From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government and the Republic of Benin, have agreed to work together to end the importation of rice in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
To this end, a meeting between a delegation from Republic of Benin and the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), led by the Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu and State and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, met with the Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari at the presidential villa, Abuja on Tuesday to to solidify the agreements and tap from Nigeria’s experience in reviving rice production.
Members of RIFAN were recently in Cotonou, the Country’s capital recently on the invitation of President Patrice Tallon for discussion on how the MoU would be fine-tuned and signed.
The Benenoise delegation, who was led by the country’s minister of agriculture, Gaston Cossi Dossouhoui.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after the meeting, Bagudu explained that the delegation and Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria met with the (CoS) to advance ongoing talks between the two countries on how to replicate Nigeria’s rice farming programme in Benin Republic.
He said the move is to see how they can discontinue rice importation to West Africa.
The governor stated: “Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria met with the chief of staff to the president to progress the discussion which has been going on between them and Benin Republic for the two countries to replicate the success of Nigeria’s rice farming programme in Benin, so that we can stop rice importation in west Africa in shortest possible time.
“This is partnership within the framework of ECOWAS agreement and the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement and our brotherly relationship between president Muhammadu Buhari and President Patrice Tallon who have the safe vision that we can be greater together.”
Also speaking, the Chairman of Rice Farmers Association, Aminu Goronyo, explained that the Benin government is desirous of learning from the Nigerian experience in rice production.
He added: “They are here because they have seen the successes recorded in the area of rice production in Nigeria and their President was so happy, he was excited.
“And he said they must come to Nigeria, partner with Nigerian rice farmers and see how Nigerian farmers can replicate the same thing in Benin Republic so that they will be able to achieve the successes this government recorded in the area of rice production.”
Asked what Nigeria can teach them, he said: “Of course, they are our sister country, we are one and the same people and I think their president is ready to accept what we have used to achieve these successes which is the government’s will because our successes is related with the political will that this government has.
“And that is exactly what they want to learn so that they will use the same approach to attain the successes they are seeing to come to us to learn more.”
President Talon had said during the delegation visit that the closure of Nigerian Borders served as an eye opener to the country as such, was ready to work with Nigeria to stop smuggling of rice.