The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri has said the federal government (FG) is seeking ways to job creation in the Niger Delta with the revival of two rice mills in the region.
The Minister made this known during a courtesy visit to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) headquarters in Port Harcourt on Monday. He was received by the NDDC Managing Director, Mr. Nsima Ekere, and six members of the Commission’s Governing Board.
The Minister applauded the efforts of the NDDC to revive the two rice mills it built at Elele-Alimini in Rivers State and Mbiabet-Ikpe in Akwa Ibom State, and expressed delight with the determination of the commission to re-activate the mills in conjunction with the private investor Elephant Group.
The Minister said that the FG was ready for a very strategic engagement with the NDDC on how to get agriculture working as a viable enterprise that would create jobs in the Niger Delta region and guarantee food security in the country.
He hitherto promised government’s support through the ministry for the re-activation of the rice processing plants, that are having a combined capacity of 210 metric tonnes per day.
He, however, regretted that before now, the country was spending $5million a day to import rice, noting that the Elephant Group, had the capacity to revive the Elele mill and contribute to the efforts to ensure food sufficiency in the country by 2018.
Senator Lokpobiri said: “I am happy that for once the NDDC rice mill will be put to good use. This will employ many people and this is one of the ways to reduce youth restiveness.”
The NDDC Managing Director recalled his sad experience when he visited the Elele Rice Mill recently. He said he was shocked at what he described as “a colossal waste of resources,” regretting that the mill, which was completed in 2008, was allowed to lie fallow.
He said that the Commission was working with the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure that the rice mill was put to use immediately.
This is very strategic, he said, adding: “It shows the desire of the new governing board to partner with all stakeholders to ensure meaningful and sustainable development of the Niger Delta.
“Another thing that re-activation of the mill will afford us is providing jobs for the teeming youths of the Niger Delta region, as part of the direction which the new governing board and management of NDDC is taking to address the unemployment problem in the region”.
Mr Ekere said that Niger Delta must be able to exist as a region and a people without reliance on oil and gas assets alone.
He added: “One aspect of this project that is very dear to my heart is the out-growers scheme. The scheme will support locals and people in the region to grow rice with the required technical support that will ensure that there will be ready market for them to sell their products.
“Reliance on agriculture is the way to go. Working together with the ministry, we believe that in the next couple of months the Niger Delta people can begin to eat Elele-rice from NDDC,” he said.
Earlier, Mr. Olatunji Owoeye, the Managing Director of Elephant Group, assured of his firm’s readiness to revamp the dormant mill. He added that other necessary support facilities would also be provided at the mill.