Business

Operator alleges frustration of N1bn local rice investment

The Managing Director, SGL Farms, Adegoke Oluwaseun, has stated that the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) is frustrating its N1 billion-rice investment.

At a media briefing in Lagos, Oluwaseun said the customs had stalled its farming operations for the past nine months on allegations that the rice paddy being used to grow its rice was not locally grown.

According to him, the rice paddy worth over N70 million had already gone through the Customs’ post and was not subjected to any checks or raised any suspicion.

He also noted that the harassment and intimidation of the customs are likely to push over 1000 workers into the labor market as the company is considering laying off its staff due to stalled farming operations.

He added: “This is to let the world and every Nigerian concerned aware that governments efforts to ensure local food production is being sabotaged and frustrated by the Nigerian Customs through harassment and intimidation.”

He said despite numerous efforts to reach the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to address the issue, the NCS is yet to release its rice paddy, saying that so far, only the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) has been cooperative.

“Our problem with the NCS started January 2021 when we wanted to relocate our rice paddy due to a failed irrigation facility at our farm in Anigbado, Yewa North, Ogun State. We brought in the rice seeds in November last year to the farm from Kebbi State to Lagos State hitch-free but when the study came out that the rice paddy would not yield very well on the farm, our farm extension officers advised us to plant the seed at a suitable location in Niger State in anticipation of planting during the dry season,” he said.

“Consequently, when we were making an effort to move the rice seed to a better location, men of Nigeria Customs swooped onto our farm and stopped the entire process. Their action has stopped us from two planting seasons this year,” he added.

REACTING, the Public Relations Officer of NCS, Joseph Attah, told The Guardian that though I do not have the details, I wonder why Customs officials would seize paddy rice if there was no intelligence about its origin and only proper investigation can prove the allegations.

Oluwaseun said the situation has implications for the firm’s financial commitment to its financial institution, investors, loss of labour, and inability to produce local rice in line with the Buhari-led administration’s policy to boost local rice production.

“Customs alleged that the paddy was not Nigeria-grown, these are lies because we brought this paddy rice from Oyo, Kaduna, and Ogun. We have provided all necessary paperwork and receipts from various seed companies that supplied us with these paddies but everything has been fruitless. We have had to hope and remain optimistic for over eight months but nothing seems forthcoming,” he stressed.

Oluwaseun said its investors and financial partners, many of whom are retirees and people who took loans are already frustrated, saying that they have taken a decision to involve the EFCC with the impression that funds have been diverted into private businesses.

“I must also state that some investors we also gave payment guarantees have now concluded that we are fraudulent. This situation is now at its peak and we simply do not see any end in sight. It has always been from one unit or agency to the other,” he lamented.

“This is a call to relevant and concerned Nigerians for intervention. Many of our investors are battling one ailment or the other, some are in a serious financial mess and even workers’ salaries are now a luxury as the company cannot access any inflow to settle all these liabilities.”

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