The Nigeria Customs Service(NCS), Oyo/Osun Area Command, has denied distributing weevil-infested rice to any state as part of Federal Government’s palliative to cushion the effect of the lockdown order put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement by the Public Relations Officer of the Command, Abdullahi-Lagos Abiodun, the NCS wonders how bags of rice that left its warehouse in good condition could turn out bad within three days, urging the Oyo State Government to dig deep into the matter
Recall that Oyo State Government had on Friday said it was returning all the 1,800 bags of rice donated to the state by the Federal Government through the Customs service, adding that the rice has been infested with weevil and unfit for human consumption.
The agency also denied the picture of spoilt rice been circulated on social media, noting that the rice allocated to the the three states of Oyo, Osun and Ekiti were not only delivered in good condition, but the representatives of the beneficiary states also attested to the good quality of the items before and after taking the delivery.
The statement read:”The attention of the Oyo/Osun Command of the Nigeria Customs Service has been drawn to some mischievous and deliberate falsehood being circulated in the media for reasons best known to their author(s) concerning the Federal Government’s palliative given to Oyo State among other states.
“As a responsible agency of government whose functions include ensuring that nothing that could compromise the security, economy and general being of Nigerians are allowed into the country, we cannot turn round and be associated with giving anything that will negatively affect our people. We therefore wish to state as follows:
“That in line with the Federal Government’s effort to cushion the hardship in the nation, the CGC had directed the distribution of relief items including bags of rice across the nation through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management as palliative to the vulnerable in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
“As instructed, on the 20th of April 2020, the Oyo/Osun Area Command received high ranking members of the Oyo State Government in the persons of the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Jacob Ojekunle; the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs Saidat Bolatumi Oloko; Executive Adviser to the Governor on Agribusiness, Mr Debo Akande; The representative of Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management and Social Development in Oyo, Mrs M.O. Lasisi and other members.
“They visited the command twice on the same day to inspect the bags of rice that were available for allocation.
“The Customs Area Comptroller, H.U. Ngozi led them to the warehouses where they inspected the bags of rice, checked expiration dates and expressed satisfaction and readiness to evacuate their allocation.
“Before leaving the command on their second visit, they pleaded to be given those from a section of one of the warehouses they considered “fresher” and this was granted.
“Subsequently, on the 21st of April 2020, the Oyo State Government team came with their vehicles under the supervision of Mr Jacob Ojekunle, Mrs Saidat Oloko, Mrs M.O. Lasisi and other top officials, in the presence of the Customs Area Comptroller, other officers and members of the press to witness the loading and exiting of the 1800 bags of parboiled rice allocated to their state as palliative to the vulnerable.
“Incidentally, in the process of loading, few bags fell at different times and burst open in the presence of Mr Ojekunle and Mrs Lasisi and there was no time that any of the burst bags of rice had weevils in them.
“The warehouse had no signs of weevils, neither were there signs of weevils on the loaders or on the trucks under the scorching sun.
“The three states; Oyo, Osun and Ekiti States took delivery of the bags of rice allocated to them, returned their landing certificates to show delivery to its final destinations. They also showed appreciation to the CGC for his magnanimity.
“Contrary to allegations by Oyo State Government, Osun and Ekiti States have not complained about their allocations.
“The Command is therefore surprised, even embarrassed to hear three (3) days later, that the rice allocated to them were infested with weevils and unfit for human consumption.
“The command wishes to reiterate that weevils do not hide and in the process of loading the vehicles, traces of weevils would have been noticed on the floor, on the bags, on the loaders or on the trucks bearing in mind that the entire process was in the presence of the CAC, Oyo State Government’s high ranking team and men of the press with full video camera coverage.
“The Command is also aware that for whatever reason, some pictures of bad rice have been circulating on the social media. We dissociate ourselves from such false images and we suspect foul play on the part of the handlers of these allocated 1,800 bags of rice. The State Government may wish to dig deeper.
“It is surprising how bags of rice that exited the Command HQ in good condition suddenly became so bad after 3 days as being circulated on the social media.”