Rice processors in Nigeria have raised the alarm that the Federal Government’s financing policy through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is under treat of failing from the activities of rice smugglers.
Addressing reporters on the threat in Abuja over the weekend, Chairman of Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) Alhaji Muhammed Abubakar lamented that over 1 million metric tons of rice (about 20,000,000 bags of 50kg or 34,000 trucks of rice) have been smuggled into the country in the last three months.
Abubakar said: “Nigeria currently loses huge revenues, foreign exchange and jobs to this menace of smuggling while Nigeria rice processing companies are shutting down because of their inability to gain market access and more painfully millions of small-holder farmers are stuck with their paddy because the millers can no longer afford to buy from them.”
He warned the government that if the menace of rice smuggling “is not tackled with appropriate dispatch, the magnitude of loss to Nigerian rice stakeholders starting with the Federal Government, Integrated Rice Millers, Funding Banks, CBN, rice farmers, mill workers, rice consumers, etc. would be too devastating to cope with in an economy that is fledgling.”
He urged the Federal Government to take urgent action “to avert eventual national food emergency by combating smuggling so that we can continue to grow our local rice industry and the economy.”
Investigations, he said have, shown that “all our international borders have been converted to smugglers route and our markets are filled with smuggled foreign rice.”
To address the scourge, Abubakar called on the Federal Government to immediately raid the various rice smugglers market across the country, sanction officers and employees of agencies of government such as Nigeria Customs Service, National Agency for Foods Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) saddled with the responsibility of enforcement but chose to compromise their offices or fail in their various responsibilities. Government, he said must note that some officers working in these government agencies are in collaboration with these smugglers.
“These officers must be fished out and punished by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for economic sabotage,” he said.
He also called on the government to deal firmly with smuggling and severely punish infractions in a way that makes smuggling too costly to risk.
He said: “Particularly, government must begin to fish out and punish multinational companies who play on both sides of the border; – those who actually drive the syndicates (the promoters).
“It is absolutely vital for government to sustain the current drive for greater investments, strengthen the policy environment and continue to implement policies and strategies that grow local capacity and protect local value chain.”
The rice processors appealed to the government to, “as a matter of urgent national importance, take strong diplomatic action with our neighbouring countries who allow parboiled rice into their country for final destination to Nigeria. The government may consider closing the borders for some time if diplomatic overtures fail.”
They also called on state governments to build relevant agricultural infrastructure that permit more than one season farming such as irrigation facility, rural access roads and electricity.