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COVID-19: Why Kano Govt Shut Down Rice Mill Amidst Food Insecurity

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The Kano State Government has closed down Tiamin Rice Mill along Zaria Road due to complaints of air pollution.

In a circular issued by the state Ministry of Environment and addressed to the Managing Director of the rice mill, the pollution aggravates the condition of Coronavirus patients in the state.

POLITICS NIGERIA, however, reports that the circular did not state if the health facility where the Coronavirus patients were being isolated was close to the rice mill.

“You are requested to close your premises forthwith due to complaints of air pollution which aggravates the condition of coronavirus patients.”

It should be noted that the closure is coming at a time when there’s food insecurity in the country.

Before the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), Nigeria is considered food insecure due to the increasing population, low food production, farmers/ herders’ crisis, insecurity, and post-harvest losses.

With the growing cases of the virus in Nigeria, particularly in Lagos State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, citizens have been panic buying food and basic supplies as they go into isolation in their homes. This could break the supply chain and cause more localised price hikes.

POLITICS NIGERIA observed that the price of some basic food products had risen between 20 to 30 percent. The situation will only get worse if the virus situation persists.

Reacting to the development, the management of the Rice Mill said it received the directive to shut down the company over frivolous allegations bordering on alleged air pollution with shock.

In a statement issued on Sunday by Aliyu Ibrahim, the Deputy Managing Director of the company said Tiamin Rice factory was a leading rice mill in Kano, which produced 320 metric tonnes of rice daily, and had 223 workers on its payroll.

Ibrahim said that the decision of the state government to shut down the company was conveyed to them in a “Notice for Closing Order” dated April 18, 2020.

According to him, the allegation of air pollution that aggravates the condition of Coronavirus patients is unfounded.

“To set the records straight, there are nearly 30 rice mills operating in Kano State, but our company is the only one affected by the order

.“The fact of the matter is that neither the state nor federal health officials, nor Ministry of Environment inspectors came to our premises to take any samples of the said pollution.

“Although the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), which we are a member, has been exempted from the lockdown order by the state government, we nevertheless halted our production for one week to put in robust internal measures against the spread of Coronavirus.

“Since halting production on Wednesday, April 15, our workers have been on break and our engines and boilers were switched off.“When and how did the ministry arrive at the premise of “pollution that aggravates the condition of Coronavirus patients,” he said.

The deputy managing director said the move would undermine President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts at increasing the production of locally grown rice.

He said it was unfortunate this came after the president had assured  Nigerians that food processing, distribution and retail companies would be exempted from the lockdown.

“While following legal avenues to seek redress, we wish to assure our loyal customers and distributors not to panic over this temporary setback.

“It is also heartwarming to inform our customers that our 600-tonne capacity plant in Bauchi is at an advanced stage of completion,” he said.

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