• Mandates public office holders to own farms
IN pursuance of making his target real of making Ebonyi State topmost in rice production in the country, Governor David Umahi has directed the disbursement of N1billion to commercial rice farmers in the state and mandated all council chairmen, development centre coordinators, management committee members, alongside Liaison officers of the councils and DCs to acquire hectares of land for rice production in a stakeholders forum in Abakaliki recently.
Umahi further directed that the council chairmen are to acquire 20 hectares of land; coordinators, 10 hectares; and management committee as well as Liaison officers, five hectares each, as he also made it clear that political office holders survival on their jobs would be predicated on their performance in the task. He added that the sum, will not be given to them inform of cash but as seedlings, fertilizer, pesticides, etcetera.
The Governor who also mandated board members and heads of parastatals to own one farm for agricultural production, as the state Executive Council would manage the Ezillo Farm, stressed that his vision to make Ebonyi State the highest rice producing state in the country could only be achieved if the ruling class showed interest in Agriculture.
Umahi disclosed that a new office to be headed by a Senior Special Assistant on Rice Production had been created to oversee the disbursement of the N1bn rice loan to commercial farmers, emphasizing that the project is not a means to dash money out but it is going to be loan. He added that when the farmers had produced the government will take over the rice and pay the farmer the difference, stressing that it is a loan borrowed from the Federal Government, which will be deduct from the state allocation every month.
The Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Barrister Uchenna Orji, speaking during the forum said that the summit was convened to deliberate on how to revolutionize rice production in the state for greater yield and emphasized during a separate interview with Journalist that the Ebonyi State Government has mandated each public office holder in the State to cultivate at least five hectares of rice in the 2016 farming season.
The Commissioner who stated that the Governor wants its officials to lead by example in realising its objective on massive rice production to buttress the seriousness attached to it, stressed that officers must show manifest interest in rice cultivation as they were expected to own lands and possess certified proof of ownership from the state’s Ministry of Lands and Survey.
He also said that interested individuals must also show the extent they will go in the cultivation process, evidence of farm-management knowledge, among other requirements, adding that individuals need to support government in realising this objective, as it is battling to meet the requirements of other sectors in the face of harsh economic realities.
The commissioner added that interested farmers will sign necessary agreements with government and be ready to commence cultivation in the next one week, as he disclosed that the State Government also gave N200 million loan to Ebonyi Rice World Company to mop sufficient rice paddy for intended purpose.
Traditional Rulers, responding to the appeal by the governor for the provision of land for the rice production, at the summit, pledged their readiness to key into the agricultural programme and however requested that five per cent of the total proceeds from the lands should be given to the original land owners.
While the Local Government Chairmen assured the governor that they had already keyed into the programme, as each of them had met the governor’s directive to acquire at least 2,500 hectares of land in their councils.