Customs Reacts to Ingenious Ways of Smuggling Rice into Nigeria

Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali has confirmed that the service recorded seizures of 117034 (50kg) bags of rice at a duty paid value of N774,282,300 in the first three quarters of 2016, saying the figures of seizure do not explain the full desperation of rice importer through rice borders, as it revealed several ingenious but devilish ways of smuggling into Nigeria what is consumed as rice.

Speaking at a joint press conference with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in Abuja on Tuesday, Ali said that “we have seen rice conveyed in open wooden canoes across our creeks and water ways with generous amount of dirty water splash on them. We have seen some mixed with other grain bags to deceived eve Customs.

“Some are stuffed inside any available crevice and compartments of vehicles, including the engine area. The concealed rice is there faster re- bagged half cooked or otherwise and presented in our marketers for sale as imported rice.

The Customs boss recalled that in April 2016, the service reintroduced the ban on the importation of rice through the land borders.

He noted that as a country, the citizens were duty bound to reawaken national pride and collectively reject the insults of what importers are feeding Nigerians with.

He raised the questions of whether the country should continue to waste its foreign exchange on items that it could produce locally at this time of recession.

He also raised the question whether Nigeria should continue to tolerate its neighbours being used as staging post to sabotage her economy, insisting that the nation’s economic revival will revolve around the ongoing effort to support local production of rice to enhance food security.

“But the information reaching government suggests increasing preference for the local rice over smuggled one because at this harvesting period, the best Nigeria can do is to support the local farmers to make their products more competitive,” he said.

“In the recent past, our collective intelligence was assaulted with dubious claims of Rice Sufficiency Gaps. Arbitrary quotas were used, more for political patronage to dump rice import on us, without payment of correct charges.

“Our credible intelligence indicates that the promoters of this economic subterfuge are at work again. Their plan is to seek a re- introduction of the quota system to import 1.5 million metric tons through the entry points.

“We are aware of their plans, and we shall be awaiting for them. This year, many states governments have injected massive investment in local production. The Federal Government through interventions by Central Bank of Nigeria and Bank of Industry are also investing to give momentum to a rice revolution that is progressing smoothly. Kebbi State for example in 2016 harvested over 700,000 MT of rice from irrigation farming, while a further 800,000MT is projected from rain-fed rice farming.

“With similar projections from other states across the country, this planting season, bumper harvest of rice is expected to debunk the so-called sufficiency gap being trumped up to justify rice quotas. With the support of patriotic Nigerians, we will not only achieve national sufficiency of rice in 2017, but be in a position to clamp a total ban on its importation in the years ahead.

“This therefore is our call to action. To remind ourselves about the dangers of part patronizing smuggled . To rally all the supports we can muster for our local producers, and to support this campaign against smuggling of rice into our dear country.”

The Customs boss recalled that in April 2016, the service reintroduced the ban on the importation of rice through the land borders.

But he noted that the reversal of the policy introduced in October was informed by high level of non compliance by rice importers who resorted to large scale smuggling of the product.

He said, “Five months down the line, it has become imperative to raise this alarm that importers through the borders are still up in arms against the economy. We are inundated with periodic intelligence about ship loads of parboiled rice that offloads regularly in the neighbouring Port of Cotonou.

“As a matter of fact, our neighbours in Benin Republic do not eat parboiled rice. These importers are ultimately destined for Nigeria by smuggling through the land borders. Since we have declared total war on these economic saboteurs, those who have invested their fortunes in this business are finding it increasingly difficult perpetuate their acts. The result of this is that several thousand metric tons of rice are now trapped in warehouses across our borders.”

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