Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, told News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Wednesday that the concession of the silos at an indicative value of 51.66 million dollars had reached the final stage.
He said that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in collaboration with the Public Private Partnership (PPP) unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance, invited prospective investors or operators to express interest in the operation and management of 33 silo complexes in the country.
Lokpobiri, however, said that the concession had become imperative because the components, maintenance process, spare parts, security and some other incidental costs of the silos were not presented to the ministry by the previous administration before the silos were handed over.
“Between the project completion time of the silos and when they were handed over to the government, some equipment vandalism had already taken place.
“So, the government decided that in order to maximise the use of the silos and save cost, they should be given to the private sector; so adverts were made, some people expressed interest and evaluation is being done.
“The ministry of agriculture is doing this in collaboration with Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC),” he said.
Lokpobiri said that it was a very cumbersome process but the details of infrastructure and other necessary inputs had been worked out with the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), to promote transparency and the principle of due process.
He added that the process was at the final stage now.
Lokpobiri, however, said that the government was reserving a few silos in its custody to enable it to provide immediate food relief in times of emergencies, while guaranteeing minimum price scheme so as to allow the farmers to get good remunerative prices for their produce.
“Government is keeping some silos to safeguard its strategic grains programme, provide a mechanism for price stabilisation and storage capacity for excess production and reduce post-harvest losses,’’ he said.
The minister said that the government had recorded a huge success in food production and reduced food imports, adding that the food import bill had dropped from 22 billion dollars to a marginally low level.
“As an example, looking at the current statistics on rice, you can see that local rice production has increased significantly, while rice importation has reduced radically.
“Food import is not just about rice, there is a total prohibition of importation of fish, poultry products and other food items through the country’s land borders.
“Basically, every food item is prohibited from coming through the land borders but smuggling activities are taking place and efforts to contain them are not the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture,’’ he said.
Investigation by NAN reveals that the first category of 13 silo complexes, with a total storage capacity of 311,000 tonnes, were constructed and inaugurated between 1988 and 2006.
Besides, 20 silo complexes, with a total storage capacity of about 1.3 million tonnes, were built by the administration of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2009.
The 20 silo complexes, which are located in Abuja, Ado Ekiti, Ilesa, Akure, Okigwe, Igbariam, Saki, Dankande, Ikenne and Okigwe, among others, are now in a derelict state.
NAN learnt that some of the silos, which have been completed and handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, were all empty, without grains in them.