Niger and Lagos states to produce 300,000 metric tons of rice

In what appeared to be a greater collaborative effort among states of the federation, the Niger and Lagos state governments set the pace, recently, when they came together to explore areas of comparative advantage. While Niger state prides itself as an agricultural hub, with a vast land mass covering about 766 square meters, Lagos State prides itself as an industrial hub of the country. Both states were set to boost rice production.

Following a Memorandum of Understanding between the two states, Niger state would produce 300,000 metric tons of paddy rice, annually, to feed the Lagos state rice mill. The Niger state government was ready to commit about 50, 000 hectare of land to the project, which was expected to boost the Internally Generated Revenue base, as well as, create jobs to reduce the army of unemployed people in the state.

According to Naira metrics, Nigeria produced about 8.34 million metric tons of rice in 2021. This was where rice production in the country in 2020 stood at about 5.148 metric tons; rice production stood at about 5.314 metric tons in 2019; and in 2018, the country produced about 5.249 metric tons. This was where revenue in rice market was projected to reach $4.50 million in 2024, with further projection to reach $4.84 million in 2028.

However, rice remained a staple food most consumed in Nigeria, with a consumption of 32 kg per capita; but reports say, this had increased over the past decades by 4.7 percent and reached about 6.4 million metric tons in 2017; where only about 57 percent of the 6.7 million metric tons of rice consumed in the country, was locally produced; and the balance of about three million metric tons had to be imported. 

According to a Business Day report, Nigeria spent about N1.2 trillion ($1.31 billion) to import per boiled rice in 2021; and imports rice from India, United Arab Emirate, Vietnam, China, Netherlands, and Benin Republic among others. 

Here, the collaborative initiative, between Lagos and Niger states on local rice production to reduce importation and save foreign exchange, came in to fill the gap between production and consumption of rice in Nigeria.

Special Assistant to the Lagos State Government on New Media, Jibril Gawat, said in a statement that Lagos state was expected to become the major off taker of paddy rice from Niger state. Gawat, also said with the agreement, the three years off take programme, will enhance rice production and aggregation in Lagos State.

The agreement was signed in Minna, where Chairman, Niger State Food Security System and Logistic Company, Mr. Sammy Adigun, signed on behalf of the Niger State Government; while the Special Adviser on Agriculture, Dr Oluwarotimi Fashola and the Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos State Commodity and Exchange, Dr. Akinsola Akeredolu, signed on behalf of the Lagos State Government.

Under the agreement, Lagos State government would raise N100,000 billion in food and Security Funds from the capital market to support the Niger State commodity Eco-system.

Niger State Governor, Muhammed Umar Bago, described the agreement as unprecedented; saying, it aligned with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s food security agenda. He said Niger state was ready to engage other states for mutual benefits and private sector growth.

The partnership between the two states came against the background that the Governor inherited a state grappling with security challenges; where 16 out of the 25 local governments in the state were under the siege of kidnappers and bandits.

  For example, Premium Times reported that 1044 persons were kidnapped in the state within 18 months in 2022. The report further stated that in 2022, there were 48 kidnapping incidents, in which 725 people were kidnapped in 36 attacks; it added that in 2023, there were 12 cases of kidnappings in the state.

The International Centre for Investigative Reporting, also reported that Niger State recorded 786 deaths in 90 days in 2022; and that an average of three persons were kidnapped daily during the year. The report further stated that in 2023, 376 people were killed in 36 attacks across three Local Governments; including, Rafi Local Government, where 189 were killed, Lapai Local Government, where 145 were killed and Shiroro Local Government, where 76 people were killed. 

Although these problems were on ground by the time he was sworn-in as Governor, Hon. Mohammed Umaru Bago, who was also a former representative of the people of Chanchaga Federal Constituency, at the House of Representatives, came into office with the ambition to build a New Niger State. 

Convinced that the force of attraction of the bandits to the state was the search for solid minerals, he moved to tackle illegal mining activities; he organised the communities into surveillance group to protect their commonwealth. 

He distributed about 20 vehicles to the security agencies in the state, and tasked them to go after the illegal miners. He insisted that mining activities in the state must follow laid down protocols according to the law; where it must be with the consent of the communities where such solid minerals were located, and maintained that all miners in the state must be properly licensed. 

At his first 100 days in office, Governor Mohammed Umaru Bago, refused to roll out the drums in celebration. This may not be unconnected with the fact that parts of the state were still under the siege of enemies of the state, which held the people captives.

 This major security challenge was a big obstacle to other development plans he brought on board, including, boosting agricultural production; yet, he was determined to tackle these security challenges, and mobilise the people to boost agricultural activities in the state.

 Before the new development between the state and Lagos state to boost rice production, he had procured fertilizer and other farm inputs, which he distributed to local farmers at subsidised rates for 2023 wet season farming.

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