Exclusive: The Untold Story Of FG’s Controversial Rice To Akwa Ibom

Bags of rice
Bags of rice

Since the arrival of the Federal Government’s consignment of rice on the soil of Akwa Ibom to cushion the adverse effects of COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant lockdown, a lot of dust has been raised.

Despite the colourful side presented by the state government, Straightnews has dug out the untold story of what transpired between the two delegations during the delivery of what could be termed the ‘controversial rice.’

Recall that the Federal Government under its Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development had despatched 1,800 bags rice as palliatives and no sooner the state government took delivery than it stoked controversy on contamination of the consignment.

The Akwa Ibom Governor Udom Emmanuel ballooned the controversy that the rice given to them by the Federal Government as palliative was not good for consumption. The governor who whistled this during a press statement in Uyo, said they could not reject the donation, but he would not approve its distribution because the colour of the rice had changed.

“The only palliative we have gotten from the Federal Government is 1,800 bags of rice. As I am talking to you, the rice is in the warehouse. It is a gift. We have sent it for test, and until the result is out, we will not distribute it to our citizens. It is not good for consumption,” he said.

Before then, Oyo, Lagos and Ogun states had rejected their consignments from the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) warehouse, saying the commodity was unfit for consumption.

This led to an open disagreement between the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq and the National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC). The minister said the agency certified the rice before distribution. On Monday, April 20, the Federal Government distributed 6,000 bags of rice to Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo states as palliatives against the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the people.

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Two months after, Governor Emmanuel admitted that the government had discarded 510 of the 1800 bags of custom bonded rice given to the State as palliative by the Federal government.

The Secretary to the State Government and Chairman of COVID-19 Committee, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem who disclosed this during the 13th edition of Covid-19 update on last Thursday, said the State government took the decision after the laboratory test results showed that the 510 bags were unfit for human consumption.

His words, “As we reported a few weeks ago, we took delivery of 1,800 bags of impounded Nigerian Customs warehouse bonded rice donated to the state by the Federal Government.

“On receipt of the donation, we noticed that some grains of the rice had obvious de-coloration and in order to ascertain whether or not they were fit for human consumption, we subjected them to a thorough laboratory test procedure.”

He noted that the State government has, however, approved the distribution of the remaining 1,290 bags of rice in all the local government areas, with each receiving 41 bags.

Contrary to the government’s version, a source in the Federal Ministry confided in Straightnews that the consignment of rice berthed at Calabar Port in Cross River and the Akwa Ibom government hired trailers that loaded and delivered them in the state.”

The source said “The Commissioner for Science and Technology, Dr. Iniobong Essien took the Federal Government’s officials to the warehouse owned by a private person and a PDP henchman, off Oron Road in Uyo, the state capital. This was where the consignment was packed.

“Thereafter, the commissioner showed the officials two bags of rice which he claimed were contaminated. Then, he added five other bags making them 7 bags to be sent to NAFDAC for tests. The expiry date on the alleged contaminated bags was 2022. The Abuja delegation took photographs of the suspicious bags.”

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Another official of the delegation said “After this, we were directed to see the Secretary to the State Government. We waited and the SSG did not sign and collect the hard copy of the letter owed to the discrepancy, he claimed, was noted in the letter.

According to him, “While the emailed copy talked of rice and vegetable oil, the hard copy included tomato paste. So because they had acknowledged the soft copy, they would not accept the discrepancy.

“Up till now, no state government official has endorsed the waybill of the consignment to enable us to account for it.

“Regrettably, the visit of the delegation to Akwa Ibom was marred by poor reception except for the kind gesture of Nsikan Linus.

Finding by this online newspaper shows that the Federal Ministry has neither reacted nor received the disposal story officially.

However, an observer queried “Did the government write to the ministry to send a delegation to collect the contaminated rice? Did the government make the testing report of the contaminated rice available to the ministry? Did the government notify the Federal ministry to witness the disposal of the contaminated consignment?”