Subscribe Now

Trending News

By using this website, you agree to the use of our cookies.
Editor's Choice

How A Multimillion-Naira Cassava Processing Plant Project Failed In Plateau

As the sun scorched on a Friday afternoon, the Jos Terminus market in Plateau state, Northcentral Nigeria, was bubbling with activities — traders with their wares and customers like Comfort Bulus who looked to satisfy their needs. For Mrs Bulus, it was, amongst other things, garri, a staple food widely consumed in Nigeria and other sub-Saharan countries.

Not only did she seek to replenish the garri supply at home, but the commodity was also part of a back-to-school package for her two children, who were returning to the university following the end of the long-drawn university teachers’ strike. But today, the price of the item seemed to scuttle her plans.

“The price has gone up from the last time I bought it. Now they will make me reduce the number of mudu I came to buy,” she said.

A mudu is a container used as a common unit of measurement for rice and other grain foods in markets, especially across Northern Nigeria.

At the Terminus market, a mudu of garri is sold at N320, an 14% increase from the N280 it cost Mrs Bulus barely two months ago.

“I don’t know where we are going in this country if the price of ordinary garri keeps going up (rising),” she said.

Money exchanged for garri at the Terminus Market

The increase in the price of garri, traders say, is due to the hike in the cost of diesel and petrol, which affected the cost of production and transportation of the commodity from neighbouring Benue state, where it is processed.

“The garri we sell here in Plateau is processed in Benue, and we travel all the way there to buy it,” Samuel Chukwu, one of the traders, told PREMIUM TIMES. Mr Chukwu revealed that they are charged N2000 to transport each bag of garri purchased.

“If I buy 20 bags, it means that I will pay N2000 for each of the 20 bags to bring them to Jos. When the price of fuel and diesel increases, the people at the factory also increase the price of garri because, you know, that is what most of the machines at the cassava factories use,” he said.

Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava, accounting for 21% of total global production. Based on an overall cassava output of 59.5 metric tonnes (MMT) in 2018, Nigeria has the economic potential to generate $2.98 billion in revenue from cassava exports, according to a report by PwC.

The demand for garri and other cassava products is high in the domestic economy. However, Nigeria has failed to satisfy local demand and boost production for the export markets. Part of this is linked to the traditional method of cassava farming and processing.

Bags of garri on display

The cassava processing plant project

The urge to ensure food sufficiency may have informed the decision of the Plateau state government to initiate the construction of a cassava processing factory in Jos, with support from Brazilian firm EBS Fedeta de Fedetes, in 2012.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the then governor, Jonah Jang and Waldfried Schurt, president of the Brazilian firm, for the development of a world-class cassava factory with a production capacity of 50 tonnes daily.

An elated Mr Jang said the facility would boost garri production, provide employment opportunities for citizens and improve the state’s internal revenue fortunes.

However, findings show that no work was undertaken until about two years later.

In March 2015, Mr Jang visited the project site in Kuru Jantar village in the company of government functionaries, including the commissioner for commerce and industry, Helen Maina and her colleague at the ministry of agriculture, Nanven Steve Bako.

At the site, only steel portal frames for the factory building and an overhead water storage tank had been erected.

Only structure at the project site

Ms Maina revealed that the project would be completed before the end of Mr Jang’s tenure in May 2015.

“In terms of the structure going on, I think it will remain to be a fairly simple structure in terms of the construction because of its use, being that it’s a factory. So, I think the important part of it, which is the steelwork, is done,” she said.

However, seven years later, PREMIUM TIMES found that no new progress had been made on the project site, despite the release of funds for the implementation of the project. Only the steel portal frames found at the site during Mr Jang’s visit remained, with the overhead water tank rusting away.

Project funded, contactors unregistered, findings show

Findings by PREMIUM TIMES showed that the project was awarded to four contractors with various budgetary releases for the execution of different tasks.

Davelt Nigeria Limited was awarded the construction of the cassava processing plant, while Nerad Ventures Consulting Nigeria Limited was tasked with the construction of the cassava blending plant.

Weng Engineering and Constructions Limited were contracted for the electrification of the project, and another firm, Kunchung Drilling Services, was to construct two motorized boreholes and one overhead tank water reservoir at the cassava processing plant.

The 2018 Auditor-General report revealed that all contractors had received funds to execute the contracts awarded. For instance, it said Davelt Ltd received 90% of the contract sum of N512,758,315, while Nerad Ventures got 30% of the N258,591,691 approved. 60% of the contract sum of N19,159,867 had been paid to Kunchung Drilling Nigeria Ltd for the water project, just as Weng Engineering received mobilization to provide electricity at the plant.

Premium Times reached out to the companies for updates on the project via their numbers listed on the internet. Phone calls and text messages to a number listed by Davelt Ltd – linked by mobile repository Trucaller to Clement Uganden – were not responded to. It was the same with Kunchung Drilling Ltd, whose number was linked with a certain “Alhaji Kabiru Rifan”. However, no contact information was found for Weng Engineering and Construction, just as Nerad Ventures, whose managing director was listed as Arc. Dachollom Dahoro Choji, had none.

Complete the project, communities urge the government

Meanwhile, the communities have called on the government to complete the project to improve food production and the livelihood of citizens. 

Paramount ruler of Kuru, Patrick Mandung, the Gwom Rwey Kuru, lamented the impact of the non-execution of the project on the people, especially smallholder farmers.

“Crops like yam and cassava are cultivated very well here, and the people are ready to farm. If that place (cassava factory) was functional, a lot of our people would have benefited, not just the cassava farmers. Think about the number of jobs it will create for people to work there,” he said.

He revealed that the equipment for the processing factory was received by the government but never put to use as the factory was not completed.

“If that factory was working, people will not need to travel to Benue to buy garri. A lot of us plant cassava here on our farms. If it was processed in large quantities in that factory, it would have made garri even cheaper,” Bulus Pamvwos, a farmer, told PREMIUM TIMES.

Government fails to react

Upon assumption of office, the Plateau state governor, Simon Lalong, had assured that he would complete all critical projects initiated by his predecessor. However, barely months to the end of his eight-year administration, the cassava processing factory project initiated by his predecessor has been left untouched.

PREMIUM TIMES reached out to the state government via its ministry of commerce and industry for updates on the project.

Idris Gambo, the Commissioner for Urban Development and supervising commissioner for Commerce and Industry, promised to get back to PREMIUM TIMES with details.

“Let me get full updates from the technocrats before comments,” Mr Gambo said in a text message. A reminder was also sent to him, but there was no response.

While this investment remains stalled with millions of naira down the drain, the Plateau state government has embarked on another cassava-based project. In 2020, the state government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with CONTEC Global Limited, an agro-based research technology firm, to establish a cassava biofuel plant in the state.

It remains to see if the biofuel plant will not go the same path as the processing plant.

Despite over ₦800 million spent, only steel frames were constructed

Related posts

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *

Copyright © 2022. All Rights Reserved.