Despite the claim by the Bayelsa State Government that the 60-metric tonnes cassava starch processing factory in Ebedebiri, Sagbama Local Government Area is due for commissioning soon, the factory does not seem to be ready.
According to the people of the communities, the multi-billion naira factory has become a safe haven for reptiles.
It was learnt that much has not been done in the factory since the present government came on board, as the immediate past government built the factory to its present state.
Governor Douye Diri, who was on a tour of the factory recently, urged the people of the state to plant cassava to meet up with the raw materials the factory needs when it starts production as the government is ready to commission the project soon.
But when Daily Trust Saturday visited the factory yesterday, the whole place was desolate with only the security man on duty. Inside the factory, weeds and reptiles covered the arena.
Also, tractors, buildings and some containers believed to house machines were seen submerged by the fast-growing weeds.
The factory hall was locked and some machines seen outside the hall look rusted.
Immediate past governor of the state, now a serving Senator, started the project during his first tenure in office to create employment and increase internally generated revenue of the state.
According to Dickson’s administration, the state government then partnered with Ostertrade Engineering and Manufacturing KFT/DPP International APS, a Hungarian/Danish consortium, to establish the cassava starch processing plant with a capacity to produce 600 tons of industrial starch per annum and an out-growers scheme of 600 hectares cassava farm.
In one of the interviews with newsmen during Governor Dickson’s second term in office, then Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Daniel Iworiso-Macson, had said: “In readiness for the massive agricultural activities expected from this multi-billion Naira investment, the state has concluded a seed multiplication farm on a 40 hectares land at Ebedebiri for the cassava farm.”
Then commissioner said the Ebedebiri Cassava farm was another big project that would deliver 30 million tonnes of starch annually. He described the cassava project as the biggest in the country, adding that Bayelsa contributed to saving hundreds of millions of dollars expended annually to import starch for industrial purposes.
But Dickson’s administration could not commission the factory and put it to use as at February 2020 when he left office.
On assumption of office, Governor Douye Diri who obtained a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) loan of N3.5bn to boost agriculture in the state promised to finish all ongoing projects in the state.
Recently, the governor who was said to be on a facility tour of the factory said it will be ready for inauguration soon.
According to his spokesman, Mr Daniel Alabrah, the governor, who toured the factory located at Ebedebiri in Sagbama Local Government Area of the state, expressed satisfaction with the level of work done, noted that due to its production capacity, the quantity of cassava produced in the state would not be enough for it to produce at full capacity.
He called on the people to go into cassava farming as it would be a source of revenue generation not only to the state but also to the people.
He said: “This is an indication that our people have to go back to the farms as what we are producing now would not be enough for the factory. So, I call on Bayelsans to be very serious with cassava farming and production.
“All the necessary tools and machines are here. We are talking about commercial farming so you can make money.”
He also commended his predecessor, Senator Seriake Dickson, for embarking on the project aimed at producing starch for industrial purposes.
But when Daily Trust Saturday visited the factory, the environment looked deserted, while weeds have overgrown most of the buildings in the premises.
Some tractors were also seen inside the bush and there was no staff or state government official working there, except the security guard who said the officials are working in the cassava farm to plant seedlings that will be used as raw materials for the factory when it commences operation.
Bayelsa State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr David Alagoa, said why the factory environment looked deserted is that it was locked up pending its commissioning.
He said: “We have test run it, it’s working. The governor has been there with us; we test run the machines, and we are now preparing for the commissioning. We will still test run it before commissioning.
“The planting of cassava will be done by the community around the factory, the factory also has a cassava farm and it will create employment for the people of Bayelsa State,” he said.
‘Bayelsa govt should be sincere’
A member of Civil Liberty Organization, Bayelsa State chapter and rights activist, Comrade Bekinwariye David-West, has advised the Bayelsa state government to be sincere in its claim to put the Cassava starch processing factory at Ebedebiri, Sagbama Local Government Area of the state to use.
David-West, who recalled that in 2018, then Governor Seriake Dickson’s government commission a 500 fish pond at Igbogene community without any fish inside, said the starch factory should not suffer the same feat.
He urged Governor Douye Diri to show sincerity and truthfulness about the condition of the factory instead of playing politics with the state’s investment where billions of taxpayers’ money has been sunk into.
He said: “I remember vividly that the state government through Commissioner For Information had last month said that date will be set aside for the commissioning of the Cassava starch processing factory at Ebedebiri, which he said is one of the biggest in West Africa, after that statement, the governor also visited the place to see the level of work, what I don’t understand is that, if they just want to perform commissioning ceremony and the place still return to the way it is.
“Personally, I don’t believe in commissioning ceremony, I believe in action, that is to put the place to use in order to serve the purpose the taxpayers’ money was invested there.”
“My memory will not be too short to remember the 500 fish pond that is supposed to serve the whole Africa and generate so much revenue to Bayelsa state, we are all aware that former President Olusegun Obasanjo commissioned the fish pond and he was given 5 pieces of fish bought from Swali Market and claimed to have been harvested from the pond.”
“After the commissioning, the place remains moribund,”
“If the government is sincere in commissioning that factory and harnessing the economic potentials, I think the environment should show that this is beyond playing politics with such investment, the government should show the seriousness that they want to put the factory to use,” he said.