I wrote this article after a sumptuous meal of rice. Not plastic rice, not Basmati, not foreign. I ate homegrown proudly Nigerian Ebonyi rice.
It was not my first time of eating local rice really. But for many of us, eating local rice such as Ofada and its cousin, Abakaliki is occasional. Something you’re served with sauce at parties or you order in eateries and restaurants. What most Nigerian families eat at home almost daily is foreign rice. But after eating Ebonyi rice, beautifully packaged in a 50-kilogramme bag like the foreign brand from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, India or China, I’m reassured that we can also produce rice in this country that is of better quality and more nutritious than the foreign rice. What’s more, this local rice is cheaper. But the Ebonyi rice revolution is still unsung.
Since April 2016, the Federal Government restricted rice importation to the seaports. But Sango Ota, Ogun State where I reside, has now turned a ‘seaport’ where tonnes of rice smuggled into the country by criminally ingenious Nigerians are discharged for sale to retailers. When you see rice stacked by the roadside in Sango-Ota, waiting to be shipped by market women in buses and trucks to Lagos, you would marvel. It’s a daily ritual. Sometimes, I wonder the sense in banning rice importation through land borders. A ban that Nigerian Customs Service cannot enforce. A recent attempt to arrest rice smugglers resulted in Customs personnel shooting dead innocent passersby in the Alakuko area of Lagos. And the latest policy is to stop importation of vehicles through the land borders. I’m still wondering whose thoughts translated into these Customs policies that are clearly difficult to enforce. Policies that end up enriching the pockets of some Customs personnel, the smugglers and marketers of contraband rice and very soon, contraband vehicles.
Enough of the digression. When recently the Ebonyi State Government announced that foreign rice would no longer be sold in the state, the Sango-Ota ‘seaport’ and the rice smugglers kept ringing in my mind. I wondered what the state government ate that gave it the confidence to declare a ban on imported rice. It did not take long for me to decipher that the Ebonyi government ate the brand new Ebonyi rice.
That was where the confidence came from. Truth is Ebonyi has enough rice to sell to all residents in the state. Why should it then open its doors to poor quality foreign rice?
The state Commissioner for Information, Senator Emmanuel Onwe was in Lagos early last week to announce the Governor David Umahi revolution, which turned the old local ‘stone first’ Abakaliki rice into an international brand, Ebonyi Rice.
Onwe said on assumption of office in May last year, Governor Umahi began the rice revolution by organizing 15,000 new farmers into cooperative societies. Loans were made available to them through the Central Bank. Seedlings were procured and the farmers descended on the rich Ebonyi soil to produce rice in the last farming season. The harvested rice was taken through modern processing and the result is the stone-free nutritious rice.
“Ebonyi Rice is cheaper. It costs not more than N18,000 per 50kg bag and could be as low as N13,000 depending on the size. It tastes better, produced with less chemical and healthier for consumers compared to imported brands,” Onwe explained.
He gave a challenge: “Take the rice sample, if you find a single stone in a bag, then don’t believe everything I’ve told you about Ebonyi rice.”
I can attest that the rice is stone free. It is also better looking and tastier than the sticky foreign rice that my wife had been serving me of late.
Kudos to the Ebonyi State Government for this dividend of democracy. I believe Nigerians’ appetite for foreign food can be quenched if the government mobilizes the citizenry to produce enough food locally. Now the next stage is to direct traders who flood Sango-Ota ‘seaport’ daily in search of foreign rice and the importers/smugglers that it is much cheaper, legal and healthier to source rice from Ebonyi.
Re: Are mosquitoes your friend?
Thanks for your educative column. The problems caused by malaria are of concern to everyone. Mosquitoes are insects that turn the night into nightmare. Their bite and unsolicited buzzing cause discomfort during the time for resting.
As measures are being carried out by cooperative organizations and private agencies, let all hands be on deck to adhere to preventive and eradication measures against the vector of malaria.Mosquitoes. God bless you.
Thank God that in spite of your fight with malaria you managed to honour your invite and you now wrote to educate us more about malaria. As usual, it was on point. Another angle is ‘Nigerian factor’ in the fight. Corruption and greed infesting the agencies that are saddled with the responsibility. They choose to corner monies from foreign donor agencies to buy personal properties and SUVs. It’s a known fact that those posted to the beat do thanksgiving; then there are those who import fake drugs. Thanks though.
–Tony Enyinta, Isuikwuato
Abdulfatah, all my over three scores and ten years on earth, malaria has been an unresolved issue for many reasons. If stagnant water is avoided, breeding of mosquitoes will reduce and by extension transmission of malaria parasites will diminish greatly. Even in the estate I live, the drains are static, breeding mosquitoes in millions. In fact, since my house is at a road junction, mosquitoes, which hum loudly, could be seen, in the drainage flying in hundreds. So, at least twice in a week, I dislodge the drains around my house as a palliative measure. But the situation in our area has been worsened by insensitive new landlords who dislodge their septic tanks onto the road fouling up the area and making it waterlogged; for mosquitoes to breed in trillions; thereby exposing people to malaria infection. When Chief Obasanjo created Satellite Town Estate in Lagos, the whole area was for low housing modus. But Doyin Estate sold part of its land to individuals who have now erected high-rise buildings, made up of a hotel and two schools; against the original plan of Federal Government for Satellite Town Estates. Unfortunately, the new illegal buildings have no drainage facilities. They simply discharge their waste products on the roads around. Our Estate Executive pleaded with the concerned landlords to no avail. They have even reported the issue to relevant authorities, at local government and other levels, with photographs and video coverage of the environmental pollution by the landlords, without result. The last option is to contact Governor Ambode, believing that he would, based on his body language of concern to make Lagos State an environmentally conducive abode for residents, resolve the issue. Health problems are caused by the beasts in our midst that defecate anywhere with impunity. Penal charges and seizure by government, of illegal and environmentally abusive structures, would go a long way to guarantee safety of lives from preventable sources of avoidable diseases thereby reducing mass deaths of Nigerians drastically. But who knows, some of these fetish wealthy people might be using such ploys to sacrifice people to their evil “gods”. They would stop at nothing. Hold it brother. May Almighty God save Nigerians, Amen.
In spite of our abundant resources in Nigeria, our healthcare system is nothing to write home about, because of corruption in our governance system. It is very unfortunate and sad what is happening in our health sector where our government refused to equip our hospitals with state-of-the-art facilities to cater for the needy in our society. Our government at all levels should make healthcare a priority through adequate allocations to take care of citizenry.
–Mrs, ljeoma Nno, Lagos State
Are mosquitoes your friend? Like your rightly pointed out, North Central is one area where mosquitoes are having a field day, because of heat wave which makes sleeping inside mosquito nets uncomfortable. Any way out?
–IK from Lafia