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Man loses N40 million as fire outbreak sacks Abakaliki rice millers

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Ahead of the Christmas celebrations, fire outbreak yesterday sacked occupant of the Abakaliki rice mill located at Onuebonyi in the Ebonyi State capital, destroying valuable materials worth over N100 million.

The cause of the fire outbreak is yet to be ascertained as at press time, although residents of the area said the fire incident may have been caused by power surge and described the damage caused by the unfortunate incident as devastating.

The Chairman of Abakaliki Rice Mill Ltd, Hon. Joseph Nnunu told newsmen that the fire started at about 9pm on Thursday, and attracted the attention of the leadership of the mill who were still in the office when the inferno started.

He said they immediately contacted men of the Ebonyi State Fire Service, who rushed to the place, and were able to put off the fire, adding that some of the valuables that were salvaged was as a result of his quick intervention and prompt response of the fire fighters.

The Chairman described the fire incident as mysterious, stating that the fire started from the rear of the building and took over the whole structure before security men on duty noticed it and quickly alerted the authorities.

“When I visited the scene, I saw about five black stone Rice Milling machines… bags of par boiled rice and the whole roof and interior of the building completely razed,” he stated.

A victim, who owns the shop located at 13 A Line, Mr Moses Oboh lamented the ordeal and called on the government to come to his aid.

He said he may not stand the shock and the trauma of losing up to N40 million at a blow.

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Agriculture

Health, education get low allocations as Buhari presents 2020 budget before National Assembly

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President Muhammadu Buhari, Tuesday presented the year 2020 budget estimates to a joint session of the National Assembly.

Buhari, who arrived the National Assembly chambers at about 2 p.m., presented the budget to lawmakers under atmosphere free of rancour unlike last year.

Mr. President during the declaration said that N125 billion was allocated to the National Assembly while N110 billion was allocated to the Judiciary.

For allocations to ministries, the president affirmed the following allocations to respective ministries.

Works and Housing – N262 billion

Transportation – N123 billion

UBEC – N112 billion

Defence – N100 billion

Agriculture – N83 billion

Water Resources – N82 billion

Education – N48 billion

Health – N46 billion

North East Dec Commission – N38 billion

SIPs – N30 billion

FCT – N28 billion

Niger Delta – N24 billion

However, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan in his speech charged all government ministries, departments and agencies to defend their proposals before lawmakers before the end of October.

He also said the lawmakers should ensure the budget got passed before the end of the year.

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EFCC Arrests Nigerian Farmers For Stealing Fertilizers Worth N5.4 Million

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arrested leaders of Gummi Local Government chapter of Rice Farmers’ Association of Nigeria, in Zamfara State over alleged diversion N5.4 million worth of fertilizers.

The arrested suspects include Ibrahim Rijiya, the chairman of the association; Aminu Musa, the council storekeeper; and one Abdullahi Bashir.

Tony Orilade, the acting spokesman for the commission said this in a statement released on Wednesday.

The commission arrested the suspects following a petition by some rice farmers.

They were said to have criminally diverted three trailers of 1,800 bags of fertilizers, and a truck-load of herbicides meant for rice farmers in Gummi.

Rijiya, who is also the District Head of Rijiya Gummi, Gummi LGA, was said to have sold each bag for N3,000 including other farm materials, according to a Punch Newspaper report.

Representatives of seven different groups of rice farmers had alleged that sometimes in July 2018, the federal government approved and disbursed 12 trucks of fertilizers and herbicides on loan to 83 cooperative societies in Gummi, adding that no member of the association received the items as approved by the government.

Also, efforts by the Gummi chapter of RIFAN to get the items back reportedly proved abortive.

EFCC investigations, however, revealed that Rijiya conspired with Musa to divert and sell the fertilizers and herbicides to Bashir for N17.1million which they shared among themselves.

“The suspects confessed to their roles in the crime while the three trailers of the fertilizers have been recovered from them. Efforts are in top gear to recover the diverted herbicides. They will soon be arraigned in court,” the statement said.

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Insecurity: Yobe Fruit Sellers Lament Market Closure

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Fruit farmers and sellers in Mamudo town of Yobe say they are incurring heavy losses as a result of poor patronage caused by closure of some markets in the state and neighbouring Borno.

Mamudo town is known for its large scale production of fruits, particularly mangoes, cashew and guava, in addition to vegetables.

Some of them, who narrated their ordeal to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Mamudo, said the last time they experienced such misfortune in business, was over 10 years ago, caused by natural disaster.

They said the major markets for their fruits were in Babangida, Gaidam, Gashua and Mainok towns, all of which no longer observe the weekly market days, for security reasons.

Babangida Alagos, who sells mangoes, said the situation was so bad that from last month to date, there were times they had to drop baskets of mangoes by the highway, almost begging motorists to stop and fetch whatever quantity they needed, free.

“This was particularly during the period of Ramadan fast; we were battling with baskets of mangoes and there were no buyers; after two to three days, the fruits get rotten and are thrown away.

“The losses were so painful that we felt giving the fruits to people for free will at least earn us some reward from God; at least we had the contentment that somebody consumed them, and they did not get wasted.

“That was how the idea of keeping the fruits on the major highways came up and the beneficiaries reciprocated with prayers for us to overcome the situation,” he narrated.

Alagos estimated that for the past two months, fruit farmers and sellers in the town lost no fewer than 2,000 baskets of fruits, particularly mangoes, each basket costing N2,500.

Another seller, Habu Maikano, narrated that at a particular point in time, supply had overwhelmed demand to the extent that they never had to climb trees in search of ripe mangoes to sell.

“Substantial quantity of the fruits got ripe while the previous ones had not been sold, such that all we did was just picking basket-full of mangoes that had fallen under the trees.

“Unlike previous years when youth that went to our orchards to pick mangoes were seen as ‘thieves’, there was no such ‘thief’ this year as we were begging people to pick and eat, so as to avoid waste,” he stated.

Also recounting his ordeal, Mohammed Sanusi said the frustration was such that he had decided to seek for an alternative means of livelihood, even if the situation improves.

“I know that marketing perishable food items can be risky, but with what happened this year, it is like I had under-estimated the magnitude of the risk.

“I have now resolved to change trade; I may deal in the new trade side-by- side with selling of fruits, or abandon the latter for good,” he remarked.

Other farmers and traders, namely Adamu Usman, Halliru Mohammed and Bello Mallum, narrated similar experiences, adding that one of the many solutions to their ordeal was to devise a reliable preservation technique.

They said the other solution was for the government or wealthy individuals and organizations, to establish fruit processing industries that would create market for their produce.

“When there is glut, we can have the fruits processed, preserved and sold out to people in times of scarcity; by doing so, employment opportunities are created, wastages averted, and fruit juices are made available and affordable,“ said Usman.

They therefore appealed to Yobe government and the business community, to invest in processing the abundant fruits wasting in the town almost every season.

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