Saturday

LAKE Rice: Lagosians Decry Frustration at Purchase Centres

 
It was almost a war scenario in many parts of Lagos earlier in the week when the much-awaited sale of LAKE Rice took off. 

The rice, a collaborative agriculture venture between Lagos and Kebbi states, was rolled out to ease the sufferings of many residents of both states especially Lagos, who have had to pay more to purchase the staple in recent times. 

A 50kg bag of imported rice currently sells for between N18, 000 and N25, 000 in the market depending on the brand and quality.

The LAKE Rice – produced locally, was initially billed to sell for N13, 000 but subsequently dragged down to N12, 000 for 50kg and N6, 000 for 25kg by the Lagos State Government to allow more residents to afford and enjoy it with their families this festive season. The rice is sold at about 15 strategic points in some local government areas of the state.

However, on Thursday, when the gates to the store houses were finally opened for Lagos residents to make their purchases after the product was launched a day earlier by the governors of Lagos and Kebbi – Akinwunmi Ambode and Atiku Bagudu, it became a different story entirely. Instead of finding relief in the scheme like they had expected, many people in fact had their problems compounded while trying to access the product. The frustration is mounting.

“In my life, I have never suffered the way I did on Thursday,” Kelechi Ukatu, a resident of Ori-Okuta, Ikorodu, told Saturday PUNCH as she poured out her anger. “I left my house very early that morning to go to Farm Service Centre in Odogunyan where the LAKE Rice was to be sold for interested buyers living around Ikorodu. Of course by the time I got there around 10:00am, I met more than 200 people who had already registered and gone to pay in the bank. By the time it was my turn to register my name; I was the 700th person for that day alone.

“While I was still there, waiting to get a teller to go and pay in the bank, the 200 people who had already paid were asked to wait for their payments to be confirmed at the state secretariat at Alausa before they would be given their rice. Many of them waited for hours and later left the place angrily after some of the officials asked them to check back the next day.

“A lot of people also left in frustration after waiting several hours just to get a teller to go and pay in the bank. I left the place by 1:00pm without recording any success. On Friday morning, I went back to check, the situation was worse, I had to give up. I am just pained that I wasted that much time waiting in a queue for something that won’t even get to me. If not for God, I could have fainted in the midst of that suffering,” 
she said, fuming with rage.

Mr. Ayodele Bamgbose, another resident of Ikorodu, who visited the same centre in the Odogunyan area of the town to purchase a 50kg bag of the highly-sought-after rice for the festive season, told Saturday PUNCH that he had to take pain relieving medicine to recover from the ‘torture’ he went through in the process.

According to him, the ‘cumbersome’ nature of the process put in place by the Lagos State Government for prospective buyers to access the food item has dashed the hopes of many low-income earners like him, who had looked forward to benefitting from the initiative.

“It is a good thing that the Lagos State Government came up with this idea of selling bags of rice for N12, 000 each but their good intention has turned to a huge disappointment for many of us who cannot even get to buy the product even after visiting the Odogunyan centre for two days.

“Apart from the large number of people at the place, the process one is subjected to before he or she can purchase just one bag is not fair. In fact, if you are not healthy, you could faint in the process.

“How can people wait in the queue for more than two hours just to register and be given tellers to go and pay in the bank? Even by the time you pay and come back, they tell you they have to confirm if your payment has reflected in the server in Alausa. This is madness to me; it does not make sense in any way,
” he said.

Kunle Adesina, an employee with a plastic manufacturing company along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, is also frustrated following his experience on Thursday trying to purchase a 50kg bag of LAKE Rice at the Farm Service Centre, Agege, Lagos – another of the 15 locations where the product is being sold. His initial excitement of enjoying the staple with two of his siblings, who live with him, fizzled into thin air by the time he got to the place. The reality on ground was different from what he had expected to meet.

“I was crestfallen when I saw the crowd there,” he said during a chat with our correspondent.“Besides the large crowd, I was shocked at the lack of a concrete arrangement in place.

“When I was told I needed to have one certain card and even had to pay the money at the bank and come back with the teller, I knew that would not work for me,” he added.

Findings by Saturday PUNCH revealed that there were also tales of frustration and disappointment in many of the sales points across most local government areas of Lagos between Thursday and Friday when a lot of people had expected to benefit from the initiative. For many, the exercise had not lived up to their expectations especially with the criteria adopted to select beneficiaries.

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