5 Years After Completion, This Multimillion-Naira Milk Factory Is Now A Poultry Farm.

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Excitement swept through Omu-Aran upon the establishment of a milk-processing factory in what is the third-largest town in Kwara State. In a town filled with low-paying teaching jobs, the factory raises hopes of diverse employment opportunities and development.

But the optimism was only short-lived. After years of neglect, the milk factory, situated along a row of administrative offices, has become a derelict chicken shop, weather-beaten and overgrown with weeds.

Bade Segun, a car wash attendant who has lived in the town for a decade, remembers how the project held so much promise in the beginning, pointing at the construction signpost of the building.

“People were very happy, and a relative of mine even wanted to apply for a job. After completion, we learned that the community would need to take over the purchase of equipment for the process, but nothing has happened for the past 5 years,” Segun recalled.

Oyekanmi Grace, who works at the Ministry of  Work, a few metres away from the abandoned milk factory, recalled that “the project started in 2019 when the king came here to look for land for the facility. After obtaining the land, people from Abuja arrived and rushed the project. Within a month, the building was ready. However, since then, the project hasn’t been commissioned.”

During the construction, Grace’s office served as a room for many of the site’s engineers and workers. “I was, like many residents of the town, thrilled when the project commenced. Of course, it implied the availability of more milk-related products.”

Findings on Govspend. NG, an analytical website tracking the Nigerian government’s daily spending, confirmed that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development first initiated the project in 2018.

After the contract for establishing the milk-processing plant was awarded to Degan Construction, a construction company based in Abuja, Nigeria, a sum of twenty-seven million, one hundred thirteen thousand, and four hundred ninety-seven naira (₦27,113,497) was disbursed to the contractors. The project began in 2019 and was soon completed within a month, residents say.

However, when this reporter visited the location of the milk processing factory in January 2024, she found abandoned poultry in its stead. The once-promising infrastructure intended for dairy production now lay idle, its machinery left to neglect and rot.

Dare Sunday, a worker at the Nigeria Fire Service, made more shocking revelations about the facility. The Federal Ministry in charge did not commission or hand over the project to the Omu-Aran community, according to him, like many government projects initiated during the same season in the state. “However, the milk processing factory is one of the few that have not been vandalized by hoodlums,” Segun remarked.

A year after the building was completed and equipped with a Mikano generator, officials from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Ilorin visited the site, calling on individuals interested in leasing the project.

“Before it was rented out, through the neighbourhood’s bush burning, the coconut tree within the compound caught the fire that spread to the facility, causing a part of the building to burn. The intervention of the fire service served the whole building that particular day,” Sunday said.

The reported fire incident prompted the intervention of the ministry’s officials in the state capital to get the factory working, three years after completion.

In a telephone conversation, Oye Olaide, the manager of the poultry processing company, corroborated Sunday’s claims about the fire incident. Because of concerns about the factory’s neglect, the federal ministry called on people interested in the property.

Following the announcement to lease the facility to agro-businesses, Olaide applied, “since poultry is related to milk,” which aligned with the government’s agricultural plans for the structure, he said.

“In 2022 when we arrived, there was no equipment inside. We deal with poultry processing and have built our cold room outside the space. We bring live birds, blast them, and sell the processed products for more than a year.

“However, high inflation forced us to shut down the business towards the end of 2023,” Olaide added.

Owing to rampant inflation, more than 50 per cent of poultry farms across Nigeria shut down in 2023, causing the sector to lose over N3 trillion, according to the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN).

This reporter visited the Olomu of Omu-Aran, Oba Abdulraheem Oladele Adeoti, to inquire about actions being taken to revive the factory.

“I was in my palace when the staff from the federal ministry involved came to meet me, and with delight, the town provided a location for the project to be erected on,” he said, waving his hand with an air of finality.

He, however, declined to comment on the matter of the abandoned facility, repeatedly saying, “A kìí gbó búburú lénu aborè,” a Yoruba phrase that roughly translates as “no one hears bad/evil from the chief priest of a grove.” This remark means that the head priest of a sacred place should not be questioned or accused of wrongdoing, as they are held in high regard.

A review on Manpower Nigeria, and NG Check, two platforms for probing businesses, revealed no contact information.  Similar searches on the Corporate Affairs Commission portal indicated that the company is currently inactive and hasn’t submitted updated annual returns as required by law.

Upon visiting the displayed address of the company online, No. 42, Durban Street, Off Ademola Adetokunbo, Wuse II, Abuja, on March 12, 2024, the officials refused to confirm the existence of the company in the building. The official, who declined to divulge his name and number, reiterated, “So many people usually ask for the company here, but it is here and not here too.” He insisted on not releasing any information about the company. An email with a request for information about the project was sent to the official email address. The mail was left unanswered despite being read minutes after it was sent.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was sent to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on March 5, 2024, seeking details about the project, including the money spent, the level of the project completion, and reasons for its conversion into a poultry shop.

At the time of filing this report, the ministry had yet to respond to the request, weeks after its submission. This contravenes the FOI Act 2011, which mandates a seven-day response period for FOI requests. Repeated calls to an official at the ministry in Ilorin, the capital city of Kwara, weren’t answered.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, the national president of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, (MACBAN) Baba Ngelzarma, maintained that the country spends around $1.7 billion yearly on importing milk into the country.

These indices suggest a significant demand for dairy products that the factory could manufacture, highlighting the existing gap in food processing in Nigeria, which contributes to food inflation and poverty.

“Agriculture needs to be driven through industrialization,” Aduragbemi Fasakin, the founder of Advice Farms, opined. “That dairy factory can help produce locally made milk and even end up exporting some. The abandonment has a significant effect on the economy of the community and even the nation at large.”

Speaking further about the country’s manufacturing and processing, he added, “How unfortunate we are in a country where we produce what we don’t consume and we consume what we don’t produce.”

He charged the government to establish factories and implement machinery to process food, thereby encouraging the exportation of finished products.

Nigerians, according to him, have developed a preference for purchasing foreign foods and goods, perpetuating the cycle of dependence on imported products and hindering the growth of domestic industries. He compared the abandoned dairy factory to Nigeria’s cocoa export and chocolate importation, stating, “The dairy factory could be an extension of agricultural industrialization that will birth local industries and employment opportunities.”

This report is produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), under the CMEDIA Project

 

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