The Governor of Ebonyi State, Mr Dave Umahi, told a delegation of military officers from the Command and Staff College, Jaji on a courtesy call on him, that he would lead a task force of senior government officials to enforce the ban on foreign rice in markets throughout his state.
He justified this intention by pointing out that most brands of rice brought into the state were not parboiled, which means they would “become poisonous” after six months. Every rice dealer would have to present a certification of the quality of the rice they stock or face the wrath of the task force.
On the face of it, this measure is commendable for several reasons. The first is that, in the face of scarcity of foreign exchange for the importation of rice, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had since last year placed rice among the 41 products for which forex would not be granted to importers.
CBN’s move was aimed at encouraging Nigerian rice farmers to redouble efforts towards making the country self-sufficient in this vastly popular staple. The Ebonyi State Government’s move would appear a necessary backup to the drive for self-sufficiency, added to the safety factor that Governor Umahi alluded to. Ebonyi, being a prominent rice-producing state, is justified in creating a more readily available market for its rice without the debilitating competition of foreign brands.
We are fully in support of the efforts by the Federal and State governments to make the made-in-Nigeria rice, which is more nutritious and healthier than the imported brands, abundant and popular again among Nigerians. Umahi’s emphasis on certificate of quality is very important in view of the fact that some foreign countries, notably China, have been discovered to criminally allow the production and export of “rice” made from plastic. Some of these foreign brands have since expired and are not even good enough as animal feeds.
This quality check is the statutory function of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON). It is the failure of these two organs of the Federal Government that our markets are awash with substandard local and foreign rice, which is a pity.
We, however, advise the Ebonyi State Government to ensure that the task force is strictly guided by the rule of law. This should not be an opportunity for the corrupt enrichment of government officials and victimisation of poor traders. Enough public enlightenment must be carried out to get all stakeholders ready for bad-rice cleanup.
Other brands of Made-in-Nigeria rice which meet universal standards of safety must be allowed in Ebonyi markets. This will also make it easy for Ebonyi Rice to sell freely in all markets nationwide.
We believe in Made-in-Nigeria.