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Monday, June 17, 2024

The Place of PMB in the Pomp and Pageantry of Rice Pyramids

The Place of PMB in the Pomp and Pageantry of Rice Pyramids

As I write this article, President Muhammadu Buhari has unveiled the biggest ever pyramids of paddy staked rice on the grounds of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI), Airport Road, Abuja.

In what is adjudged the largest in Africa, 15 mega rice pyramids were built with 1 million bags of Nigerian grown paddy rice each, planted and harvested from states across the country under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

This is unprecedented.

Before going into the place of PMB on this extraordinary milestone, it would be pertinent to censure his critics who have been circulating some caricature pictures of wood structured pyramids, padded with bags of rice, and saying same to be the hyped mega rice pyramids being unveiled by the President . This is not only laughably nonsensical, but childishly absurd and deserving the highest level of derision.

The rice was produced and brought to Abuja by the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), which is the global advocate for all segments of the Nigerian rice industry, with a mission to promote and protect the interests of its members.

Information from their site says RIFAN has over 12.2 million members who are involved in rice farming, milling, storage, management, trading and marketing, export, research, training, and allied businesses. RIFAN is recognized by the Government of Nigeria and works closely with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Ministry of Agriculture, state governments, foreign governments, and academic research institutions and other parastatals. With such a good pedigree, RIFAN can not allow itself to be engaged in any inelegance that could tarnish its image.

The pyramids are not only of real rice, but locally grown rice under the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ Program, which asked the farmers to return the bags of the paddy rice that made up the pyramids, in exchange for cash, with a view to repaying the loans they received from the Bank.

When PMB came to power in 2015, he came with the vision of stimulating people’s interest in farming, so that Nigeria can enjoy the benefit of food security. This led to the initiation of the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), which started towards the end of that same year, with the special bias of providing aid to farmers and influencing the value chain of various commodities.

Determined to see to the actualization of this vision, PMB was quick to introduce a new mantra in town, viz: “Nigerians must eat what they produce and produce what they eat”. To this effect, in August 2019, the country closed its land borders with neighbouring Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Although people were allowed to pass through, the movement of goods was blocked, and the objective was to stem the smuggling of goods, particularly rice, foreign rice.

Perturbed by the colossal amount of hard currency wasted on the importation of rice particularly, which according to the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, amounted to $2.41 billion between January 2012 and May 2015, the President ordered the Central Bank not to give money to import food any more.

“Already, about seven states are producing all the rice we need. We must eat what we produce. Going back to the land is the way out. We depend on petrol at the expense of agriculture. Now the oil industry is in turmoil. We are being squeezed to produce at 1.5 million barrels a day as against a capacity to produce 2.3 million. At the same time, the technical cost of our production per barrel is high, compared to the Middle East production.”-PMB.

In today’s talks at the venue of the rice pyramids pomp and pageantry, speaker after speaker, every stakeholder was compelled to give special kudos to the President, for encouraging more Nigerians to return to farming. According to the Governor of Cross Rivers State, His Excellency Benedict Ayade, by the time these bags of rice hit the mills and eventually the market, more Nigerians would be as tall as Mr. President.

Long before now, perhaps in anticipation of the coming of today, PMB said, “We will continue to encourage our people to go back to the land. Our elite is indoctrinated in the idea that we are rich in oil, leaving the land for the city for oil riches. We are back to the land now. We must not lose the opportunity to make life easier for our people. Imagine what would have happened if we didn’t encourage agriculture and closed the borders. We would have been in trouble.”

Before the coming of PMB to power in 2015, there were only 15 rice mills operating in Nigeria. But from 2015 to 2020, no fewer than 230 micro, small, medium and large rice mills have emerged, while a lot of the existing ones have also been upgrading their capacities. The largest rice mill is located in Kaduna, worth over N5bn. This is not only unprecedented in the history of Nigeria’s Agricultural revolution, but an uncommon position taken by a man of uncommon patriotism and devotion for the betterment of his country.

Yes, PMB has taken a special place in the pomp and pageantry of Nigeria’s rice pyramids.

 

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