By Femi Oluwasanmi
The recent drama displayed by the Oyo State Government and Nigerian Custom Service (NCS) on 1800 bags of rice donated by the federal government as palliative to cushion the effect of the lockdown order occasioned by COVID-19 on the people of Oyo State shows clearly the nature and character of Nigerian government regarding her citizens.
The Oyo State government had through the Special Adviser to the State Governor, Debo Akande on 24th April, 2020 stated that the rice delivered to the State as palliative from the Federal government was unhealthy for human consumption and would be returned to the NCS office.
However, the Public Relations Officer of Oyo/Osun Command, Abdullahi Lagos insisted that the command was embarrassed to hear that the rice allocated to Oyo state were infected with weevils and unfit for human consumption citing other States such as Osun, Ekiti, among others that also collected their rice from the same location without complaint.
In a display that seems to be like drama, the officers at the Zonal Headquarters of the Nigerian Customs in Ibadan sighting the officials led by the Commissioner for Agriculture, Ojemuyiwa Ojekunle on the mission to return the rice shut the doors of the command and refused to accept the alleged contaminated rice from them.
By interpretation, the command sees the returned rice as a tactic by the Oyo State government to paint the NCS and Federal government in bad light in order to score political goal.
Governor Seyi Makinde had since his inauguration in 2019 embarked on the quest to reposition the PDP in the South West region. At one of the meetings held with the stakeholders of the party in Lagos State, the Governor stated that very soon PDP will take over the region including the Lagos State from APC.
To achieve this goal means that the Governor and PDP stakeholders in the region have to do a lot of political permutations and calculations which might include this kind of rice saga though, the Comptroller-General of Customs, retired Col. Hameed Ali, had once said in 2019, that 99 per cent of rice smuggled through the land borders is not fit for human consumption.
Unfortunately, it is the same rice that the president Buhari ordered the NCS to distribute to the States as palliative. Though, the president did not mentioned contaminated rice in his directive on 6th April, but the seized rice from the smugglers.
This became more complicated by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq’s attempt to drag the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to the imbrogilo through her comment and the immediate counter reaction from the NAFDAC.
However, whether the contaminated rice is from the NCS or Oyo State Government, the real issue is that why must a government elected by the people distribute such unhealthy food to the people in the name of palliative?
This and many other reasons are responsible for different suspicion theories revolving the shared rice in the country despite the high level of hunger in the land. In Ondo State for instance, the State government had to carried out a quality control test on the rice to determine whether the retained ones out the rice given to the State are good for consumption.
However, the distribution of unhealthy food as palliative to Nigerians are not only limited to the Federal and Oyo State governments as the report of such toxic food continues to increase in the country.
For instance, there was a report of some youths in the Agege area of Lagos State that turned some of the breads given to them by honorable Mudashiru Obasa, Speaker of the State’s House of Assembly, to football.
Likewise some people in Osun State who accused the State government of distributing poisonous rice as palliative. The same story is told by Idowu Adekoya, a lady in Ogun State who publicly caused the Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun and his family for distributing beans full of stone as a palliative in a Twitter video that went viral before she later recanted her words in another video after alot of pressure mounted on her covertly.
This revelation seems to reviewed the nature and character of Nigerian government at all levels regarding her citizens and how good intentions can be politicized by the politicans in order to score political goal even at the detriment of the health and welfare of the people that elected them.
And how good products can turn to bad products at the mercy of corruption which actually is one of the reasons institutions like anti-corruption agencies exist.
So, now that it is obvious that there is a foul play somewhere, the ICPC, EFCC and sister agencies should swing into action in order to unravel the mystery behind the poisonous rice that has become a chess game between the NCS and Oyo State government so that the culprits can be sent to the quarantine center built for corrupt and wicked individuals that have turned COVID-19 to “COVID-419” in Nigeria.
Femi Oluwasanmi, a Public Affairs Analyst, writes from Ibafo, Ogun State.