Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The national leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) met yesterday with and turned down appeals by the Vietnamese government to import rice into the country.
Led by the Deputy Prime Minister, Vuog Dinh Hue, the Vietnamese government delegation had pleaded with the ruling party to appeal to the Federal Government to soften its policy on importation of foreign rice.
The communist country’s delegation further disclosed during the meeting that it had also scheduled a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo with view to press their appeals further.
Responding to the request, APC National Chairman chairman Adams Oshiomhole insisted that Nigeria’s border will remain closed until neighbouring countries abide by ECOWAS trade agreements, adding that the solution to the request is for Vietnamese farmers to invest in rice production.
Oshiomhole said that the Nigerian government would not allow any country to use her as a dumping ground for unwanted chemicals or spoilt products.
“Nigerians should unanimously back the decision of the Federal Government to close the borders until our neighbours decide to respect the laws of fair and free trade.
“Nigeria must not and cannot be a dumping ground for imported foods, imported rice and other smuggled chemicals and drugs into our country,” the APC leader said.
“I think this is one policy that across party divides, across primordial sentiments, people should salute the courage of President Muhammadu Buhari in shutting down the borders because for too long we have been a big brother to our neighbours.
“Now, that big brother is hurting us and hurting us very badly. We must secure ourselves, as they say when you board an aircraft, that if oxygen fails and they drop the mask, help yourself before helping others.
“This is the moment. We must keep those borders shut. If we do so for two, three years, it doesn’t matter. So that our neighbours will learn to respect the rules of international engagement and the rules of trade.
“What has happened is that people relocate out of Nigeria, target the Nigerian market and use our neighbours to compromise our own trade policies. So, I think the media should understand what is at stake.
“We cannot continue relying on imported rice. That was why I told the DPM when he talked about allowing Vietnamese rice to be imported into Nigeria, I said no, we are not going to do that, we will not do that.
“On the contrary, we are prohibiting the importation of rice, not just that CBN denied the foreign exchange because there are linkages of unofficial forex.
“We don’t need imported rice because when I was growing up, and when you were growing up, we didn’t grow on imported rice. We must recognise that we are facing serious economic challenges,” he said.