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Rice importers up in arms against Nigerian economy —Customs boss

•Says Nigeria can survive without imported rice

THE Comptroller-General of Customs, Colonel Ahmed Ibrahim Ali (retd), on Tuesday, raised the alarm that importers of rice through the country’s borders are up in arms against the Nigerian economy, declaring that Nigeria can do without importation of rice.

This is even as he disclosed that a total of 117,034 (50kg) bags of rice were seized in the first three quarters of 2016 at a duty paid value of N774.282,300.

Addressing a joint press briefing with the Acting Director-General of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Mrs Yetunde Oni and the Chairman, Presidential Committee on Trade Malpractice, Alhaji Dahiru Ado Kurawa, on illegal rice importation to the country, Colonel Ali stated that since the reintroduction of ban on importation of rice through the land borders in April, the importers were yet to cease their war against the economy.

He stated that the reintroduction of the ban was informed by the high level of non-compliance by rice importers who resorted to smuggling, adding that till date, the Customs was being inundated with periodic intelligence about ship loads of parboiled rice being offloaded in neighbouring Benin Republic.

“In April 2016, the Nigeria Customs Service reintroduced the ban on the importation of rice through the land borders. The reversal of theodicy introduced in October 2015 was informed by the high level of non compliance by rice importers who resorted to large scale smuggling of the product.

“Five down the line, it has become imperative to raise the alarm that importers of rice through the borders are still up in arms against the economy,” the Customs boss stated.

He added that despite the fact that Beninoise do not eat parboiled rice, the product was being offloaded regularly in Port of Cotonou, ultimately destined for Nigeria by smuggling through the country’s land borders.

On her part, the Acting NAFDAC Director-General, Mrs Oni, noted that smuggled rice through land borders were unregistered and largely substandard, adding that those imported through the seaports were registered and are of good quality.

She stated that the ban on importation of rice through the land borders “will help reduce the amount of foreign exchange used in the importation of rice, reduce loss of revenue through smuggling activities and grow the milling of local rice through the promotion of strategic investment in local rice production.”

Oni further declared that from regular laboratory reports during NAFDAC products approval meetings, “Nigeria produced rice are safe, wholesome and of good quality.”

She assured that NAFDAC was poised to join hands with the Customs to increase surveillance and monitoring activities at all borders posts to curb smuggling of rice through the land borders.

“The existing cooperation and collaboration with NCS will be strengthened and sustained to continue to assist NAFDAC in delivering on our mandate of safe guarding the health of the nation,” she declared.