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BAN ON IMPORTATION OF RICE.........Not working as Rice smuggling Booms!

Image result for rICE FARMERS IN nIGERIA Image result for rICE FARMERS IN nIGERIA

When the Federal Government slammed a total ban on the importation of rice into the country, it was with the good intention to diversify the economy and be self-sufficient in food production.

President Muhammadu Buhari, in an address ahead of the pronouncement on rice, told Nigerians to brace up to the new challenges of eating locally-produced rice which, he said, was more nutritious than the foreign ones.

“We have  to get used to discipline and direction in economic management. The days of business as usual are numbered. Two years ago, I appealed to people to go back to the farm. I am highly gratified that agriculture has picked up, contributing to the government’s effort to restructure the economy. Rice imports will stop this year. Local rice, is fresher and more nutritious, will be on our dishes from now on,” he said.

However, it is surprising to observe that despite the President’s pronouncement, rice-smuggling has intensified, resulting in deaths and injuries between customs officials and rice smugglers.

It is against this backdrop that the Federal Government on January 31, 2018, approved N1.12 billion for the purchase of 50 operational “anti-rice smuggling” vehicles to check the persistent smuggling of the product into the country.  

Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, told State House correspondents alongside the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, and the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Kayode Fayemi, after a meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on January 31, 2018, that the procurement of the operational vehicles, which would be deployed to the anti-rice smuggling task force, was also meant to stop Customs officials from invading markets to seize smuggled rice and harassing traders.

“The approval was for the purchase of 50 vehicles and they are going to be deployed for an anti-rice smuggling task force that is being put together, which Customs will be leading.

“As you know, our efforts to become major rice producers have resulted to the revival of local rice growing. But what we found was that there was 90 per cent reduction in the official import of rice; smuggling has increased and, of course, our borders are very porous.

“We believe that to protect our farmers and the investments the people have made, government must act to stem the tide of illegal rice importation through smuggling.

“We felt that it is important; we don’t want Customs going to seize rice in the markets. Customs should act to stop rice coming in at the border posts and Customs indicated that it needs additional vehicles, additional resources as well as other more information-driven strategies to stop it,’’ she said.

The vehicles will also stem the tide of persistent fracas between the overzealous Customs officers who harass drivers on the highway. Most of the harassment has led to avoidable injuries and death.

Recall that in 2016, the Federal Government restricted the importation of rice to the seaports and forced importers of the commodity to source their foreign exchange outside the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) window.

This encouraged the local production of rice to the extent that Lagos and Kebbi state governments and industrialists embarked on massive rice production.


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