Twenty-four hours after the governments of Lagos and Kebbi States officially unveiled Lake Rice at the State House, Alausa, Lagos residents yesterday trooped to different sale centers to purchase the rice.
The state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, rolled out Lake Rice nine months after his administration signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Kebbi State aimed at producing 70 per cent of Nigeria’s rice requirement.
Contrary to the current market value for a 50-kg bag of rice ranging from N20,000 to N25,000, Ambode directed that a 50-kg bag of Lake Rice “should sell for N12, 000; 25-kg bag for N6,000 and 10-kg for N2,500 and no individual should purchase more than one bag for now.”
But across most sale centers in the metropolis, it was observed that there was huge crowd due to what some residents ascribed to late arrival of the product and what they attributed to the first-day fever.
At Mobolaji Johnson Sports Centre in Yaba, for instance, a huge number of residents converged very early, even before the government officials arrived and queued without any rancor.
Mr. Kehinde Ibirola, a resident in the area, acknowledged that he purchased a 50-kg bag of Lake Rice at N12,000, the same price the state government directed that it should be sold.
He said: “I bought a bag of rice. The initiative is indeed good. However, the crowd is huge. Controlling the crowd is equally tasking. This is not really ideal. I think the state government should work out practical approach to distribute the rice.”
He, therefore, suggested that the best approach “is to create a particular account into which payment will be made. The authorities will thereafter send SMS to those who have paid to pick their bags rice at specific sale centers close to them with evidence of payment.
He urged the state government to put in place feedback mechanism, explaining that he heard people say the rice “is delicious and of high quality. But I believe the state government should get feedback from the people, who have bought the rice and eaten it to confirm the veracity of that claim.”
At the Oshodi center, residents flooded the sale point located the Ikeja Grammar School, Bolade as early as 7 a.m. to purchase Lake Rice, though the selling did not start as early as expected.
Even though the crowd was huge at the Ikeja Grammar School, Oshodi, Mr. Kehinde Alanran said he was able to purchase a 50-kg bag of rice, which he said, had saved him about N8,000.
Alaran, therefore, urged Lagos residents to purchase Lake Rice in order “to save cost and avoid buying adulterated rice, which has dominated our market’s astronomic rise in the price of rice.”
“We hope more will be made available and the process of purchasing easier. With the issue of plastic rice flooding the market, this is a safer option because we can trust the source,” Alaran said.
Also at Agege centre, Mrs. Funmi Alebiousu, said the cost of the Lake Rice was pocket-friendly, noting that it helped the masses “to save about N10,000 at this time of national crisis.
“I will like to tell Lagos residents. I did not believe when I heard about this initiative. After I made payment, I came here and pick a bag of rice I paid for. The crowd is much, but the initiative is real.
“Really, the queue is long, not only in Agege, but in other centers across the state. But within days, it will reduce drastically. People should queue orderly and they will get their rice,” she said.
At the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Mrs. Mrs. Aminatu Alabi acknowledged that people complained the state officials brought in the rice a little late and that they did not start selling until midday.
Alabi, however, described the development as a source of solace for the masses, noting that the product was sold “to every customer without discrimination on any ground or any condition.
“I got here this morning. I was told I could pay through the POS. I did immediately. The process was free and fair. And the state officials are not particular about whether you work with Lagos State Government or you belong to any tribe. As long as you live, you are entitled to buy a bag.
“I was allowed to buy only one bag. I purchased a 50-kg bag of rice at the N12,000. And there is no additional charge. The government officials only told us to queue. When it is your turn, you will be asked to pay and take away your rice. It is a simple process,” Alabi said.
A government official, who spoke anonymously at Mobolaji Johnson Sports Centre, Yaba, assured the people that the state government “has enough rice to sell for the residents of the state.”
The official explained that the state government “is doing everything to make Lake Rice to go round. We will be here today, tomorrow and from next week to sell the rice to the public. But we will not be here only on Christmas Day. Those who cannot buy today should come tomorrow.
“I assure you that they will get. We will be here as early as 8 a.m. to commence sale. The rice will go round. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode really wants the rice to go round. Our objective is to get to every Lagos home to cushion the effects of economic recession.”
By Gboyega Akinsanmi I This Day