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RIFAN Backs Customs Raiding Of Smuggled Rice In Ibadan Markets

THE Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) has thrown its weight solidly in support of the Nigeria Customs Service for raiding markets in Ibadan, Oyo State, and confiscating rice allegedly smuggled into the country.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, the Association led by its Director-General Dr. Andy Ekwelem said “they (Customs) have done well with the raid on markets that are dealing on smuggled Rice and we encourage them to do more. The Nigeria Customs Services can count on our support anytime”.

The Association also frowned at the decision of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges, and Public Petitions during its public hearing on Tuesday directing the Nigeria Customs to return the impounded rice from the traders’ shops.

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At the hearing, the Senate had concluded that the Nigeria Customs Services erred by raiding the market in Ibadan and confiscated smuggled Rice.

Dr. Ekwelem who was flanked by RIFAN Executives, Sadiq Kashim and Abba Dantata, said “Rice Processors Association of Nigeria is shocked and disappointed by the directive; and we wish to state unequivocally, that the instruction given to the Nigeria Customs 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.

“Over the past years, the Nigerian Customs Services have borne blames over smuggling of food items especially Rice. Each time the menace rises, stakeholders fall over themselves blaming the Customs. In several fora and events, even those who do not understand security management will postulate ways via which the Customs can do their jobs more effectively.

“The instruction is nothing but tacit support to smuggling and it leaves much to be desired. It also to a very large extent paints a picture of insensitive to the plight of the Nigerian investor.

He pointed out that members of the association and all actors in the entire Rice value Chain are patriotic individuals who hearkened to the invitation of the Federal Government for private sector investments in the Rice processing sector in particular and the Rice Value Chain in general.

“These individuals have invested trillions of Naira and are currently providing millions of employments (both Direct and Indirect) to the teeming Nigeria labour force. It is worrisome that the legislative chamber whose responsibility it is to protect them are the ones unwittingly undoing the efforts”, he added.

The group advised the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions “to take a second look at the matter from a National economics prism because from where we are currently with the Nigerian economy, personal biases must be eschewed if we must make progress”.

The Rice Processors Association then warned that “if smuggling is not tackled with appropriate dispatch, the magnitude of loss to Nigerian Rice Stakeholders starting with the Federal Government, Integrated Rice Millers, Cottage Industry Rice Mills, FundingBanks, CBN, Rice Farmers, workers, and Rice consumers would be too devastating for a fledgling economy like ours”.

Stressing the need for an urgent action to avert eventual national food emergency, the body added, “We must all join hand to combat smuggling. What we need is to grow our local capacity and not Foreign Rice”.

He recalled that since the inception of the present Administration in 2015, the Federal Government through its various agencies particularly the Central Bank and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development has expended millions of taxpayers’ money trying to grow local capacity in the Rice Subsector.

Nigeria’s Agricultural Credit Support Scheme (ACSS), Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme, Anchor Borrower Programme, The Paddy Aggregation Scheme (PAS) facility, and the current Paddy farming initiative that looks to fund Nigerians who want to grow their own.

According to him paddy is a few of the Governments efforts to ensure Food Security, create employment opportunities, conserve scarce foreign exchange and diversify the economy, adding that “now that smugglers are being protected, encouraged and emboldened, we can be sure that these efforts are in dire risk”.

“No economy can survive under this kind of circumstance. The major challenge that has confronted both private sector effort and various government investments in the Rice sub-sector, has been smuggling across the country’s porous borders.

“Unpatriotic elements and some briefcase local and foreign merchants who will not invest in the Nigerian economy continues to frustrate our noble economic hard work to grow the Rice Value Chain. In a cohort with their agents in neighboring countries of Benin Republic, Republic of Niger and the Republic of Cameroun continued to flood the Nigerian Market with cheap and unhealthy smuggled Rice from either India, Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asian Countries”, he added.

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