Budget and Planning, while the sub-committee on Food Security principally resides in the Ministry of Agriculture.

“The sub-committee took its time before it came to the unavoidable conclusion that the bags of rice be returned. It has nothing to do with political correctness that some could wrongly ascribe.

“A state that is trying all it could to secure palliatives for at least 120,000 residents would not readily reject 1,800 bags of rice if the reasons are not compelling.

“We wish to advise the Customs to desist from statements that do not edify the Service, because it would amount to clear betrayal of public trust for an elected government to sanction the release of expired and infested food items to residents of a state.”

Earlier reports indicated that the rice supplied by the same source to all the six states of the South West suffered the same were alleged to be spoilt rice but being part of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) the APC governors opted to be discreet in handling the matter in order not to embarrass the federal government.

However, as the war of words, claims and counter claims continue over the alleged spoilt rice, The Street Reporters Newspaper will keep tracking the stories as they break.

 

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