How Shagari’s regime scuttled Nigerian strides to be self-sufficient in rice production – Obasanjo - News and More

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Friday 27 October 2017

How Shagari’s regime scuttled Nigerian strides to be self-sufficient in rice production – Obasanjo

A former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, on Thursday said Nigeria was almost achieving self sufficiency in rice production in 1979 before he quit as the military Head of state, saying,  the regime of the Second Republic president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, which succeeded him  scuttled the strides .

Obasanjo spoke as the chief launcher at the Global  unveiling of Okun Rice, at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

Obasanjo, who blamed it on  inconsistence  in policy, said the successive  civilian administration led by Alhaji Shehu Shagari, later set up Committee on importation of rice.

He said this shift in policy focus from his own agricultural revolution, served as a disincentive to farmers who were cultivating rice, and they were sent packing as the imported bags of rice began to arrive.

Okun Rice is produced by Hyst Global Business Limited, owned by Mr. Biodun Onalaja.

Obasanjo, however, commended  Onalaja for rekindling the hope of the country at achieving self sufficiency in rice production and ensuring food security for the nation.

He said, “One of our problems in this country is inconsistency in policy.

“In 1979, we were getting to a place where we would be self sufficient in rice production, but then a new administration came and set up a Presidential Committee on rice importation  instead of a Presidential Committee on Exportation of rice.

“In no time, when the imported rice started  arriving, those farmers who were cultivating rice gave up.

” Today I commend  Hyst Global Business Limited and the chairman, Mr. Biodun Onalaja, for his doggedness, persistence, and stubbornness. It is not easy to succeed here as a farmer. But I want to say Onalaja is a success story, because despite the odds he never gave up.”

Obasanjo said if the nation has just 100 of Onalajas in this country, the country would not only be self sufficient in rice production but would become an exporter of rice.

Obasanjo appealed to commercial banks to offer soft loans to farmers at a single digit interest rate, arguing that no farmer could break even on two digits interest rate.

The Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, also commended Onalaja for his company’s efforts at making the nation self sufficient in rice production.

Amosun who was represented by his Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Bimbo Ashiru, noted that through the rice production, “he is helping to industrialise the nation.”

He, however, appealed to him to come and invest in his home state, which is Ogun.

Onalaja in his own remark, said the company currently located at Ejiba, in Kogi State, engages in rice farming on 1,000 hectares of land, in the precinct of the Lower Niger River Basin.

He said the company started its operation at Ejiba in 2014, after its efforts to kickoff the rice farming at Taraba State ran into a hitch.

Onalaja who commended Obasanjo said his administration’s policy on agriculture and assistance really assisted the company to found its footing in rice production.

He said, “The rice project was made possible by the assistance given by the chief launcher of today, who is a former president, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

” While in office, he had food self sufficiency in the nation as one of his goals. He assisted us to set up the company while also blazing the trail for people like us as farmers. Here is a person who not only talks agriculture, but also walks the talk of a farmer and agro entrepreneur.”

Onalaja also commended the current administration for the priority given to agriculture, mentioning the assistance of the Minister of Agriculture in getting a 20-ton integrated rice mill for the company at a subsidised rate.

He, however, disclosed that the company’s five- year lease on the rice plantation at Ejiba would lapse in November, he pleaded with the state and Federal Governments to renew it, in order to sustain food self sufficiency for the nation and employment opportunities for the youth.

Onalaja who said the company had trained many youths and women in rice production and offered to do more, added that the Okun Rice, “is available in different sizes -1kg, 5kg, 10kg, 25kg and 50kg bags.”

Other highlights of the event was a informative documentary on the rice plantation at Ejiba.

Among the dignitaries at the event were the Ebumawe of Ago Iwoye, Oba Razak Adenugba, former vice-chancellor, Tai Solar in University of Education, Ijagun, Prof.Segun Awonusi, the Managing Director, Punch Nigeria Limited, Mr. Demola Osinubi, and other royal fathers from  Ogun and Kogi states among others.

( Vanguard)

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