FG To Reduce Illegal Importation Of Rice Through Land Borders

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Agric Taskforce
L-R: The Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd.) and the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar during the steering committee meeting in Abuja.

The Federal Government has pledged that it will plug the porous land borders which sponsor the illegal importation of rice through land borders, according to the Minister of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Dr. Mohammad Abubakar.

Speaking during the meeting of the Steering Committee of the National Taskforce on the Illegal Importation of Rice through the Land Borders at the ministry’s conference hall, Abuja, over the weekend, he said the ministry will continue to strategize and collaborate with other governmental and security agencies to reduce the incidence of illegal importation through the said borders.

He stated that the ban on rice importation has brought about a significant rise in local rice production and unlocked economic opportunities for rice investors in the country.

“The ministry is very concerned about the increase in smuggling and has convened this meeting to discuss critical issues to strategise and come up with concrete measures to enable the committee to carry out its duties effectively,” he said. 

Abubakar called for the sustenance of the huge improvement in the rice sub-sector for the country’s economic growth, as signified by the huge contribution of the agricultural sector to the nation’s gross domestic production (GDP) which is in line with the government’s diversification policy.

“The resumed smuggling of foreign rice, especially through the land borders is constituting a serious threat to these achievements. If the smuggling is left unchecked, it will jeopardise all government efforts to enhance the domestic rice industry and make them ineffective.

“The Federal Government and private sectors have invested a lot of resources in rice production and processing over the years because of the government’s commitment to the development of the sub-sector through its various interventions.

“The ministry has been supporting farmers, especially small-holders and rice processors with quality seeds of improved varieties, production and processing machinery and equipment – including the provision of modern rice mills of various capacities, per-boiler, dryers, colour sorters etc., to boost rice production and improve the quality and market competitiveness of domestic rice,” he stated.

In his remarks, the Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd.), said the meeting has presented an avenue for the committee to deliberate and discuss curbing insecurity and smuggling of rice into the country. 

Ali called for improved relations and cooperation between the Customs Service and other security agencies such as the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) to beef up the joint operations of the taskforce.

Earlier, the chairman, Presidential Committee on Trade Malpractice, Alhaji Dahiru Ado, commended the ministry, the Nigerian Customs Service and other partners in their sustained efforts to tackle the menace of illegal rice importation into the country through the land borders.

He said his committee will continue to track and apprehend vessels that bring in rice into the country through the Benin Republic. 

A statement by the ministry’s director of information, signed by a senior information officer, Obe Mbosire Mabel, outlined some of the action points and conclusion to include continued border patrol operations by the Nigeria Customs, procurement of additional equipment to strengthen its operations, the deployment of NSCDC personnel to complement the larger border patrol coordinated by the Nigerian Customs Service, meting out stiffer penalties to rice smugglers and that Nigerians should be encouraged to eat and patronise local rice brands to discourage the smuggling of foreign rice into the country. 

Present at this meeting were representatives of the Ministry of Finance, Alhaji Mohammed Yakubu, who is also the secretary of the Steering Committee; Representative the Commandant General, Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps, A. E. Obekwe and the chief executive officer of the Federal Competition Consumer Protection Commission, Mr. Babatunde Irukera.  

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