*By David Uka, Abakaliki*
The Ebonyi State government has ordered the re-opening of the popular Abakaliki Rice Mill, two days after it sealed it off as a result of poisonous and adulterated rice discovered inside the mill.
Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on internal Security, Dr Kenneth Ugbala, who disclosed this while briefing newsmen in Abakaliki, said the re-opening takes effect immediately.
Ugbala who is the leader of the Inter- Ministerial Committee set up by the State Government to investigate the matter, noted that the mill was reopened because it has been sanitised as the poisonous products were confisticated and culpable shops sealed.
“The committee alongside experts and security agencies, evacuated the adulterated products from the affected shops, generally sanitised the
mill with security agencies and made some arrests.
“The State Governor reopened the mill to save innocent millers and buyers from untold economic losses and also due to the mill’s
importance to the economic survival of the state.
“Ebonyi citizens and buyers from across the country are hereby assured that the suspected products have been identified and evacuated as they should freely process and purchase rice from the mill,” he said.
The Committee’s leader noted that the shops where the poisonous products were confisticated would remain shut till all investigations are concluded.
“Citizens who purchased rice from the mill within the period under scrutiny should present such products to the concerned Ministries of
Health, Agriculture, Environment among others, for thorough screening.
“The government expresses serious disappointment with the Mill’s leadership and subsequently suspended it for failing to be an effective liaison between the mill and the government.
“The disappointment is more profound because some of the shops where the poisonous products were discovered belonged to some leaders of the mill as we would consult adequately to appoint a caretaker leadership
for it,” he said.
He debunked the notion that the matter was aimed at witch-hunting the Mill’s Chairman, Mr Joseph Ununu for winning a mock-delegate election to contest the Abakaliki state constituency seat at the State House of
Assembly, under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“No member of the committee is from Ununu’s state constituency or even Local Government Area (LGA) as issues of delegates’ election are
entirely an internal party’s affairs.
“We have also not received any formal notification that he is presently declared missing by his relatives as the entire mill’s
leadership werr suspended” he said.
Chief Donatus Njoku, State Commissioner for Environment noted that a total of 317 bags were confisticated from 10 shops at the mill during the committee’s screening exercise.
“Two shops identified to be using substandard weight measurement were also sealed alongside those where the poisonous products were found until all investigations are concluded.