From Uche Usim, Abuja
The Presidential Committee on Trade Malpractices, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Kebbi State government and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) have resolved to check the massive smuggling of expired and poisonous rice into Nigeria by various land borders.
The agencies, at a press briefing yesterday in Abuja, said intelligence report showed that batches of rice contaminated by dirty waters of the creeks through which they were smuggled were finding their way into various markets, which has made unsuspecting Nigerians consume poisonous rice capable of causing cancer and other ailments.
They also said rice preserved with poisonous chemicals and reagents were being shipped into the country from mostly Asian countries.
Speaking at the media briefing, Chairman, Presidential Committee on Trade Malpractices, Dahiru Ado Kurawa, explained that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was determined to end the importation of rice as the country has the capacity to cultivate rice to meet local demand.
He lamented that Nigeria remains the biggest importer of rice in the world, and the importation of rice through seaports puts heavy pressure on the nation’s foreign exchange.
He said about “600 million metric tonnes of rice is cultivated worldwide. Nigeria imports three million metric tonnes and of the 600mmt only 40mmt is traded internationally across borders. Meaning most countries cultivate and consume. That aside, 80 per cent of rice worldwide is cultivated in small farms of two hectares or less.”
In his remarks, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hammed Ali, stated that the service would deploy helicopters and drones to monitor the popular illegal routes used by smugglers to flood Nigeria’s markets with contaminated rice.
“We know there are porous borders all over Nigeria. We can’t cover all of them even if we’re to deploy all our men. So, we’re going to deploy helicopters and drones to patrol these borders because we’re determined to end smuggling via land borders; 99 per cent of all the smuggled rice is contaminated and unfit for consumption. That is why you see young people in Nigeria suffering cancer. So, if you must import rice, use the seaports,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, the Acting Director-General of NAFDAC, Yetunde Oni, said the agency was involved in the rice production value chain to ensure farmers stick to best practices.
“We’re not farmers but we’re deeply involved in the rice value chain. We ensure the rice is grown on proper soil, the proper fertilizer applied and the right processes and procedures followed,” she said.