Customs replies Oyo State Government over infested rice claims


…Dissociates self from pictures of bad rice circulating on social media

The Oyo/Osun command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has frowned at what it called mischievous and deliberate falsehood being circulated in the media for reasons best known to their author(s) concerning the federal government’s palliative given to Oyo State among other states.

Speaking in a statement on Saturday in Ibadan, the Customs Public Relations Officer of the command, Abdullahi-Lagos Abiola noted that as a responsible agency of government whose functions included ensuring that nothing that could compromise the security, economy and general well-being of Nigerians were allowed into the country, it cannot turn round and be associated with giving anything that would negatively affect the people.

Abiola explained that in line with the federal government’s effort to cushion the hardship in the nation, the CGC had directed the distribution of relief items including bags of rice across the nation through the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management as palliative to the vulnerable in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

He also said that “As instructed, on the 20th of April 2020, the Oyo/Osun Area Command received high ranking members of the Oyo State Government in the persons of the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Jacob Ojekunle; the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Agriculture,  Mrs Saidat Bolatumi Oloko; Executive Adviser to the Governor on Agribusiness, Mr Debo Akande; The representative of Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management and Social Development in Oyo, Mrs MO Lasisi and other members.  They visited the command twice on the same day to inspect the bags of rice that were available for allocation.

“The Customs Area Controller, Comptroller, HU Ngozi led them to the warehouses where they inspected the bags of rice, checked expiration dates and expressed satisfaction and readiness to evacuate their allocation.

“Before leaving the command on their second visit, they pleaded to be given those from a section of one of the warehouses they considered “fresher” and this was granted.

“Subsequently, on the 21st of April 2020, the Oyo State Government team came with their vehicles under the supervision of Mr. Jacob Ojekunle, Mrs. Saidat Oloko, Mrs. MO Lasisi and other top officials, in the presence of the Customs Area Controller, other officers and members of the press to witness the loading and exiting of the 1800 bags of parboiled rice allocated to their State as palliative to the vulnerable.

“Incidentally, in the process of loading, few bags fell at different times and burst open in the presence of Mr. Ojekunle and Mrs. Lasisi and there was no time that any of the burst bags of rice had weevils in them. The warehouse had no signs of weevils, neither were there signs of weevils on the loaders or on the trucks under the scorching sun.

“The three (3) states; Oyo, Osun and Ekiti States took delivery of the bags of rice allocated to them, returned their landing certificates to show delivery to its final destinations. They also showed appreciation to the CGC for his magnanimity. Contrary to allegations by Oyo State Government, Osun and Ekiti States have not complained about their allocations.

“The Command is therefore surprised, even embarrassed to hear three (3) days later, that the rice allocated to them were infested with weevils and unfit for human consumption.”

The command’s spokesman reiterated that weevils do not hide adding that in the process of loading the vehicles, traces of weevils would have been noticed on the floor, on the bags, on the loaders or on the trucks bearing in mind that the entire process was in the presence of the CAC, Oyo State Government’s high ranking team and men of the press with full video camera coverage.

“The command is also aware that for whatever reason, some pictures of bad rice have been circulating the social media. We disassociate ourselves from such false images and we suspect foul play on the part of the handlers of these allocated 1,800 bags of rice. The state government may wish to dig deeper.

“It is surprising how bags of rice that exited the command HQ in good condition suddenly became so bad after three (3) days as being circulated in the social media”, he submitted.

It will be recalled that the Executive Assistant to Governor Seyi Makinde on Agribusiness, Dr. Debo Akande, alleged that the 1,800 bags of rice from the federal government to the state as Covid-19 palliative had spoilt.

Akande said, “We received these items from the federal government via the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and we brought them to the warehouse. It was in the process of further inspection that we discovered that the rice had been infested with weevils.

“On that basis, we formed a committee to re-inspect it so we can be sure of what we have received. We don’t want to create another problem while providing solution to another one. We have inspected it; we have done random selection and we have seen that similar things apply across the board.

“We have agreed to return them to the source but if there are good ones with good quality that could be sent to us as replacement, we will be glad to receive them.”

He however promised that the situation would not in any way delay the planned distribution of palliatives by the state government.

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