By Uche Usim
AFTER about six months of lifting the ban on importation of rice through the nation’s land border, the Nigeria Customs Service has said it has re-introduced the restriction order on the staple food with effect from March 17, 2016.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali who gave the approval for the reversal of an earlier policy in October 2015, which allowed rice imports through the land borders once appropriate duty and charges were paid, said the service noticed some abuses where Customs officers colluded with criminals to smuggle the commodity.
According to him, at a review session held with Comptrollers of border commands and Federal Operation Units held in Abuja, the service also noted that dwindling revenue from rice imports through the land borders do not match the volume of rice that landed in neighboring ports.
“Rather, reports from border commands indicate an upsurge in the tempo of rice smuggling. Implementation of the restriction order got off to a smooth start, with a high level of compliance in October 2015. However, revenue started dwindling from January 2016, with importers blaming access to forex as major impediments”, Ali stated.
During the five-month period when the restriction was lifted (October 2015 to March 17, 2016), a total of 24.992 metric tonnes of rice valued at N2, 335,131,093 were imported through the land borders. Within the same period, total revenue generated amounted to N1,685,112,810.
“This is considerably lower than the revenue projected to be generated with the removal of import restrictions. However, an upsurge in the number of the seizures has been reported across the land borders since January 2016. In the first two months of the 2016, a total of 9238 bags with Duty Paid Value of N64,666,000 were seized by the Customs anti-smuggling patrol teams of Federal operations and border commands.