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Scandal Rocks Udom Rice Mill,, *Farmers Call It A Scam, *Mill Owned By Local Farmer, *Say Rice Imported From Kogi, Adamawa States.

Udom Emmanuel.

A major scandal is rocking the rice mill project recently commissioned by Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State as part of his agricultural development programme.

Rice farmers in Ini Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State have refuted claims by the state government that rice is grown, processed and packaged at old local "rice mills" in Mbiabet Ikot Udo community, stating that the Akwa Ibom State government "imports grains from Adamawa and Kogi states, to be repackaged at the mills, in a deliberate plan to deceive the people."

The farmers also debunked state government's ownership claims on rice farms in the area. They raised alarm that bags of rice which the government of Udom Emmanuel claim to have produced still bear the stamp of rice from "Rijiya" from the modern market in Adamawa State.

"This is pure 419," the Youth President of Mbiabet Ikot Udo, Mr. Uwakima Effiong Okon stated. "How can a governor who claims to support farmers be doing 419 with us? It is very unfortunate."

Our correspondent, who went on a fact finding mission recently, also discovered that locally produced local rice is processed at a mill run independently by the farmers in the community.

Uwakima Effiong Okon said that rice farmers in the locality are not under the employ of the state government, and emphasized that the state government has no rice farm in Ini Local Government Area of the state.

He stated: "We are not employed by the state government; we cultivate and process our rice here and sell it in the local markets. Akwa Ibom state government has no rice farm in the whole of Ini local government area. 

"The rice mill recently commissioned by the governor is owned by one Mr. Utuk. We've never been contacted to take our rice there for processing and we won't go there because we have our local mills here. Besides, rice processed at the mill are imported from Kogi and Adamawa state. Government does not own any rice farm here," he said.

Okon noted that the mill and abandoned silos were established in 1975 by the Federal Government, and divulged that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) renovated the mill in 2006, that it has since been put to use by the locals.
He called on the State Government to come to their aid by providing grants, loans and other incentives to boost their output.

Also, a rice farmer, Mrs. Glory Effiong Umoh, frowned at claims that the state government owns rice farms in the area.

"My grandfather introduced rice farming in this community. They (state government) should stop deceiving the people. We independently grow and process our rice without any support from the state government", she stated.
Another rice farmer, Mr. Nsikak Sunday, described government claims as lie.

"It's a lie, they have not done anything for us. We heard that they bring rice from Kogi State to their mill; they don't make use of our rice. This farm you see us owned by the community. They (state government) have been coming here severally with fake promises."

A couple of other rice farmers, Abraham Umoh and Nathaniel Okon also described state government's claims as fallacious.

Our correspondent was shown a large expanse of abandoned land hitherto donated by the Mbiabet group of villages to the state government for the cultivation of rice. Our source say, Mbiabet people have not been given any reason for the abandonment.

The land is few metres from the palatial mansion of the Akwa Ibom State Women Affairs Commissioner, Mrs. Gloria Edet, 
at Ikpe Ikot Nkon.

The area is bereft of tarred roads, electricity, and health centres.
Earlier in the day, newsmen were denied access to the state government owned "mill."

By Ephraim Etim.

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