Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Muhammed Abubakar says his ministry will continue to collaborate with security agencies to reduce the illegal importation of rice through land borders.
The minister said this during a meeting of the steering committee of the national task force on illegal importation, according to a statement from the ministry signed by Mabel Mbosire, senior information officer.
Abubakar said that the ban on rice importation had brought about a significant increase in local rice production and unlocked economic opportunities for rice investors in the country.
“The ministry is very concerned about the increase in smuggling and has convened this meeting to discuss critical issues to strategise and come up with concrete measures to enable the committee to carry out its duties effectively,” he said.
He noted that the improvement in the rice sub-sector needed to be sustained for the country’s economic growth as signified by the contributions of the agricultural sector to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).
“The resumed smuggling of foreign rice, especially through the land borders, is constituting a serious threat to these achievements.
“Therefore, if the smuggling is left unchecked it will jeopardise all government efforts to enhance the domestic rice industry and make them ineffective.
“The federal government and the private sector have invested a lot of resources in rice production and processing over the years, because of the government’s commitment to the development of the sub-sector through its various interventions,” he said.
Abubakar explained that the Nigerian rice industry recorded significant progress in investments due to an increase in the quality and quantity of the milled rice.
“There is no better time than now to maintain the rice production momentum to achieve self-sufficiency for food and nutrition security, job creation, wealth generation and import substitution,” he added.
In his remarks, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, said the meeting had presented an avenue for the committee to deliberate how to curb insecurity and smuggling of rice into the country.
“The Nigeria Customs Service cannot fight alone in the operation of the border patrol, but needs other security agencies, such as the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps, to beef up the joint operations of the task force,” he said.
Speaking at the meeting, Dahiru Ado, chairman, presidential committee on trade malpractice, said his committee would continue to track and apprehend vessels that bring in rice into the country through Benin Republic.
The statement said that the meeting resolved that the NCS should continue its border patrol operations and procure additional equipment to strengthen its operations.
They also agreed that Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) officers should be deployed to complement border patrol coordinated by the NCS.
Other resolutions reached by the participants included stiffer penalties for rice smugglers and Nigerians should be encouraged to eat and patronise local rice.