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Stakeholders worry over dormancy of silos in North-East –NAN Survey

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Stakeholders in the agricultural sector have expressed concern over the dormancy of grains silos in the North-East, saying leasing them out to the private sector will make them productive.

A News Agency of Nigeria survey in Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe and neighbouring Jigawa revealed that factors such as windstorm destroyed many of the silos already built for grains reserve.

Others are not put to good due to security challenges bedeviling the states where they are located for strategic grains reserve.

In Bauchi, for example, windstorm had damaged extensively the N1.5 billion silo situated at Wailo Village as confirmed by the Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture in charge of the state, Alhaji Mohammed Yusuf.

Yusuf said that contract for the construction of the 25,000 metric tonnes facility was awarded to SINTAX, Total Architectural and Engineering Solution Company on Oct. 5, 2009 and was expected to have been completed on Oct. 1, 2010.

The director said that work was at completion stage before the facility was partially destroyed by windstorm in 2018.

He said that the project included silos, weighing bridge, administration blocks, driver’s lodge, intake bay, over-head tanks, security post, generator room and workshop.

In Yobe, NAN gathered that the silo had been shut down for a long time as farmers in the state were calling on the Federal Government to open up the facility for use by interested individuals.

Some farmers also implored government to buy off their produce after a bumper harvest for eventual storage in the existing dormant silos in the state.

Alhaji Musa Ibrahim, a farmer in Damaturu that said the federal and state governments should buy farm produce and store same in these silos.

“Government can equally lease it out to large-scale farmers to store their grains against food scarcity when a natural or man-made disaster happens anywhere and anytime,” he advised.

Dr Umar Lawal, the Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Jigawa, said that the ministry had leased out the silos in the state to Dangote Group of Companies.

Lawal told NAN in Dutse that the silos, with storage capacity of 25,000 metric tonnes were in perfect condition, and had been leased out for “temporary usage”.

However, an economic analyst, Malam Abba Abdullahi said that leasing of the silos to Dangote under whatever guise, was not in the overall interest of the people.

Abdullahi said that government should continue to store and preserve foodstuff in the silos to address emergency food shortages.

He said that government should think of providing more of such facilities in every part of the country, in view of the increasing population rather than leasing them out to corporate bodies that could build their own.

In Yola NAN gathered that the Federal Government had commenced storage of grains in Yola modern silo facility.

An officer of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture office in Yola, who spoke to NAN on condition of anonymity, said contract for the 500,000 tonnes capacity silo was awarded in 2008 and completed in 2014.

According to him, the facility started operation in 2017 describing it as one of the few best in West Africa that have modern equipment for storing grains.

“The silo was built completely with modern facility and is 100 per cent electrical.

“It can store about 500,000 tonnes of grains and at the same time, automatically dry and blow fresh air on the grains from time to time, to prevent damage.

“The silos can also automatically raise alarm if its inbuilt censors sense any danger such as fire outbreak, water or insects that could damage the grains,” he said.

In Borno, the Federal Government’s Strategic Grains Reserve had ceased to serve any useful purpose since the advent of Boko-Haram insurgency and the silo equipped with modern facilities had not been concession.

In Gombe, NAN gathered that the authorities had leased out 25,000-metric-tonne capacity silo due to lack of funds to maintain it.

Malam Mohammed Inuwa, the Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Gombe office, said “the money required for keeping a silo is more than the entire budget of the ministry.’’

“The Federal Government has decided to give some on concession and keep few; the ones in Gombe are among those affected.

“Maintaining a silo with the required grains is not an easy task, so the silos were highly underutilised, hence the need to lease them out under private and public partnership arrangement,” he said.

Inuwa said that there was enormous benefit in leasing them out to private bodies because they would operate same effectively and in turn generate revenue for the government.

In Sokoto, the Federal Government is operating a 25,000 Metric tonne capacity silos under Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) programme in Sokoto.

The 10 pieces silos has 2500 metric tonnes each and it reserved all varieties of grains, located in Kasarawa a suburb of Sokoto.

Malam Umar Abdullahi-Tambuwal told NAN that Federal Government reserved grains on its different agricultural programmes.

Abdullahi-Tambuwal said it last disposed of grains in 2016 out of the 2014 in the reserve.

“The facility has been concession to Agro Universal and its workers have inspected the silos in preparation to formal takeover,’’ he said.

According to a document obtained from the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) Disclosure Portal of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), it has been working on the concession of some the country’s silos.

ICRC said that the project, which started in 2014 was being handled by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 23 states including the Federal Capital Territory.

The states are Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Niger, Ondo, Oyo, Plateau, Sokoto, Federal Capital Territory , Anambra , Ebonyi , Kano , Ogun , Zamfara , Cross River , Kwara , Benue , Edo , Imo , Jigawa , Kebbi , Taraba.

The commission said that the rationale for adopting a PPP model in the operations and maintenance of the silo facilities was to overcome some challenges that had adversely affected the operations and installed capacity utilisation.

Some of the challenges include inadequate budgetary allocations for facility maintenance, erratic power supply and non-maintenance of generator sets.

Also, most of the silos in operation require repairs and maintenance.

© 2019 NNN NEWS NIGERIA. EDITOR@NNN.COM.NG