Some stakeholders in the agricultural sector in Bayelsa and Rivers States say there are no silos in both states, while others in the South South region decry that the lack of power is rendering those in their states inoperative.
A News Agency of Nigeria survey on the state of silos in the country revealed that facilities in the region are dilapidated and not in use, thus threatening the food security drive of the Federal Government.
Silos are established to be used in agriculture to store grains or fermented feed known as silage.
They are more commonly used for bulk storage of grains, coal, cement, carbon black, wood chips, food products and sawdust.
The stakeholders in Bayelsa State called on the federal and the state governments to establish such storage facilities for the use of farmers in the state.
Ezeikel Ogbianko, the Chairman of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria in Bayelsa State, said that silo had not existed in any area in the state.
Ogbianko said: “We heard some time ago that the contract was awarded in 2009 but up until now, nothing has been done at the area where they said that the silo project was sited.
“I have been a farmer for long; we plant and cultivate rice three times in a year and all we have been using for storage are some warehouses in the state.
“We have not seen silo in Bayelsa, though the project is there at Igbogene, Yenagoa Local Government Area.”
Joe Ebimor, a farmer, decried the non-existence of silos in Bayelsa State and urged the federal and state governments to expedite action to build the storage facility in the state.
According to Ebimor, establishing the facility will go a long way in efforts to ensure food security for the people.
He said: “I can recall sometime in 2017, the Federal Government pledged to complete the South South Silo located in Yenagoa.
“The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, then said the funds for the project had been released to complete a 100,000 tonnes capacity silo.
“But as I am speaking with you, nothing is going on at the site.
“I learnt that the silo projects initiated in 2009 and is part of the Strategic Grains Reserve Scheme to ensure food security by the Federal Government.”
All efforts to get the reactions of the Commissioner for Agriculture were fruitless.
However, NAN survey indicated that some functional silos were rendered inoperative due to power outage in some states.
The survey conducted in some states within the zone also indicated that some silos have been sold off to private outfits when they failed to generate revenue to sustain their operations.
In Rivers State, NAN investigation showed that there were no visible silos in the state.
Dr. Awotien George, a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Agriculture in Rivers State University, Port Harcourt, confirmed the situation in an interview with NAN in Port Harcourt.
George also said the state had no serious farming business to warrant the construction of silos.
He said: “Are they (Rivers people) producing?
“What will they store in silos?
“Silos were expected to store and preserve the excess farm produce to prevent it from perishing.
“Nothing to store.
“Where is the excess that will bring about the storage?
“We do not have enough food in Rivers.
“If Rivers wants to move forward, it should encourage all sectors of agric.
“Attention should be moved to agriculture.
“Nigeria is blessed and endowed with fertilised land.
“There is no part of Nigeria that cannot produce one thing or the other.”
The lecturer said some agricultural produce were perishable, hence the need to store and preserve, while some were used by the industries as raw materials.
George said that in the 1960s, Nigeria was one of the world’s producers of groundnut, rubber, cotton and palm oil among others.
He also reiterated that Malaysia, which collected palm kernels from Nigeria in the 1960s, “is now palm oil giant in the world, manufacturing different products from palm oil.”
In Cross River State, the lack of electricity rendered inoperative the silos located in Okuku, Yala Local Government Area.
The survey also showed that many of the affected silos had been out of use since 2007.
Iwara Bassey, the State Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Calabar, Cross River State, painted the sorry state of silos in the state.
Bassey said although the silos were not on concession, plans in the past to do that did not go through.
He said due to the inability of the Federal Government to concession the facilities, he could not speak of demerits and benefits the nation would have derived if the facilities were to be on concession.
He said: “The major challenges we have with the silos here is the problem of lack of electricity and the inability of the government to concession the facilities.
“We have learnt that there is a need for partnership with the private sector if our silos must be effectively put into use.”
In Delta State, silos in the state were reportedly sold off to the private sector in the 90s by the state government since the managements failed to generate revenue to sustain their operations.
Jerry Ossai, former Commissioner for Agriculture in Delta State, alleged that the state government sold it in the 90s to the private sector.
Ossai told NAN in Asaba that there were no good information on silos or their conditions in Delta State.
He said the silos were then located in Oleh, Isolo North Local Government Areas of the state.
He said the silos were functional but were not generating revenue at that time.
He said: “The state had some silos in Oleh during my time as Commissioner for Agriculture in late 90s, but they were not functional.
“After we left office, I gathered from the grapevine that they were sold off to private businesses.”
As at the time of reporting, NAN was still making efforts to get the incumbent Commissioner for Agriculture, Joe Utomi, to respond on the issue.