Chief Dennis Amaechi, National Chairman, Import and Export Development Initiative (IIDI), said the recent statement by the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele in support of border closure is for good of farmers
In this interview, he explained how the exercise is going to boost food production in the country.
That is the only solution to our poverty. Let me ask you, Benin Republic with less than population of five million is the largest importer of rice and other food items consumed in Africa which find their way into Nigeria through smuggling. Therefore, like the CBN Governor rightly stated, I support the border closure until neigbouring countries adhere to the conditions of Nigeria government in terms trade relation.
Any country that cannot produce what its citizens consume cannot be said to be developing. This administration has been making efforts and inputs in terms of subsidies both in cash and materials to all sectors that have to do with agriculture and food production in the country. It is, therefore, very sad that same government turn around to be funding production of food and be funding importation of food at the same time. That is why, in spite of all the subsidies that have been given; we do not have any measures to determine whether things are working out or not because we are at the same time engaged in massive importation of food and mostly through smuggling and at the same time giving huge subsidies to the same products. It is never done anywhere in the world. And it did not start with this administration, but since 1999 and it worsened from the immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. A lot have been put into production of food, and the same amount has been spent on importation of food.
So, you are saying that until Nigeria has completely collapsed, then we will start producing what we eat? My brother, we are on the verge of collapse already. The decision of the Federal Government to close the land border is the best decision hence that means that a state of emergency has been declared in the agricultural sector.
Like I said earlier, that is the only solution now for us from nose diving as a nation into abject poverty. So, border closure and ban of food production is the answer.
Let me give you an instance, if we go into statistics and you know how much we spend on importation of rice alone for the past 15 years in this country, you won’t believe it. And as we are doing this, we are also spending three times the same amount for subsidy on rice. If you discourage the man you have given subsidy from producing what will he do? He will put the money into another business. This is so because the price of locally produced rice becomes higher than imported one. What do you want the local producer to do? He will begin to trade with your money and that is exactly what is happening. He can even use it to import rice and sell. And the current CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, as a patriotic Nigerian is leaving no stone unturned so that we can produce what we eat. So, the politics of rice is a terrible thing today. We are talking of rice as if it is the only grain in this country. There is what Hausa people call Tuwo Shinkafa, meaning rice flour just as we have Tuwo Masara, meaning corn flour just like garri, from cassava. This means that before this country was created as a nation we have been producing rice. Rice was not imported when it became a staple food. When we were small, my parents were buying rice from Abakaliki and most states could produce rice then. The only time we started bringing in rice into the country was the era of “Uncle Bens” immediately after the civil war. So, what is this noise about rice? As if it is the only carbonhydrate or the only grain we have in Nigeria? Let every area that can produce rice, be encouraged to produce it. Why is Igbo celebrating New Yam festival? It is because they produce yam in abundance to feed our people. Therefore, let yam, potato and other products be produced by those who have good soil for them.
MechaniSed farming There is no more time for this argument because we already have modern rice mills all over the country including in Kebbi and Ebonyi States. And I’m of the view that if you don’t want to eat rice, you can eat our yam because we have enough yam. The former Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, went and brought people from Kebbi State to teach our people how to produce rice. To me, hat was a wrong step rather; he should have encouraged the people to produce more yam because that is where we have a comparative advantage. Let’s face reality in this country, what we want is self sufficiency in food production and emphasis should not be on a particular food. This is part of the agricultural policies of this administration driven by the CBN Many are of the view that the CBN governor ought to have announced restriction to food importation into the country and not the Presidency, is it not the duty of the CBN to make such pronouncement?
President Muhammadu Buhari is the head of this nation. This was an issue of fiscal policy decision in terms what items should attract higher duty and it is a responsibility of the Tariff and Trade Department of the Nigerian Customs Service in synergy with the Ministry of Trade and Investment. The decision taken by President Buhari emanated from the CBN to the Presidency. That is the procedure.
No, the President was in order. The decision was not to be taken by CBN. Rather, it should originate from the Tariff and Trade department of the Nigerian Customs Service because they are the people that supervise the bringing in of any item and they have the statistics and should advise the Ministry of Trade and Investment which is their supervisory ministry. And the ministry must get the go-ahead from the presidency as well as work in harmony with the CBN. Even though the CBN is autonomous, but it cannot work in isolation, it must work with these organisations for them to be on the passage and for the nation to be doing the same thing for the good of this country because we have gotten to a breaking point.
Why are we shying away from total ban of rice? What has been existing all this while and what has been resulting to abuses has been the stoppage of forex.
The President is just reechoed it hence, this has been there all the while. That is why the Customs are intercepting rice in what we call suppression of smuggling because rice was not totally ban in this country. You see rice coming from the borders and you say rice is banned. How do you determine which one is banned and the one that is not banned? That is why Customs have been on a rat race with rice sellers.