You could feel his pains in his face. He was all agony. As he spoke, tears dripped from his eyes. He had sold many of his property, postponed his wedding and now, he is swimming in debts. Debts that he is not sure he will come out from soonest.
That’s the story of Abdubakar Abdulsalam, a graduate of Agricultural Engineering from Bayero University Kano, who committed his wealth into rice milling business, which collapsed before taking-off.
Just like other agribusiness investors, whose dreams were shattered by the unfavourable business environment, the case of Abdulsalam, a rice processor, whose plant sited along Kaduna-Zaria Expressway, in Kaduna State, is no different. His plant is now overgrown with weeds, as rodents, lizards and other dangerous animals have turned the place to their abode.
“I weep uncontrollably anytime I visit the plant, just by watching helplessly as it rots away. This project was frustrated due to multiple challenges such as fraud and lack of fund. This is my life investment. I sold off my land, property and suspended my wedding to finance this in 2017, yet I couldn’t complete it as we speak.”
Abdulsalam said he started having problems with his project after he was defrauded to the tune of N2.9m by an artisan who was supposed to fabricate a Per Boiling and Drying Machines, to augment the machines he purchased from China for his plant in August 2017.
“My project hit the rock when I was introduced to a welder whom I contracted to handle the job. He was to fabricate rice-drying machine for me and I paid him in advance to make the work faster. I regretted my action, after discovering he squandered the money and failed to deliver my job. That was the beginning of the whole problem for me. I could remember I paid him in August 2017, towards the Eid-el Fitr celebration period.”
Had his efforts come to fruition, the plant would have commenced the production of about 10 tonnes of paddy rice daily, which would have assisted greatly to close the country’s rice demand gap.
Abdulsalam said: “By now, I would have become employer of labour who smiles to the bank at the end of every month. My sole ambition was to key into the Federal Government’s agenda of feeding the country through home grown produce and become an employer of labour, with nothing less than 150 workers directly and indirectly for a start, through the establishment of a state-of-the-art rice milling plant.
“I wanted to start supplying the market with quality and high nutritive food, add value to farmers’ output, by transforming raw materials into finish goods and contributing to the country’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
“I have spent about N9m on the project, including a cash grant I received from government; to acquire land and build a factory up to the lintel level. I purchased De-stoner and Rice Polishing Machines, Electric motors and some other heavy duty machines from China for the plant, not knowing that a bigger challenge awaits all my efforts,” he lamented.
Abdulsalam noted that if the project had reached 70 per cent stage, “I would have gotten a financial grant from government, but the two machines needed to reach that level were unavailable. So, I was disqualified.
“None of my attempts to ensure its completion before the deadline yielded positive result, despite selling my belongings to meet up. My colleagues whom we started the journey together, majority of whom got the grants approved are now millionaires in the agribusiness, employing farmers and youths, one of them is Onyeka Akumah of Farmcrowdy.”
He lamented that the rice milling plant building has continued to deteriorate ever since the sudden halt of the project, noting that all the roofing sheets and iron metals are beginning to rust away.
“I weep uncontrollably anytime I visit my rice processing plant-just by watching helplessly as it rots away. This is my life investment. Now, the walls of the plant are cracking and lizards and rodents are infesting the whole place. This alone causes me loss of appetite and demoralises me.”
Abdulsalam added that, even as the factory remained dormant, he had spent almost N1m on security guards who secures the property on monthly basis.
He appealed to government, well meaning Nigerians and corporate individuals to partner with him in reviving the plant, as he had “tried all my possible best to complete the project, even by selling my property and postponing my marriage, but all to no avail. I have come to the conclusion that I needed an investor or someone whom I could partner with, to actualise this project.”