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Imported Rice Is Poisonous?

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Recently the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs, Col Hameed Ali (rtd), raised an alarm over the state of rice imported into the country. Speaking during a news conference, Ali said the Federal Government had not issued licence for importation of rice and that any rice seen on the streets that was not produced in Nigeria was smuggled.
He stated that imported rice was poisonous because before coming into the country, it must have spent a minimum of five years in the silos and harmful chemicals must have been added to sustain its freshness even as it is often re-bagged with a new date, thereby altering the production and expiry dates.
Much as one appreciates the concern of the Comptroller-General that his fellow citizens are consuming “poisonous rice”, it will be important to know what he meant by all foreign rice in the country being smuggled product. Following the revolution of rice production in the country which was triggered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), the volume of rice importation into Nigeria may have declined drastically, but that does not mean we are now sufficient in rice production. Reports show that Nigeria is still an importer of rice. According to the 2018 United States Department of Agriculture World Markets and Trade Report, Nigeria imported three million metric tonnes of rice in 2018. Similar export figure obtained from India and Thailand, which are dominant rice exporters to Nigeria, indicate that the latter exported some reasonable tonnes of rice to Nigeria last year.
So it couldn’t have been proper for the Comptroller-General to term all foreign rice consumed by many Nigerians both the ordinary people and those in authorities, smuggled. Neither was he the appropriate authority to label such food as poisonous even when no death had been reported of anyone who ate imported rice.
Besides, even if these were to be smuggled rice, whose duty is it to ensure that the so-called unhealthy food does not enter into the country. Or is he telling us that the Customs which he heads is not competent enough to man our borders? What is the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) doing about this worrisome development? What about Immigration and other agencies responsible for manning our borders, what are they doing?  How can we have all these bodies, yet Nigeria remains a dumping ground for all kinds of, unhealthy, fake and substandard products? Not too long ago we heard about the existence of poisonous animal skin popularly called ponmo in Lagos State said to have been smuggled into the country from neighbouring African countries.
We all know that our borders are very porous but if Ali and his men should do what is expected of them, the massive smuggling of all manner of unwholesome items into the country will be curtailed.
Incidentally, they are also caught up in the web of bribery and corruption that has engulfed the nation. The smugglers know that there are corrupt men and women in the Customs and among other agencies at the borders, so what they do is to “settle” them and have a thorough fare.
So while Nigerians will assist with vital information on how to apprehend rice smugglers, as requested by the Comptroler-General, he and his men should begin to consider the interest of the nation over and above their selfish gains and do the right thing. Federal Government should also heed the age-long calls to fortify our borders and make them security tight. A visit to the borders and you will wonder what a country would expose all her entry points the way we do.
Again, Col Ali’s call for more Nigerians to eat locally produced rice is in order and very patriotic. Anyone who has consumed Nigerian rice will testify that there is no comparison between it and the foreign ones in terms of taste. It is also said to be more nutritious than the imported ones whose nutrients have been washed off during processing.
But the questions are, can the local rice we produce sustain the about 200million population of the country? Wouldn’t you be giving room to smuggling if you ban rice importation when the quantity produced in the country cannot feed the people, coupled with the low quality of some of them? Some of them are full of pebbles, dirty, smells awful and are poorly packaged, which is why some people prefer imported rice.
So for rice importation and smuggling to stop, effort must be made to increase rice production in the country. To achieve this, some challenges that impede rice production within the country must be tackled. These include: lack of good roads in the rural areas; obsolete and inefficient processing technology; weed, pest and disease problem; non availability/inadequate credit facilities to farmers; high level of productive inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and other agrochemicals; climatic factors like flood, soil salinity, erosion, drought and global warming; land tenure and development; low level of income for farmers; inconsistent government policies and many more.
Throwing more light on these problems, particularly lack of modern equipment, President of Badagry Rice Farmers Association, Ibrahim Iroko said, “With mechanisation, farming would become more attractive to youths as opposed to this growing trend of ‘okada’ business. “Rice farming without mechanisation is tedious and not so profitable. For instance, when rice is planted today, the following day, the boom sprayer has to be used to spray herbicides to prevent weeds. If done, weeds would not come up until about two months later by which time the rice would have fully grown.” He pleaded with the Federal Government to help rice farmers so they can plant larger quantities by making available tractors, harvesters, boom sprayers and other modern equipment, low interest loans available to rice farmers.
Of a great importance is speedily finding lasting solution to farmers/herdsmen clashes in various parts of the country which has made many farmers to abandon their farms. More so, our political leaders should patronize our local rice as well as other made-in-Nigeria products. A situation where the “poisonous” imported rice is seen at every government function and used as gifts during Christmas, Salah and other festive periods by those in power does not show that we are serious about ending the consumption of imported rice in the country.

 

Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

The Tomfoolery of RIVLEAF

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There indeed seems to be no end, as far as nay sayers are concerned, in the quest to frustrate the efforts being made by the Rivers State Government to ensure that the spread of the coronavirus in Rivers State is reasonably checked.
On a daily basis, this becomes more apparent to the chagrin of genuinely concerned people of the State.
Although it is not a surprise that RIVLEAF, supposedly a pressure group has always announced itself as a purveyor of ill-contrived negative information, its latest attempt to dismiss a genuine alarm raised by the Rivers State Government regarding a foreseen build-up to a declaration of State of emergency in the State, has further exposed the membership of the organisation as persons with cowardly and sychophantic intentions.
At a time like this, when the whole world is still baffled over the COVID-19 pandemic, which has not only exposed even the hitherto world super powers in all spheres of their existence, but has so made it clear that everyone must be involved in order to check the pandemic, all RIVLEAF has to offer is an attempt to discredit the world acclaimed efforts of the Rivers State

Government under the leadership of Governor Nyesom Wike to ensure that the coronavirus does not get to the stage of Community transmission in the State.
It is indeed an irony of faith, that people who say they’re a pressure group do not actually know what it means to be a pressure group. They do not know, for instance, that one key role of a pressure group in the development of a society is to provide specialised and expert information to the government and explain government policies to the understanding and benefit of the general public. Thus they are an important link between the government and the people.
This explains their choice of caption, “Governor Wike Needs Help”, and the fact that rather than address in cogent terms the issue at stake, all they could do is to seek to raise irrelevant issues to cause rife between the President and the Governor, and with his Deputy.
What is really “funny and disturbing” about a clear statement that there is “a plan to declare a state of emergency in Rivers State? And, rather than categorically state what makes it funny and disturbing, all Onyeche Nnatah Peters could say is that Governor Wike “boasted that he was beyond the reproach of the Federal Government and, could do and undo as he so wishes”.
This statement in itself is a confirmation of the Governor’s proclamation of a plot to declare a state of emergency in the State, for reasons that have to do with Wike being seen as somebody who must be dealt with. The question is, for what reason?.
The most clear answer to this question is that from the point he started preparing to be the Governor of Rivers State, through his first tenure, and about a year into his second tenure, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike had had to accept the peculiarities of Rivers State in the present State of affairs in the country, and had adjusted to the point of being able to provide good governance to Rivers people as minimally as possible in the face of unrelenting and determined efforts to frustrate him.
This is why every step of governance he has taken has turned out to be timely, and lauded in the given circumstance it is taken by all well-meaning public globally, especially as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, which the world knows is a new virus, hence decisions to combat it are mostly taken based on the exigencies of the moment. This is, of course, knowing the peculiarity of the virus as it relates to Nigeria, and Rivers State in healthcare delivery.
To say the least, Governor Wike has been setting the pace in steps taken to contain the coronavirus across Nigeria: amongst others, he was the first to set up an Interministarial COVID-19 Committee, the first to set up a palliatives committee, first to declare border lockdown, etc.
Even in the face of clear attempts to sabotage his efforts, Wike had been undeterred towards ensuring that the State does not get to Community transmission of the virus as is the case with some States. Beyond this determination to give good and transparent leadership to a people who understand his every step, and so are fully behind him, what else can the likes of RIVLEAF blame Wike of?
If the membership of RIVLEAF are truly of Rivers origin, and have the State at heart, they should be in a better position to appreciate the kind of development the State has recorded in the last five years.
Therefore, seeking to forment trouble where there’s none, such as between the Governor and his Deputy, Dr Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, is a wasteful venture. This is because Rivers people have come to know what the interest of RIVLEAF is, and it has nothing to do with the overall interest of Rivers people.
Soibi Max-Alalibo
SA on Media to the Hon Commissioner for Information and Communications
Rivers State
May 21, 2020.
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Opinion

Dakuku Should Stop Playing To The Gallery

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Sociologists have what they call “Looking Glass Theory”. The crux of this theory is that people are prone to naming others, or something, by what they truly are, or what they have in store as experience.
For someone whose dream to be governor had been scuttled severally because of his unpopularity ,one can easily understand where Dakuku Peterside is coming from.
In his veiled attempt to be one of those who “came out openly to oppose Governor Nyesom Wike” at this point in time he exposed himself as a political toddler.
 All over the world today, well-meaning people are joining hands with their governments to check the spread of the pandemic.
Unfortunately, it is in this context that Dr Dakuku Peterside has displayed his lack of knowledge of the key ingredients of governance at crisis periods.
The need for law and order at all times, more so in crisis periods as the COVID-19 pandemic has instituted globally, compels governments  to take painful but necessary actions to save lives.
Thank God Dakuku Peterside supports “the Governor to ensure that the state is free from Coronavirus”, but how he expects this to come to fruition if people disobey directives put in place at will, raises a huge question mark.
In the light of  his latest condemnation of the Governor’s order to demolish two hotels found to have flouted a lockdown directive, Dakuku has again displayed his penchant for grandstanding.
Maybe he should learn some lessons from the role played by the  Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva who attracted Federal presence  to Bayelsa State during this period eventhough he belonged to the opposition in home State.
Dakuku’s stance in the face of an affront on an Executive Order which resulted in the demolition of two hotels in Eleme yesterday, without  considering the true circumstances that led to the demolition questions his citizenship as a Rivers son.
He should know what it means  to attack people authorised to perform legitimate duties under an  Executive Order.  Dakuku would not have declared genuine people-oriented actions by Governor Wike as “destructive” if he was well informed.
Rivers people are not foolish enough not to know that but for the stringent proactive measures put in place to check the spread of the virus by Governor Wike, the State would have entered community transmission like some other States in the Country.
Dakuku Peterside should therefore desist from the temptation of endangering the lives of the people he pontificates to care for, knowing that every act has its day of reckoning.
Soibi Max-Alalibo,
SA on Media to the Hon Commissioner
Ministry of Information and Communications
Rivers State.
May 11, 2020
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Opinion

Austin Tam-George: An Intellectual Prostitute Let Loose

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Austin Tam-George has consistently been biting the finger that fed him because he is an intellectual prostitute.
He looks for every available opportunity to lampoon Governor Nyesom Wike in order to impress his paymasters as a paid hack without conscience.
Someone like Austin Tam-George does not have the moral standing to discuss governance because his tenure as Commissioner for Information in Rivers State was a monumental failure.
A man who used his first month in office as Commissioner to throw 2O Rivers indigenes who were earning a living in the Ministry as casual workers into the unemployment market surely loves Rivers State.
Perhaps Austin Tam-George’s patriotism also led him to seize the monthly imprests meant for Departments in the Ministry.
Maybe he should explain to Rivers people and the those he is serving why a Commissioner should arm twist Heads of Parastatals under him to make monthly returns to quench his voracious appetite for money.
Was it not his kinsman in one of the parastatals that engaged him in a verbal warfare along William Jumbo Street in Port Harcourt that helped to tame his unquenchable taste for money?
His grouse with Governor Wike is because the over inflated and bogus proposals he made under the guise of upgrading the State Media Houses without recourse to the Bureau for Public Procurement were turned down by the governor who insisted on due process.
Austin Tam-George was quoted as saying that he will never forgive Governor Wike for not allowing him dupe the government.
The likes of Austin Tam-George are always available for the highest bidder that is why his recent outburst should not be taken seriously.
When he was looting the money generated by parastatals under him he never remembered United Nations and European Union.
As the proverbial dog that eats the bone hung on his neck, he milked the media houses dry before he was sacked from the State Executive Council.
He should know that the record of monies siphoned from the Media houses are still in the archives and will be released if he dares to make any more noise.
If Governor Wike did not retain him in his cabinet because he lacked character is it enough to look for any slightest opportunity to impugn his integrity?
Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. A word is enough for the wise.
Paulinus Nsirim, Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State
May 11,2020.
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