By CHINEDU IBEABUCHI
Local rice millers have raised an alarm that the Nigerian government loses over N1.7 billion worth of revenue every month to smuggling activities in the rice sector . The millers, under the aegis of Rice Millers, Importers & Distributors Association of Nigeria, RiMIDAN, called on the government to ensure a level playing field in the sector and remove waivers.
The Association said this is worrisome owing to the fact that it has a total of about 4.5 million Nigerians employed in its value chain, adding that the figure excludes the not less than 2.7 million jobs created in areas of logistics, handling & sundry services in other sub-sectors of the industry.
Mr. Tunji Owoeye, chairman of the Association disclosed this to newsmen in Lagos after a visit to the National Emergency Management Agency to commiserate with the recent flood victims in the country, with a donation of N50 million worth of rice,
Mr. Tunji said, “Rice occupies an important place being the staple food of Nigerians. According to government statistics, yearly consumption of rice is about 5.5million tonnes. It is also a known fact that local production accounts for about 1.8million tonnes, thus necessitating the need for importation to bridge the gap.
“Unfortunately, 50 per cent of these imports are smuggled into the country. This is why the nation cringes under the effect of any negative or adverse development that affects the agricultural sector. We complained severally in the recent past about the activities of smugglers of rice and its devastating effect on the Nigerian economy.
“From records available to us, the total loss of revenue to the government from this unwholesome activity for the period commencing January 2012 till date is over Two Hundred Million Dollars (N32 Billion).
“We also worked out the simple summation: 30,000 metric tonnes every month as smuggled commodity means that the Nigerian government would be losing over N1.7 worth of revenue every month. This is in addition to the problems it is causing for the local development initiatives of the Federal Government of Nigeria.