By Onimisi Alao, Yola and Adamu Suleiman, Sokoto
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has arrested members of a syndicate that imported foreign rice and re-bag it as local rice.
The Adamawa/Taraba Command of the NCS, which arrested the suspects, also seized 150 bags of foreign rice concealed under 300 bags of beans in a truck conveying the consignment.
The Zonal Controller of the command, Karmadeen Olumoh, addressed reporters on the development yesterday in Yola, the state capital.
He said the syndicate comprised 15 members who specialised in emptying bags of foreign rice into Nigeria-branded bags and passing them off as local rice.
The Customs controller said the practice, carried out mainly to beat efforts at controlling the sale of foreign rice in Adamawa markets, contravened Federal Government’s rice import ban and frustrated moves by the NCS to mop up foreign rice from the markets.
Conducting reporters round the rice re-bagging warehouse in Yola, he said: “In our continuous efforts towards sustaining the fight against smuggling, officers and men of the Adamawa/Taraba Command, in conjunction with Federal Operation Unit and Task Force, stumbled on this warehouse.
“What we have here is foreign parboiled rice smuggled into the country. What they are doing here is to repackage. They open the bags of foreign rice and empty them into local-branded bags.
“We have here about 900 bags of rice, each weighing 50 kilogrammes. The duty paid value is N14.5 million.
“We have arrested 15 suspects, including the manager, the warehouse owner and 12 labourers.”
Also, the National President of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, has said the closure of the country’s land borders is a good omen for the blossoming economy.
The RIFAN national president said this had begun to boost the nation’s economy, making it to become more robust and transformed.
He noted that this would translate into more prosperity for the country and its citizens.
Goronyo said it was not just for the benefit of local rice producers but also meant to encourage and inculcate the spirit of nationalism, patriotism and economic discipline among Nigerians for self-sufficiency in food production.
“It is to the advantage of our farmers, processors and millers. It has also created massive employment, boosted the Agriculture sector as well income among Nigerians,” he said.
Goronyo, who spoke with The Nation in Sokoto yesterday, said the border closure had saved the country over N300 billion used annually in importing rice and boosted the economy of the exporting countries to the disadvantage of Nigeria.
“It has supported their economies in terms of infrastructural development, employment and so many other developmental projects, at the expense of our efforts. It is a thing to celebrate that all these have been checked and brought under control with the closure of our borders,” he added.
According to him, “Nigeria is only using 20 per cent of such sum to produce over 10 million metric tonnes of paddy rice, which is above our consumption ration of 7.5 million metric tonnes”.
Goronyo said: “It may interest Nigerians to know that from 2015 to date, Nigeria’s percentage of rice consumption has been significantly from local production.
“Therefore, I am urging Nigerians to see the Federal Government’s strategic border closure as a wake-up call to patriotism and not about rice producers making money. It is rather to ensure that Nigerians are remarkably producing what we eat locally, thus open window for export to earn foreign exchange for economic prosperity.”
Enugu State government has urged the residents to embrace rice farming.
It promised to make available farmland for the cultivation of the cereal to improve production.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Matthew Idu, made the promise while addresseing reporters yesterday in Enugu on land border closure.
Idu said the border closure would boost local rice production, especially in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area.
“Since the state joined the FADAMA project, government has found out that about six, out of the 17 local government areas in the state, have arable land for rice cultivation in large quantity.
“The state government is, therefore, calling on residents to engage in rice farming in those areas with arable land and consultants, who are into training on how to cultivate rice, are available,” he said.
The commissioner listed the local governments with arable land for growing rice as Uzo-Uwani, Aninri, Awgu, Nsukka, Nkanu and Orji River.