Ofada Veetee Rice: A massive scheme lying in ruins
The Ofada Veetee Rice industry, located in Itori, Ewekoro Local Government Area of Ogun State, has been abandoned and lying in waste and neglect.
Located along the Lagos/Abeokuta express way, after the cement company, the private sector driven, multi-million-naira ultra-modern rice mill, completed in 2009 by an Indian Company Veetee, and facilitated by Ogun State government, with installed capacity of 75,000 metric tons per annum, was a laudable initiative that raised the hope of local farmers and investors, but it was prematurely closed down.
When the industry kicked-off its operation, under the administration of Otunba Gbenga Daniel, it didn’t only raise the hope of rice loving Nigerians in the production of Ofada rice, a local specie, distinct for its smell, taste and nutrient, it also gave new impetus for rice farmers who see it as avenue to sell their produce.
When The Guardian visited the site last week, the gate of the milling firm, which was under lock and key had been overgrown with weeds.
It was gathered that the milling equipment have all disappeared from the company without trace. Efforts to get further reports yielded little result, as there was no gateman around, since robbers invaded the farm in 2012.
Aside this, the property is at present a subject of litigation, though the signpost pointing to the company is still intact, a notice from the court was legibly inscribed on the entrance.
The Guardian learnt that the establishment of the farm was aimed at guaranteeing food security and creating employment opportunities, in line with the late President Umar Yar’Adua’s Seven-Point agenda to promote agriculture and ensure food security in the country.
Daniel had disclosed at the launch that the initiative signified the robust and virile Public-Private-Partnership that defined the state’s developmental strategy in promoting the establishment of businesses across the state.
“It is envisaged that more opportunities for growth and economy of scale will be created for our local rice growers, attract many of our young people into rice production, conserve our foreign exchange and hopefully, position Nigeria to become a major exporter of rice to the West coast of Africa and other parts of the world,” he said.
The Managing Director, Mr. Devinder Meham told Journalists then that the investment portfolio of the plant would be about $15m (N1.73b).
The company actually lived to its billing, processing ready-made local rice, well packaged for buyers within and outside the state. Its proximity to the city of Lagos was an added advantage in terms of patronage.
Aside the supply of paddy rice from local farmers, the large expanse of land at the back of the company was used to plant rice, to generate its own paddy rice, which was an indication that the company was serious with its vision of leading the rice market.
But after few months in the market, Ofada Veetee Rice disappeared. It has gone the way of other abandoned laudable projects in the country.
When Governor Ibikunle Amosun assumed office in 2011, there were expectations that he would sustain the noble idea, but five years after, the gigantic project lies in waste.
When the state Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Segun Dasaolu, was contacted on phone, he refused to comment on the issue, stating that he knows nothing about it.
But a rice farmer in Obada, under the council area, Ramoni Atanda, who lamented the total neglect of the factory said despite state government’s claim of having agricultural development as one of its cardinal projects, it is not doing enough to boost agriculture in the state.
He recalled that some measures were reportedly put in place by Daniel’s administration, like the partnership programme with ProPcom, which brought milling machines to the state, to increase production of rice, but they are wasting away.
The Guardian learnt that one of the machines at Kobape Village in Owode, which can mill 20 tons of rice per day, had been lying fallow due to limited raw materials. Others located at Iboro and Obada Oko, too are yet to be working at maximum capacity.
Efforts to get the immediate past Commissioner of Agriculture, Ronke Sokefun, on what went wrong with the rice project, were not successful. Aside not picking calls made through to her mobile phone, all the text messages sent were not replied, till last Wednesday when she was moved to another ministry.