From Uche Usim, Abuja
The Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), has condemned the recent directives by the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges to the Nigeria Customs Service to return the bags of rice and money which its officials reportedly seized from some shops in the Oja Oba market in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
Director General of the Association, Andy Ekwelem expressed the organization’s shock at the new verdict which he described as ‘most disheartening, saddening and unfortunate’. He further disclosed that the ruling portends disastrous outcomes capable of sending shock waves that can slump the Nigerian rice industry.
Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday, Mr Ekwelem said ‘As you may have heard, the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on Tuesday 4th of May 2021 asked the Nigeria Customs Service to return the smuggled goods it impounded from rice traders’ shops in Ibadan, Oyo State’
‘At the hearing, the Senate concluded that the Nigeria Custom Services erred by raiding the market in Ibadan and confiscated smuggled Rice packed in the various shops’
‘I wanted to begin today by saying that the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria is shocked and disappointed by directive; and we wish to state unequivocally, that the instruction given to the Nigeria Custom Services, counteracts the resolve of both the Nigerian Government and Good people of this country to grow our local capacity in the Rice sector in-order to be in control of our food security’
‘This directives from the Senate to the Nigeria Customs Services portends dire consequences for both the Nigerian Economy and her People especially current investors, potential investors and youths. It is capable of sending shock waves that can collapse the industry. of course, when investors release that their investments are not protect by adequate legislation, they will have no option but withdraw their funds from the economy’
‘Rice smuggling is a crime against the State and is not justifiable no matter what’
Also speaking, Abba Dantata, Manager of Fursa Crown Rice blamed the high price of Nigerian rice on insufficient incentives and poor facilities available to farmers. He said if more farmers go into rice farming, the price of rice will automatically crash.
According to Dantata, Nigerian farmers do not enjoy the kind of support farmers in other rice producing nations such as India and China enjoy which makes foreign rice seem cheaper.
Mr Sadiq Kassim of Wacot Rice said that some of the ways more farmers could be encouraged to go into farming was by providing more incentives and dams for irrigation during the dry seasons.