Mixed reactions trail Silos concession
• It’s Not As Transparent As Expected —Olalere
• It’ll Save Us From Imminent Food Crisis —Oyekoya
• It’ll Prompt Good Use Of The Silos —Ogunlade
The Federal Government’s resolve to concession 20 Silos to private sector operators has been greeted with mixed feelings, as farmers and other stakeholders in the sector are expressing divided opinions on the issue.
Penultimate Wednesday, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the concession of 20 out of its 33 Silos situated almost evenly across the geo-political zones, at the cost of N6b for the next 10 years.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, who revealed this to journalists after the FEC meeting, said the silos, built over 10 years ago, have a capacity of 1,360, 000 metric tons of grain.
“In 2014 government decided to privatise or concession some of these Silos so that the private sector can help, use them for a fee to the Federal Government. The process was carried out by World Bank, the concession committee of the government, NGOs, the private sector and the Ministry of Agriculture. It has taken this long to arrive at this because the processes are very slow, we wanted absolute accountability. The Federal Government will retain six of the 33 Silos,” he said.
The Guardian reliably gathered that the silos are not in bad shape despite that they have been idle for a long time without being put to use after several billions of naira have been expended for their installation.
Though the move was generally applauded as experts claim it’s capable of saving the country from imminent food crisis, they however, claim the process was shrouded in secrecy, as farmers were not carried along, insinuating they may have been offered to government cronies, who are not practicing farmers or agro processors.
Executive Chairman, ajogbe Holdings, Mr. Bosoye Olalere, operating hectares of rice plantations in Osun State, who approved the move, told The Guardian that the concession is justified, as neither the Federal Government nor any arm of government has the capacity to manage the silos.
He noted that like every other activities that requires a lot of monitoring and commitments, if the silos are managed by the private sector, they’ll be held accountable for its success or failure with their own resources, as against when an arm of government is managing it, which might not achieve the desired result, despite using government’s money, which might amount to double jeopardy.
The former Chairman, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI)’s agriculture sector, Prince Wale Oyekoya, who is the Managing Director/CEO of Bama Farms, who also applauded the move, said it is long overdue.
He noted that the step was taken due to pressure mounted on government by stakeholders. “It’s better to concession the silos to the private sector, to save the country from imminent food crisis. Grains such as maize, millet, sorghum, and others are being imported due to shortage of the commodities. Both human and animal compete for the consumption of these commodities, necessitating scarcity and high prices of the products.
“Producing below the consumption volume in the country pushed prices up, which result in scarcity of the commodities. It’s about time our government started to have a people-oriented policy, which this present government is doing now because we have been pushing for this move for over six years ago, during the last administration to compliment the Agriculture Transformation Agenda (ATA).
“The concession is good for our economy and to be able to make the grains available at all times, instead of scarcity that we experience in the country all the time and this will reduce the price of animal feeds in the country.”
To the Managing Director, Crest Agro Products Limited, Lokoja, Kogi State, Mr. Dele Ogunlade, with the concession, there is every likelihood that there will be a good use of the silos, as government officials who have managed them are not best of managers. “Like every government institutions, they introduce favouritism, they take bribes and they are not prepared to put extra effort, but if it is concessioned, it will be used judiciously because the private sector’s aim will be to remain in business.”
Olalere however, has issues with the lack of transparency in allocating the silos. “The concession has been on for about three to four years ago. There were newspaper publications on it and we actually indicated interest in one or two silos, but we never got any acknowledgement of our expression of interest and there was no feedback to our application. So, it’s definitely not as transparent as what we expected.”
His claim was contrary to the position of the minister, who said, “those who bid and have shown capacity have been the ones allocated the Silos…”
Oyekoya, who also frowned at the process, said: “it’s very unfortunate that farmers were not consulted before the concession, just like the usual character of government. The silos were concessioned to their cronies that are not practicing farmers or agro processors.”
The whole process shows lack of transparency, according to Ogunlade, who lamented that farmers like him and other stakeholders were not carried along. He said, “If farmers put themselves together they might be able to take over the whole concession, but with the way they did it, it goes to the favourites of the minister, because that is the way government is run nowadays.”
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