Ebonyi state has over the years, pride itself as a formidable state to be reckoned with in rice cultivation and production. The rice value chain has doubled as a major mechanism in its inventory of revenue-generating tools.
Contrary to the laudable achievement this sub-sector has brought to the agric sector of the state and the economy in generality, if nothing deliberate is done in the coming days, the state may suffer a major setback in revenue generation as rice farmers in the state threaten to down tools.
The recent threat is coming after these rice farmers took to the streets to express their grievances in a protest over the high tax rate and multiple taxations in the state’s mill market. These irregularities according to the group have been alleged to be empowered by extortion by the management of markets across the states.
“Management should not take rice mill as their father’s business”, “We are tired of the multiple and high taxes”, “We need an elected chairman and not Caretaker Committee to move development forward in the mill,” these are some of the pain points scribbled into the placards of these aggrieved protesters during the recent show of displeasure.
In addition to extortion by management of these rice mills, the tax hike is a major contributor to the protester’s grievances as a monthly payment for revenue that used to be ₦500,000 is now put at ₦3.5 million, which signifies an increase of over 500 percent.
Other exorbitant charges identified are the cost of an empty 25kg bag of rice formerly sold for the maximum of ₦200 now goes for ₦300 while its 500kg counterparts sell for ₦500.
Chukwuma Eniokoro, the chairman of millers in the market’s statement
“This is our first time of experiencing a lot of abnormalities in the area of taxes and revenues in this market. Our monthly payment for revenue was ₦500,000 before but had been increased to ₦3.5 million at the moment.
“The cost of an empty bag of rice has increased – a 25kg bag sold for between ₦150 and ₦200 before is now ₦300, while the 50kg bag that was selling for ₦300 before is now selling for ₦500.
“Other charges such as gate fees have also been increased and this is driving away from our customers.
“We cannot cope anymore. We had endured sufferings and smiling for so long and we want it to stop,” Mr. Eniokoro stated.
Obinna Irem, a mill owner’s statement
“Our stand now is, henceforth, to stop milling until our problems are solved. The market is already closed, with no rice milling. All our customers have diverted to other markets in the north,” Mr. Irem said.
Statement of Ikechukwu Eze, the special adviser to Governor David Umahi on Internal Security,
“We have heard all your demands and I am here to take your messages and submit them to the state government. “The governor asked me to tell you to embrace peace because it is under a peaceful atmosphere that we can achieve more progress