The Federal Government, yesterday, denied insinuations that it had completely banned rice importation into the country, saying that it only restricted the importation of the product through the designated Sea Ports.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd) explained that the restriction became necessary in order to protect the country’s local industry and enhance national food security.
Ali, who stated this at a joint press conference on illegal rice importation to Nigeria, in Abuja, maintained that land-boarders had always been used by smugglers to bring substandard rice into the country with health implications.
“Protect Nigerians from consumption of unwholesome rice with health implications; protect our economy from unpatriotic elements who are depleting the nation’s foreign exchange through rice smuggling. “Ensure that the fragile security situation in our country is not further compromised by those who may use as a means of concealing dangerous weapons into Nigeria. “Let me therefore start by restating the fact that importation of rice into Nigeria is not banned. What we have is restriction on the point of entry to our Sea Ports only,” he said.
It may be recalled that in April 2016, the Nigeria Custom Service introduced the ban on the importation of Rice through the land boarders. The CG noted that the reversal of the policy introduced in October 2015 was informed by the high level of non compliance by the rice importers, who resorted to large scale smuggling of the product. “Five months down the line, it has become imperative to raise this alarm that importers of rice through the boarders are still up in arms against the economy. “As you may be aware, we remain firm in our resolution to enforce the restriction of rice imports only to our sea ports, we have recognized our anti-smuggling patrols to provide additional capability and bite. We have reconstituted our compliance teams created to compliment our Federal Operation Units and the regular resident officers deplored at our boarder commands.” Col. Ali said.
Also speaking, the Ag. Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Control agency, NAFDAC Mrs. Yetunde Oni said that rice and some other products imported to the country were not registered making it to often fall below standard. “It is pertinent to state that records have shown that rice products imported through the sea ports are registered and are of good quality as pounced by statutory reports from NAFDAC laboratories whilst those smuggled through the land boarders are unregistered and largely substandard.
NAFDAC boss added that the agency aligned itself with federal government decision to the ban on importation of rice through the land boarders. “This will help reduce the amount of foreign exchange used in the importation of rice, reduce lost of revenue through smuggling activities and grow the milling of local rice through the promotion of strategic investment in local rice production .
“From regular laboratory reports reaching me during NAFDAC Products Approval meeting, rice locally produced are safe and are of good quality,” She said. In his remarks, the Chairman, Presidential Committee on Trade Malpractice, Alhaji Dabiru Ado Kaurawa said Nigerians have conceded the culture of consuming rice but lost the effort of cultivating the product.
He said, “Our people have only conceded the culture of consuming rice but do not have the zeal of cultivating the rice due to its pampered nature of plantation. “Currently, market intelligence indicates a fierce price war between imported and local rice. The information we are getting suggests increasing preference for the local rice over the smuggled ones. At this harvesting period, the best Nigerians can do is to support the local farmers to make their products more competitive,” Kaurawa said.