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A’Ibom rice farmers lament FG refusal to release funds

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By Chioma Onuegbu

UYO- OVER 3,000 rice farmers in Akwa Ibom State under the Federal Government Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, RIFAN, scheme, are enraged that government had not provided funds to enable them clear their rice fields and transplant seeds from the nurseries.

•Ikot Esen Rice nursery in Akwa Ibom State

•Ikot Esen Rice nursery in Akwa Ibom State

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Some of the rice farmers, who spoke to NDV, last week, said they were elated when the federal government through RIFAN in Abuja brought the scheme, promising to assist them with inputs and empower them financially to transplant from nurseries to their rice fields according to clusters.

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NDV gathered that over 3000 farmers from across Akwa Ibom state collected fertilizer, chemicals, rice seeds and other inputs provided by RIFAN in Abuja, but were disappointed that federal government has not redeemed its pledge of giving them money for cultivation.

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At Ikot Esen cluster in Ibiono Ibom local government, a rice farmer and member, RIFAN project monitoring team in the state, Mr. Emmanuel Usua, bemoaned: “This nursery we have prepared since last month can cover up to 500 hectares when cultivated. But you can see that it is going to be wasted if we do not transplant them very soon.”

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“They have given us the inputs but refused to release the money they promised to help us plant. If we do not plant this rice seeds we would be wasting over 1.5million tons of rice. That will not be encouraging to our farmers in Akwa Ibom.

“They promised to give us money for clearing and planting because due to our terrain, ploughing and harrowing are done manually unlike in the North. Here you can see the heavy grass/weeds. That is why we were happy when we were told that we would be given the money for us to clear and till the soil, unfortunately we have not been given the money till now”, he added

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Another rice farmer, Mr. Ubong Ekanem of Heritage Builders, Itukho Multi Purpose Cooperative, told NDV: “We are worried because the inputs we were given are not free. We are expected to refund the federal government after harvesting. So if we do not plant, how are we going to pay back the loan?

“This is our main concern. We embraced the scheme but if we do not get the money to cultivate, then the scheme would not have been fair to us,” he explained.

A’Ibom RIFAN chair in dilemma

Contacted, state chairman of RIFAN, Prof Etim Ituen said, “We have severally written to the national president of RIFAN and during the flag off of the programme in the state, Unity Bank, the anchor was there and they said that they are going to open account for the farmers because they promised they are going to give the farmers money for cultivation and they were happy.”

“But when approached, the Unity Bank said it later got a letter from its headquarters that they should not release any money to the farmers. And when I called the national secretary, he said that they do not give money to farmers and that they should continue to plant. This money is included in the economy of production (EOP)

“We are saying since farmers here do not plough and harrow, the money should be given to them for transplanting”, he said.

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