Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday approved the concessioning of 20 federal government silos to private sector operators in a policy that will rake in N6 billion in 10 years.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbe, who gave this hit while briefing State House Correspondents after the meeting, said the Federal Government will retain six of the silos in its efforts to guarantee food security.
“The Federal Government currently has 33 of such silos, each with a capacity of 1,360,000 metric tones. We are concessioning 20 for now and we hope to retain six,” Ogbe said.
He disclosed that the silos were being concessioned to some private sector operators with capacity to grow agric produce for exports.
“Today we presented a memo to council seeking to concession the silos which have been built in different parts of the country.
A total of 33 silos exit with a capacity of 1,360,000 metric tons of grains and there are spread almost evenly through the geo-political zones of the country.”
According to Ogbe, the process for the concessioning, which started in 2014, was delayed because government wanted accountability.
He added that it is continuing now so that the private sector can help use them and pay a fee to the Federal Government.
“The process was carried out by the World Bank, the Concession Committee of Government, NGOs, 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.
“FEC approved the concessioning of 20 these silos most of them with a capacity of 100,000 tonnes, each, after Council members were convinced about the positive benefits accruable to the country from the concessioning
“We informed them that the fact that we are concessioning some of the silos does not mean we are reneging on our responsibility to guarantee food security.
“We are keeping six of the silos which is according to international standard, we keep five percent of all the grains we harvest every year, the rest will go to private sector groups.
Those who bided and have shown capacity have been the ones allocated the silos, those who are unable to manage them will have the concession revoked.
“Government will earn N6 billion in the 10-year period of the first instance. The federal government remains the owner of the silos and at the end of 10 year it can neither renew, revoke or takeover the silos and operate them ourselves.”
Ogbe noted that private sector groups with capacity to manage the silos in their possession will drive the production of grains where these grains grow more suitably.
“We have requests for grains from different parts of the world, soya beans, sesame, sorghum and millet. We also have massive rice production going on and the likes of Dangote and Coscharis going into rice production now need these silos.
So concessioning it to them means they will organize local groups to produce grains for them to dry properly and store and market when the need arises or even export.
“We have confidence that these private sector operators have the capacity to operate and maintain these silos successfully”
Also speaking on the current flooding, the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, disclosed that federal government has put in place measures to contain the expected flooding following early warnings He noted that the water level has risen to 11.19 , but has not reached the 12.4 level that lead to flooding in 2012.
“The water level has not reached the point as it was in 2012. And we are happy that the water level in Cameroon has not reached the level that will make them open their dam.”
Speaking further on government preparedness, Adamu said government can only appeal to the communities, within the flood plains to relocate from those areas.
“We still want to appeal for them to be weary so that we can avoid the 2012 situation.”
The Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Mustapha Maihaja, put the current casualties from flooding at 101.
He assured that federal government has made a provision of N3 billion for procurement of Emergency material for affected communities
He however put the responsibility of relocating the affected victims into temporary locations on the doorsteps of state governments.
“It is not the responsibility of federal government to provide places for people to stay. It is the responsibility of the state government, they should take them to some places such as schools.
“It is wrong to stick to such ancestral lands. Usually, they take them to temporary settlements, usually, secondary schools.”