Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Abubakar, has stated that the ministry would maintain collaborative efforts with security agencies to cut the illegal importation of rice through land borders.
Abubakar stated this at a meeting of the steering committee of the national task force on illegal importation, this was contained in a statement signed by Mabel Mbosire, senior information officer at the ministry.
Abubakar noted that the import ban on rice had led to a significant rise in domestic rice production and opened economic opportunities for rice investors in Nigeria.
”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,” Abubakar said.
”Therefore, if the smuggling is left unchecked it will jeopardize 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.”
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.
The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Hameed Ali, stated that the meeting had brought about an avenue for the committee to deliberate how to tackle 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.
The Chairman, Presidential Committee on Trade Malpractice, Dahiru Ado, stated that his committee would continue to pursue and arrest vessels that bring in rice into the country through the Benin Republic.