The Ebonyi Government and rice millers at the popular Abakaliki Rice Mill, have debunked reports that the entire mill was razed by fire which damaged several property.
Chief Moses Nome, State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday that the news about the fire was mischievous.
“The entire mill was not engulfed by the fire but one milling line, which burnt about six shops and destroyed property.
“The Abakaliki rice mill contains over 100 milling lines and it was only the line ‘13’ that was affected by the fire outbreak.
“It is then unfortunate for anyone to conclude or report that the rice mill was engulfed by fire and this shows that the fight against fake news should be intensified in the country,” he said.
The commissioner said that the fire outbreak was caused by negligence as efforts would be intensified to enlighten the millers on safety practices.
“One of the millers did not switch off the electrical appliance in his shop and the harmattan increased the damage experienced.
“We urge the public to disregard the reports as the rice mill is booming with business activities to meet the demands of the yuletide,’’ he said.
Chief Joseph Ununu, Chairman of the rice mill, confirmed the commissioner’s statement, saying that only one milling line was destroyed.
“The fire started around 9 p.m. on that day and the attention of the mill’s leadership was drawn to it.
“We immediately alerted the state fire service which responded quickly, put off the fire and still salvaged some property.
“We are urging the public to disregard the information that the mill was gutted by fire as we are ready to meet the rice-milling needs of the people,” he said.
One of the affected shop owners, Jim Ibe, rued his ordeal but insisted that the incident did not affect the entire mill as being publicised.
“I lost several property worth millions of naira to the fire but I am appealing to the government and well-meaning individuals for assistance.
“My life has been shattered because I use the proceeds from my burnt shop to take care of my family,’’ he said.
A NAN correspondent who visited the mill reports that business activities were in top gear as people from several parts of the country were there to process and purchase rice.