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Stem cell agriculture could revolutionize the world food system.

The U.S. government needs to invest in it now to reap the economic benefits.

By Ariel Ron and Alex Smith

The world’s population is growing in numbers and affluence, two trends that will drive rising demand for protein-rich foods. The problem is that there is not enough land to keep the animals necessary to meet that demand and sequester their associated impacts.

Against this backdrop, cultivated meat offers the promise of real meat produced in ultra-clean, resource-efficient and cruelty-free conditions. Simply dispense with the animal. Instead, cultivate stem cells, differentiate them as they grow, and coax them into the meaty shapes and tastes we know and love.

It is not, of course, “simple.” It is actually a bold new paradigm for the world food system, involving complicated issues of technological development, process engineering, commercial upscaling, value chain buildout, crop specialization, workforce training and more. All of this might be encompassed by the umbrella term, cellular agriculture (CA), which includes processes such as precision fermentation and nonfood materials such as leather and cotton fiber.

American scientists, startups and venture funds are very much at the forefront of alternative proteins, including CA. Cellular agriculture can offer the U.S. new sources of employment, economic growth and quality food in the face of growing climatological and geopolitical crises. But unless the federal government makes greater investments in the field, other countries will overtake the U.S. in production, and the country will miss out on the economic benefits.

The Dutch government, for example, awarded €60 million in April to Cellulaire Agricultuur Nederland (CAN), a new association of universities, foodtech companies and consultancies aiming to turn the country into a global hub for the production of cultivated meat. The Netherlands is drowning in nitrogen runoff from its intensive livestock operations, and CAN’s plan to build “a fully-fledged CA ecosystem” could help the country remain Europe’s biggest meat exporter while reducing its livestock population.

Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research, a governmental development agency, and Temasek Holdings, a sovereign wealth fund, have pledged tens of millions of dollars to support cultivated meat and other alternative protein companies throughout the process, from R&D to market. Israel, meanwhile, has just opened a new cultivated meat hub with an initial government grant of $18 million. The UK, Japan and China, among others, have also signaled increasing interest and support.

“Cellular agriculture can offer the U.S. new sources of employment, economic growth and quality food in the face of growing climatological and geopolitical crises.”

The U.S. government, in contrast, is bringing up the rear. Over the past two years, private investment in plant-based, fermented and cultivated meat companies has accelerated rapidly, with 2021 seeing more than $5 billion in new commitments. This is encouraging, but it also raises concerns. If the goal is to reach parity with conventional animal products in both price and quality, we are not quite there yet, and whether we can get there remains an open question.

Will venture funds have the patience to stick with companies through the inevitable commercialization challenges? Will new funding dry up as macroeconomic conditions turn more stringent? Do private investors have the wherewithal to orchestrate the larger changes that a deep restructuring of the food system will necessarily entail? In short, are market forces alone up to the task that CAN and the Dutch government have set for themselves, of “building a fully-fledged CA ecosystem”?

The answer is almost certainly no. A transformation of this scale requires significant public sector vision and support, from proper regulation to appropriate investment incentives. Yet the federal government has done relatively little. By our estimates, it has devoted perhaps $20 million to the CA space, a paltry sum given the size and importance of the American protein market. It has to do more. Otherwise, we risk missing a major opportunity for economic growth, as has happened in the past when we have taken the “innovate here, produce there” approach. If we do not make the necessary public investment to turn cellular agriculture into a beneficial revolution in food production, other countries will.

Global Competition For The Future Of Meat

The federal government has made some positive recent moves, committing $10 million to a scientific research consortium led by Tufts University. But scientific research is just one aspect of the problem. As new companies move from proof of concept to product launch, the “commercialization valley of death” looms ahead. This is the difficult phase in which a young company must scale up production and win space for itself in the market. Among other things, this means sourcing inputs reliably and cost-effectively, which ultimately means working with farmers, ingredient processors and equipment makers to build new value chains.

Cultivated meat is on the technological cutting edge of a broader set of alternatives to conventional meat, dairy and eggs, and in the area of plant-based foods, Canada is among those leading the way. Protein Industries Canada (PIC), an industry-led nonprofit established and partially funded by the Canadian government, invested more than 350 million CAD — of which up to 173 million CAD came from public sources — in developing the technologies and industry capacity to make Canada into a plant-based food superpower. PIC’s strategy to increase production of key crops, expand ingredient processing capacity and engage in product development stands in stark contrast to the U.S. approach, which modestly funds R&D and leaves the rest entirely in the hands of the private sector. All told, PIC believes that Canada could make up 10% of the global plant-based food sector by 2035, bringing in an additional $25 billion in revenue to Canadian firms annually.

While Canada sees alternative proteins as a major economic opportunity, other countries increasingly perceive it as a strategic interest, even a necessity. As small countries in a world of growing climate and geopolitical uncertainty, the Netherlands, Israel and Singapore see cultivated meat as a way to address food security concerns.

China and Japan are both expected to face rising domestic demand for meat and have signaled in recent months that they intend to pay more attention to alternative proteins. In a March speech, President Xi Jinping underlined the importance of alternative proteins to China’s national food security strategy, and the Ministry of Agriculture specifically included cultivated meat in its latest five-year plan. The continuing threat of epizootic diseases no doubt contributes to a sense of urgency. A recent analysis found that between 2018 and 2019, around 40 million pigs died as the result of an outbreak of African swine fever, costing China an estimated 1% of its GDP that year. The upshot is that the pressures driving government interest in alternative proteins — and of cellular agriculture in particular — are powerful and durable.

Avoiding “Innovate Here, Produce There”

The United States is certainly capable of remaining at the forefront of CA innovation, but given current trends, it must be wary of repeating past mistakes and ceding large-scale production to other countries. Take photovoltaics. As late as the 1990s, American firms produced 32% of the world’s solar panels, but that position eroded quickly. First Japanese and then German firms took over the market, each aided by major government interventions. By the 2010s, highly capitalized Chinese firms rose to dominance, thanks, in part, to billions of dollars in government-provided credit. If cellular agriculture indeed emerges as a key piece to the green economic transition, history could repeat itself.

China is uniquely positioned to move quickly, should its leaders decide that CA technologies are proving themselves. It has been preparing for this kind of development for years by dramatically upping government support for agricultural R&D. Its recent decision to begin using genetically modified seeds in the production of soybean and other potential CA feedstock crops signals a highly technological approach to food and agriculture. The impact on American farmers could be considerable if, for instance, greater Chinese self-sufficiency and growing displacement of conventional meat demand led to a collapse in global soybean prices.

“Other countries increasingly perceive alternative proteins as a strategic interest, even a necessity.”

But CA should be regarded less as a threat and more as an opportunity to combine economic growth with climate mitigation. Market estimates from firms like the Boston Consulting Group and Kearney indicate that alternative proteins could reach up to 45% of the multitrillion-dollar global meat industry within about a decade. More muted estimates suggest a value in the range of $400-500 billion. Either way, making sure that the U.S. remains an alternative protein leader would mean growth and jobs, with all the beneficial multiplier effects of manufacturing domestically. Meanwhile, the inherently efficient use of land by CA and other alternative protein processes will ensure reduced emissions.

The United States continues, of course, to provide enormous governmental support for agriculture in the form of price-support subsidies and R&D funding. Precise figures for conventional livestock’s share of that largesse are hard to come by, but they certainly run into the billions of dollars annually. Directing just a small percentage of that amount toward CA would go a very long way.

Consider, for instance, that in January 2022, the Biden administration announced $1 billion in funding to reduce corporate concentration in the meat processing industry. The plan included $375 million in grants for small meat processors aiming to increase capacity, up to $275 million in support of small processor financing through guaranteed loans and other means, and $100 million for workforce development, among other policies. Given the market dominance of the big four meat processors, the effect of these programs is doubtful. Yet were these same measures to be aimed at developing the alternative protein industry, particularly CA, the effect would likely be transformative.

How Federal Policy Can Make A Difference

The key to an effective federal alternative protein policy is to think in terms of value chains and organizational ecosystems. Problems of premarket R&D, product development, manufacturing at scale, ingredient sourcing and worker training tend to occur all at once, rather than in an orderly sequence, and need to be addressed together for alternative proteins to scale up. Put differently, there are multiple simultaneous bottlenecks, any one of which can choke off promising growth.

Ideally, an interagency office, modeled on the National Nanotechnology Initiative, would coordinate efforts across the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation and other relevant federal agencies. However, less ambitious models are more readily available. The Manufacturing USA program was established in 2014 to bring together academic researchers, government agencies and business partners within thematic “innovation institutes.” It has proven an effective way to build advanced manufacturing hubs, particularly in deindustrialized regions. An Alternative Protein Institute would, among other things, provide common research facilities and expertise for member firms to solve both shared and proprietary R&D problems. Such a hub would also facilitate networking between new firms and potential financial backers.

“If we do not make the necessary public investment to turn cellular agriculture into a beneficial revolution in food production, other countries will.”

Funding for additional university research will be essential. This can best be done by establishing interdisciplinary centers of excellence that promote scientific cross-fertilization. The resulting knowledge should be made open, facilitating broad access and avoiding duplication of effort. For instance, databases of characterized plant and animal proteins, growth media and scaffolding materials should be made widely available. In addition, university grant management offices should help researchers take advantage of existing federal opportunities such as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

Sustained focus on workforce training is equally key. University research programs must be coupled with a focus on teaching and agricultural extension. The USDA can be enlisted to retrain conventional meat processing workers for employment in alternative protein facilities. Apprentice programs should be established, such as those already supported through Manufacturing USA.

Finally, close attention must be paid to regulation and labeling. The USDA and FDA have already agreed to share regulatory oversight of cultivated meat, which has yet to be approved in the United States. It is important that the rules ultimately achieve high standards for safety, clarity for consumers and a level playing field with respect to conventional meat.

Now is an important time for the federal government to act. The Netherlands’ cultivated meat association has laid out a 15-year horizon for making cellular agriculture work at scale. With each passing year, it will be harder for the United States to regain the technological forefront. Moreover, if large-scale production shifts toward other countries, they may gain unique innovative capacities that come from learning by doing, through close contact with advanced manufacturing processes. On the other hand, even a relatively small investment now could have a huge payoff in the future.

It will be tempting, for some, to pull alternative proteins into the maw of the culture wars. But that should be resisted by keeping attention squarely on the real issues: job creation, economic growth and food security. Alternative proteins in general, and cellular agriculture in particular, should be understood as a national priority.

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…Describe new owners as hustlers, hawks

THE National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, yesterdasy, urged the Federal Government to reverse the privatisation of the nation’s power sector, describing new owners of the privatised companies as ‘hustlers’ and ‘hawks’ who have contributed poorly to the power sector.

The union also accused the new owners of deceiving the Federal Government into paying N2 trillion subvention, even as it insisted that they had continued to impoverish Nigerians, leaving the country pillaged.

It claimed that despite recognizable improvements in the wheeling capacity of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, of 7,000 megawatts, the generation output had now dwindled below 5,000 megawatts.

The union pointed at the activities of the new owners as part of reasons the power sector has gone almost comatose and the impoverishment of the average worker in the sector.

The Zonal Organising Secretary (Liaison), Kolade Ayodele, who spoke to journalists on behalf of his colleagues, said Nigerians should also be worried, even as electricity tariffs continued to rise without commensurate service delivery.

He said: “Since the privatisation of Nigeria’s power sector in October 2013, electricity workers, under the age of the National Union of Electricity Employees, have been in the fore-front of speaking out on behalf of the Nigerian people

“It is an undeniable truth that the power sector privatisation has not added value to the lives of the ordinary Nigerians. The entire exercise, which could be described as a charade, has not brought any meaningful impact/improvement to the sector.

“Rather, it has led the nation to a huge setback. The infrastructural development by the new business owners in the power sector has almost gone comatose while the socio-economic status of the average worker in the sector has continued to decline amid prevailing harsh economic conditions.

‘’The same equipment inherited from pre-privatisation have remained what drives the sector as there are no visible attempts by the Generation Companies (GenCos) and Distribution Companies (DisCos) to upgrade and expand their capacities/networks.

“Nigerians were deceived into believing that the ‘harvestors’ had the financial/technical muscles to improve power generation and distribution to Nigerians. Can Nigerians be told today that this purpose has been achieved?

‘’The answer was echoed in the print/electronic media by members of the National Assembly who even called for the total reversal of the entire process.

“Despite improvement in the wheeling capacity of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, which is still Federal Government-owned to over 7,000MW, the generation output has been dwindling below 5,000MW.

“Alas! the ‘hustlers’ who deceived the Federal Government into paying almost N2 trillion subvention to the owners of the new companies since privatisation, are being used to call the union names in order to exploit Nigerians and sustain the current comatose situation. Their mission is simply to call a dog a bad name in order to hang it, while they keep smiling to the banks.”

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The task of becoming the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a daunting one. And, understanding this explains why all the presidential candidates are probably facing one of the most difficult moments of their political careers.

Undoubtedly, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar contesting on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has the toughest job among the three main contenders. He has a hurdle of the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike to scale if he must return to Aso Villa, which he left in 2007 as the vice to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

While Wike’s challenge looks insignificant to the eye, he’s hydra-headed and eventually posing as a door – to either Atiku’s win or defeat. A lot of other issues are attached to Wike, all of which will be treated in this report.

Why is Wike larger than life? The Rivers State governor does not only have people in the party who share his sentiment, he shoulders the interest of all aggrieved members in the party. From the South that was schemed out of 2023 presidential race to the rise of Peter Obi of Labour Party and romance with the ruling party, among other petty political Lilliputians seeking relevance, Wike still remains the link bridge connecting them all.

Wike’s cronies also include his counterpart governors and some members of the National Working Committee (NWC). Hence, it is substantial to say that Wike has turned the fight into a South-North dichotomy.

In a nutshell, Atiku has to win this internal battle before marching to the warfronts against his counterparts – All Progressives Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP) presidential candidates – Bola Tinubu and Peter Obi respectively. If he eventually reconciles Wike to his side, he would have won half of the scuffles ahead.

Atiku and Okowa’s emergence

The battle for Atiku began the moment he emerged as the standard bearer of the main opposition party. It’s not the status itself that poses a challenge, but the process that brought him in. This doesn’t affect only him, his running mate, Governor of Delta state, Ifeanyi Okowa is also in the picture.

Prior to the PDP primary election in Abuja, in late May, Wike had pledged to support whoever emerged as the party’s flag bearer. He also assured he wouldn’t leave the party, regardless of what happened.

It was almost certain to conclude that Wike would emerge to fly the party’s flag going by his political muscle. Sadly for him, his colleague from Sokoto state, Governor Aminu Tambuwal withdrew from the race and urged his delegate supporters to vote for Atiku. This, obviously won the battle for the ex-vice President. Wike was obviously outplayed by a ‘friend’.

Rivers Governor could stomach Atiku’s victory at the primaries, but his ego was bruised when his neighbour in the South-South was picked to be the vice presidential candidate. Up till now, Wike has neither publicly congratulated Okowa nor commented on the issue.

Wike insistence on Ayu’s removal

Asides from other grievances that sprang up aftermath of the emergence of both Atiku and Okowa, Wike has admitted that his main rancour with PDP leadership is the failure of the party’s national chair, Senator Iyorchia Ayu to resign.

He claimed that there was an agreement during the zoning debate that both the presidential candidate and the national chairman cannot come from the same region.

Since Atiku is from the North, Ayu cannot remain as the PDP helmsman because he also hails from the North. Notwithstanding the resignation of Walid Jibrin as the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Wike insists Ayu must go. Amid this, members of the National Executive Council (NEC) passed a vote of confidence on Ayu. As much as Ayu remains as PDP chairman, Wike cannot work for and with Atiku.

South-South battleground and Rivers electoral value

Whatever Atiku calculated to have chosen Okowa as his vice ahead of the 2023 general elections has arguably boomeranged. This has divided his votes in the South-South already unless the internal wrangling is resolved amicably before Nigerians head to the polls next year.

In the wake of the brawl with the Atiku camp, Wike, while commissioning recent infrastructural projects in his state. Imaintained that he would help PDP not to win elections. This will only change if his demands are met.

But, Atiku must hold on to the belief that the South-South region is a cherished stronghold that would give him votes in the South. By extension, he should strategise not to let Rivers slip away from his grasp even if it means sourcing for a powerful figure in Wike’s state.

Rivers will deliver for Atiku because, in the 2019 presidential elections, Atiku scored 473,971 votes against Buhari who polled 150,710 votes.

However, while Wike’s clout cannot be underestimated in Rivers, Atiku can rake in massive votes in the region including Wike’s state if he plays the game well. The states in the region with the exception of Cross River belong to PDP. He just has to work with Okowa and find a charismatic party chieftain to be on his campaign train.

Makinde and unfriendly South-West terrain

The South-West is a no-go area for Atiku but anything can happen in politics, even at the last minute. Tinubu displayed that during the APC’s presidential primary election, as a political journalist said, “While other presidential candidates go for the delegates, Jagaban goes for the presidential candidates themselves.”

The region is for Tinubu except for Oyo state just like the South-South is for Atiku. But this doesn’t mean there won’t be trickles to gather for both of them in each region.

Going back to Tinubu’s tactics at his party’s primaries, Wazirin Adamawa can adopt such a strategy by enticing the bigwigs in Southwestern Nigeria to his camp if he wants to defeat the national leader of APC in his backyard.

On September 14, 2022, Atiku met with Oyo state governor, Seyi Makinde who is also Wike’s closest ally. Atiku knows he needs Makinde if he has to get a substantial number of votes from South-West. Makinde wanted what Wike wanted. Don’t forget that Wike is a door. Atiku can decide to open or shut.

Also, by February 2023, Osun state governor-elect, Senator Ademola Adeleke would have assumed office, but it is not certain if he would have garnered the political experience to deliver large votes for Atiku.

Mark, Ayu, Ortom and North-Central factor

The Middle-Belt of Nigeria is another PDP’s biggest armoury if Atiku’s political antenna is receiving a signal. He must woo another Wike’s ally and staunch critic of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government in the person of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state. Ortom lamented a few days back that all is not well with PDP.

Whether Atiku sidelines Ortom or not, he has the shoulders of the former Senate President David Mark to ride on. Mark is a big fish in Benue politics. It is noteworthy that Ayu is also from Benue, and Atiku might not succumb to Wike’s threat of sacking Ayu. It is resourceful to use his status in gaining prominence in the state and the region at large.

Other states in the North-Central, especially those plagued by the atrocities of killer Fulani herdsmen will embrace Atiku and this might smoothen his cruise to victory in 2023.

Kogi and Kwara states are APC states but Atiku can use his influence to wage war against them in dividing the votes. The heavyweight ranks of former Kogi Senator who is also Atiku’s spokesman, Dino Melaye and former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki are strong waves to ride on.

South-East, Igbo presidency and the ‘Obidients’

Any politician that jettisons the wave of the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi does so to his detriment. Obi is not only the Igbo presidency that the region longs for, he’s a political figure that the disgruntled young Nigerians want to install via their votes in 2023.

It is expected that Tinubu and Atiku understand this. How they would surmount that hurdle is a test of their acumen. The former VP cannot convince Igbo men with ‘Okowa is also an Igbo’ status to lure their votes.

Although, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo has reiterated that it would have preferred that APC and PDP choose a Southeasterner to vie for the highest political office.

The Igbo leaders wanted a repeat of 1999 when PDP and defunct All Peoples Party (APP) fielded Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falae respectively who are Yoruba people.

And since Ndigbo didn’t get this, the ethnic sentiment that Obi is more Igbo than Okowa is a card to play. An Atiku would struggle to win this debate.

The Obidients are also everywhere. They are the youths that want to pay back APC and PDP in their coin for many years of the nation’s woes. These are energetic and resolute Nigerians who are ready to share spoils with Atiku and Tinubu for Obi’s advantage.

Having said this, Atiku cannot totally lose out in the South-East, another former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim and the new Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman, Adolphus Wabara will not hesitate to embrace Atiku to oust the APC government.

Dicey North-West, North-East’s strongholds

The core North, despite APC’s damage to security and economy, will still most likely queue behind Tinubu who is promising a facelift of Nigeria in the pattern of Lagos when he was governor and other gimmicks he and his party will push out to Nigerians.

Governors like Nasir el-Rufai, Abdullahi Ganduje, Aminu Masari and Bello Matawalle of Kaduna, Kano, Katina and Zamfara states are key to Tinubu’s win. Kano’s votes are instrumental. In 2019, Buhari polled 1.4 million votes in a landslide.

Whoever between Tinubu and Atiku owns Ganduje automatically owns those Kano’s votes. How Atiku would get an appreciable fraction of those votes is also important.

However, Atiku can slug it out with Tinubu on the basis of the son of the soil. He’s a Northerner. He can appeal to the ego and sentiment of the Northern political class and stakeholders from the region.

Atiku is the most prominent politician in the North-East. This would have been a free ride for him but Tinubu chose his running mate, former governor of Borno state, Senator Kashim Shettima to spoil the show for Atiku.

The ex-VP needs to possess the North-East as his home. He must campaign vigorously to weaken the APC even in the terror-laden Borno. He’s a politician who knows what his campaign programmes should hit at.

Way forward

Kwankwaso: the beautiful bride

As integral as Kano’s votes are to winning the presidential election, the former governor in the state, Rabiu Kwankwaso is a major stakeholder. He has massive followers through his Kwankwasiyya movement.

All along, whoever Kwankwaso supported would reap Kano’s votes, but this time around the former Defence Minister is running for President under the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). If he doesn’t step down, it is almost certain that Atiku, Tinubu and Obi should forget Kano as a determining factor in winning.

There are speculations that Kwankwaso would align with any of the three front runners at the dying minutes – and Atiku might have to lobby to win him over.

Nigerians own the votes

The 2023 presidential election largely depends on the aggrieved, hopeful and optimistic Nigerians who desire and demand a better, safer, richer and greater country, and would do all within their reach to achieve this. They are the ones Atiku should appeal to. They are the voters he should convince. He will definitely use the inadequacies of APC against them. But, he needs more than that. Nigerians want practicalities.

With the new Electoral Act, political analysts have supported the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to say it would be difficult for politicians to rig elections. So, 2023 is for Nigerians, Atiku and other candidates in the race must understand and work with that fact.

But, the ball is in the court of Nigerians whether to continue with the status quo or have a paradigm shift. Whichever way, Atiku has a bigger challenge than Tinubu and Obi in winning the election. Since his entry into politics in 1989, he had contested five times in 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. And he knows more than anyone that 2023 is probably his last chance.

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The skeletal remains of a landlord, identified as John Aderemi Abiola, has been discovered in his bedroom after almost four years since he was last seen.

Residents of Adeosun/Idi Orogbo Community in Ido Local Government Area of Oyo State were shocked by the discovery on Sunday, September 4, after the community leaders decided to clear the overgrown bushes in his compound due to the invasion of snakes.

It was learnt that the man was last seen in December 2018, one year after he moved into the community, and barely related with people in his neighborhood.

He told two people that he was travelling to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and would be back for the Ileya festivities in 2018. However, when they did not see him, they thought he chose to stay back in Rivers State.

As the years went by, the weeds in his compound grew beyond his fence into the next compound, where the owner of the property had already moved in, leading to the invasion of snakes and other reptiles.

Skeletal remains of landlord
Following a complaint to the community landlords, they decided to find a way to gain access into the compound to clear the bush and got permission from the Apete Police station.

Last Sunday, the community hired labourers to clear the thick bush as the house was built at the back of the land while the front side was free space.

As they were clearing the land, they first noticed Mr Abiola’s volkswagen Golf car with registration number AKD 769 DC which was was covered by bushes.

Skeletal remains of landlord
They then saw the building and noticed that the window of his room was opened. Out of curiosity, they looked into the room and saw the man’s skeletal remains sprawled on the bed, prompting them to raise alarm.

Police officers, operatives of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Ministry of Environment went to the scene to investigate the incident.

Meanwhile, efforts to contact his family has been futile because his lines has been disabled.

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