Uche Usim, Abuja
To ensure the success of federal government’s economic diversification efforts, especially in the agricultural sector, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in collaboration with the Department of State Services (DSS) initiated a robust anti-smuggling drive which led to the seizure of 1,207 bags of smuggled rice and other items.
At a press conference in Yola, Adamawa State, the CBN Branch Controller, Yola, Mr. Jatau Sato said the new resolve and cooperation was aimed at enhancing the rapid growth of Nigeria’s economy leveraging the agricultural sector to boost the country’s foreign exchange, create massive job windows and ensure food security in the country.
He noted that so far a number of contraband had been seized by the DSS following raids on many properties where the contrabands were hidden.
According to him, “the DSS operatives raided some warehouses in remote areas being used by smugglers for their nefarious activities and recover item which include 1,207 bags of foreign rice, ten jerry cans of groundnut oil, 58 bottles of energy drinks and 83 bags of sugar.”
While acknowledging the efforts of the federal government aimed at diversifying the economic base of the country especially from crude oil dependent economy to more comparatively advantageous resources in agriculture, Mr Sato noted that “for a long time the CBN has actually been complimenting the effort of the federal government in that respect, especially with various intervention programmes in various sectors of the economy, particularly agricultural sector.”
He noted that “to achieve the diversification drive, the CBN has evolved a number of strategies including the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, to ensure the growth of the agricultural sector.”
He further stated that the scheme had so far recorded successes in a number of areas but lamented with dismay that the activities of smugglers might hamper the milestones so far achieved. Hence the new cooperation between the CBN, DSS and other security operatives.
“With the introduction of Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, we know the success story in Kebbi State and many other states. In particular, we recorded great success in Adamawa State but we have been encountering some challenges and the desire of the federal government is to ensure that we create jobs for our people especially the teeming youth in particular, feed the nation and generate income”, he stated.
“Recently, Nigeria has stepped up from primary level of production to the secondary level of production which is processing so that we can improve the shelf life of most of our produce. That is why we have the Anchor Borrowers Programme because the anchor borrowers will ensure the complete value chain in the agricultural business.
“Unfortunately, these efforts that we are proud of is being frustrated by some unscrupulous elements in our society. People who believed in their personal pecuniary penchant for mundane things will smuggle foreign rice in particular into our economy thereby frustrating our farmers and the effort of government.
“What we essentially have been able to do is to partner with the security organization,” he said.
He noted that in view of Nigeria’s vast porous borders and the scant number of customs operatives to man them, the partnership with the DSS became imperative noting that so far the cooperation has led to seizure of a number of contraband smuggled into the country.
“We discover that Nigeria has porous borders and the customs charged with the responsibility of controlling the borders are not adequate enough to cover all those porous borders and so many a times we discovered that products like foreign rice get into our economy into the market.
“So when we partner with the DSS to find out the source where these products are coming from we were able to discover that these people circumvent conventional way of warehousing these products by even going to hire individual houses to store some of these products instead of the warehouse.
Meanwhile, the DSS has obtained court order to distribute the seized item to vulnerable groups in the zone.
Jatau hinted that the DSS is therefore, set to commence the distribution of the impounded food items to the IDPs camps, orphanages, organized almajiri houses and religious organization that have organized IDP camps.