The much amplified rice seedling and multiplication factory initiated by Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State has reportedly been under lock and key for several months.
Reports say that local farmers, wholesale buyers and suppliers who patronise the facility no longer have access to it.
A recent visit by our correspondent to the factory indicated that there was little or no activity as the gate was blocked.
It was learnt that some security personnel stationed at the gate sometime harass anyone who wished to access the facility.
The factory is located at a placed called Ayade Industrial Estate, where other initiatives of the governor are situated.
It was one of the early projects initiated by the governor with fanfare during his first term, which attracted key federal government officials, rice stakeholders and independent big time farmers.
It is a sophisticated laboratory with modern machines and units to process seeds from nursery to finishing. It was established to churn out healthy rice seedlings in larger quantities, even during dry season farming.
Few state governments reportedly placed orders for the supply of the seedlings, which experts said had rich nutrients.
Thomas Akpan, who worked in the factory during its commissioning about two years ago said, “The governor really meant well by establishing this factory. That’s why he would put in much attention by always coming with his friends to assess it. But these days, it doesn’t appear that anything is happening there. However, when the governor wants to make some statements he will visit the factory and some forms of work will appear to happen for the cameras to capture.”
A rice farmer, Ogar Bissong from Ikom, in the central part of the state said, “One day, I needed to see samples of the seeds available so that I could purchase for my farms. At the gate, I was turned back. One of the boys said I should leave so that one Dr Frank who supervises it would not meet him there. I was shocked.”
Several text messages and telephone calls made to the commissioner for agriculture in the state, Okon Owuna, as well as to the state chairman of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Mr Oliver Ntui, for comments about the situation at the factory, were not answered.