The government of Oyo State on Sunday declared that the COVID-19 palliatives of 1800 bags supplied to it by the Nigerian Customs Service were truly bad and unfit for human consumption.
The State Government said it had no option than to reject the bags of rice in the overall interest of the people of the State.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, who equally serves as a member of the Covid-19 Task Force, stressed that any claims to the contrary is a disservice to humanity and attempt at endangering the lives of the people in the state.
He said; “No government that is worth its name would agree to serve its people with food items that are infested with weevils that are clearly visible to the eyes”.
The statement read in full: “On Friday, April 24, members of the Food Security sub-committee of the Oyo State Covid-19 Task Force embarked on an early morning meeting that lasted close to three hours.
“The meeting was to review the report of the technical team that had been conducting tests on the 1,800 bags of 50kg rice presented to the state government by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) in respect of Federal Government’s Covid-19 palliatives.
“The Committee eventually invited the Media, after coming to a conclusion that more than a majority of the 1,800 bags were not fit for human consumption as they had been infested with weevils that freely move about on every of the bags kept at the storehouse in the Secretariat, Ibadan.
“The weevils were clearly noticeable as each or the warehouses was opened. Television cameras were allowed to film the bags of rice just to show the clear reason why the bags were being returned.
“A letter that was co-signed by the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Commissioner for Special Duties and the Executive Adviser on Agribusiness, was also prepared for onward delivery to the Oyo/Osun Command of the Customs which supplied the rice in the first instance.
“The state government neither intended to dramatize nor politicise the development. It was just out to state the facts as they are: we cannot serve our people expired rice and replace hunger with another disease.
“The Executive Adviser to the governor on Agribusiness, Dr. Debo Akande, who addressed the media clearly stated that if the Customs could muster other bags of rice in good condition, the state would readily receive such.
“But the immediate reaction from Customs, Oyo/Osun Command was a bit comforting as it passed a message to the state government that the bad bags of rice must have been picked from the wrong store. We also got confirmation that Customs was ready to immediately send in 600 bags to replace the bad ones and that representatives of the state were free to immediately come for inspection.
“The state’s team that went for the inspection, however, returned another sad verdict: at least 30 percent of the 600 bags promised as replacement were also infested with weevils.
“To our surprise, statements started flying to town, detailing confusing messages.
“We wish to place on record that the statements credited to the Customs Service were at best a poor colouration of the truth.
“Besides, the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, which commented on the matter, was merely dabbling in what it knows nothing about. This is not about politics and political grandstanding.
“The Customs claimed that the Special Adviser on Security, Commissioner of Police Fatai Owoseni (rtd) was part of the team that inspected the rice. That’s a white lie.
“The team that inspected the rice while at the Customs warehouses came from the State Operations Coordinating Unit (SOCU) domiciled in the Ministry of Budget and Planning, while the sub-committee on Food Security principally resides in the Ministry of Agriculture.
“The sub-committee took its time before it came to the unavoidable conclusion that the bags of rice be returned. It has nothing to do with political correctness that some could wrongly ascribe. A state that is trying all it could to secure palliatives for at least 120,000 residents would not readily reject 1,800 bags of rice if the reasons are not compelling.
“We wish to advise the Customs to desist from statements that do not edify the Service, because it would amount to clear betrayal of public trust for an elected government to sanction the release of expired and infested food items to residents of a state.”