From: Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The governors of the 36 states of the federation have expressed worry over the quality of rice being consumed by Nigerians, describing them as substandard and harmful to the human body, calling on the Nigeria Customs Service to expeditiously take measures to arrest the situation.
In a statement by the Nigeria Governors Forum Head, Media and Public Affairs, Abulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, said this was contained in a communiqué from their last meeting which took place in Abuja.
The governors said that huge consignment of rice still finding its way into the Nigerian market was imported into the country since 2014 when the Goodluck Jonathan administration issued a very liberal import license regime to those who were able to bring a substantial quantity of rice into the country using a waiver from the presidency at the time.
The governors noted that while some bulk of the consignment was stale, others were either rejected in other countries or had overstayed in various warehouses before they found their way into Nigeria through the activities of some unscrupulous elements.
The Nigeria Customs Service was invited to shed light on the matter in order to a solution to the problem.
“Governors expressed concern that Nigerians were either falling sick or losing their lives to the consumption of these substandard produce even though some of the states of the country have commenced elaborate efforts to produce rice in commercial quantity with a view to halting the nation’s over-reliance on staples that can be produced locally.
“Most governors of the states that have already embraced the back to land mantra of this administration frowned at the situation where Nigerians snubbed the locally produced commodity in preference for foreign ones which were most of the time, stale, contaminated or even fake,” the statement read.
In their brief to the Governors’ Forum, the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, represented by Deputy Comptroller General Dangaladima Aminu said that although there is an upsurge in the smuggling of rice through the nations land borders, there has been no alteration to the prohibition on the importation of rice through Nigeria’s land borders and that any quantity of rice which finds its way into Nigeria through land routes was smuggled commodity.
Dangaladima said that rice was usually smuggled into the country through unauthorized border routes which span more than 4000km and that these smugglers were aided by border communities who alternated between motorcycles, canoes and rafts to smuggle contraband rice into the country.
He added that “your excellencies, it may interest you to note that a motorcycle can make up to 30 trips with six 50kg bags of rice per night depending on the distance and when the border communities are not smuggling the produce themselves, they are aiding or providing cover for smugglers.”
However, Dangaladima added that rice merchants had recorded huge losses as a result of seizures by the customs. He disclosed that in 2014 customs seized 12000 metric tons of the commodity, 4503 tons in 2015 and 14000metric tons in 2016.
He informed the governors that the customs “takes the issue of smuggling of rice seriously, having identified the danger posed by it to the economic well-being and health hazards it constitutes to the Nigerian people.”