17 October 2017

Nigeria: FG's Abandoned Milling Machines

Reports that the multi-million naira grain milling machines bought by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development between 2012 and 2014 have been left to rot away is only the latest example of the criminal waste of public resources in this country. The machines can be used to grind millet, sorghum, corn and wheat and blend cassava flours as well. According to a report, the machines which were meant to be distributed to small scale farmers and farmers' cooperatives across the six geopolitical zones are now kept under a makeshift shed at the premises of grain silos in Kwali in the Federal Capital Territory after years of exposure to rain and sun.

The machines were bought at about five million Euros [that is about two billion naira] from the European company Compact Milling System by former minister of agriculture and current African Development Bank (ADB) president Akinwunmi Adesina. It is also gathered that when the current Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development learnt about the abandoned machines, he instituted a panel of inquiry to investigate the matter.

We expect Minister of Agriculture Audu Ogbeh, who is famously passionate about agriculture, to do the needful and urgently distribute the grain milling machines to users. He should not to wait for the panel report which may not be submitted for many weeks while the machines rot away. With the zeal of the present admiration in agriculture, such things are not expected. Even if it happened during the previous administration, one would have expected the minister to take a tally of such equipment or projects as the case may be and quickly act on it, knowing very well the importance of his ministry to the administration where government officials make capital out their achievements in agriculture.

Apparently the provision of grain milling machines to farmers is not part of the government's achievements in spite of all the calls for adding value to their produce. It will also ease their problem of being at the mercy of big millers that exploit them, apart from creating jobs for many people. But as usual abandoning the machines is not a strange thing in this country even if people get angry whenever they learn of such negligence of government property or equipment.

Because of politics and corruption these things keep happening and nobody owns up to the fault, and even if a person is to be found responsible, he would not be punished, as the anomaly has become the norm. This is how public funds are wasted and good policies scuttled over politics and negligence.

It is time people own up to their responsibility and if found wanting they should bear the consequences. Government property and equipment are not to be neglected and abandoned just because they don't belong to any particular person. The citizens collectively own them, so the properties should be protected and accounted for. If it were a private company that bought the machines for instance it would never abandon them in this way. Some people that neglect government property run their private businesses diligently, without allowing wastage. But in government they look the other way.

Yes, it is the system but we have to start somewhere. We cannot be forever lamenting the so-called 'Nigerian factor' which is a shameful admission of the collective failure of everybody, not just the leadership. While the discovery of these abandoned milling machines has caused the latest outrage, we know that such criminal waste occurs in many other sectors and departments of the public service at all levels. Expensively imported medical, educational, technical, agricultural and other equipment are often left to lie due to poor planning and criminal neglect. Government's efforts at blocking wastage should include investigation of ministries and other agencies to find out about such abandoned equipment meant for the development of the country. These scandalously abandoned grains milling machines may be just the tip of the iceberg.

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