By Gabriel Ewepu
Abuja – The Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), has urged the Federal Government to sanction neighbouring countries and Customs officers aiding and abetting the multi-billion rice smuggling racket in Nigeria.
This was part of the issues raised by RIPAN’s chairman, Hon Abubakar Mohammed, during a press briefing in Abuja on massive smuggling of foreign rice into the country.
Mohammed also alleged that some officers of the Nigerian Customs Service, were part of the rice smuggling elements, and described it as sabotage to local investors
He said he owes no grudge against the federal government for allowing rice importation into the country, but frowned at illegal activities of some custom officers, who it alleged of joining hands with disgruntled elements to smuggle rice into Nigeria.
The Chairman of RIPAN, Hon. Abubakar Mohammed, who commended the Nigerian Customs Service for their anti-smuggling war, noted that their effort is presently under threat due to the activities of smugglers in active connivance with some of their officials at the borders.
Mohammed said the trend portends danger to the huge investments in Integrated Rice Milling in Nigeria.
Mohammed said though they have no capacity to meet up with daily needs of Nigerians in rice production, allowing massive smuggling activities of rice into the country would have negative effects on the effort put on so far by the government to boost rice production in Nigeria.
He said it is high time the Customs Service carried out internal check on its officers with a view to smoking out the bad eggs among them, who are tarnishing the image of the service because of their personal interests.
To this end, the association appealed that, “The federal government at the highest diplomatic level (Presidency) should engage the Governments of these neighbouring countries on modalities to fashion out joint anti-smuggling initiatives in tackling illicit smuggling of rice into the Nigerian borders.”
They also suggested that neighbouring countries should increase their tariffs on rice, as it might help in curbing smuggling into Nigeria.
“We advise that threats of strong economic sanctions from the federal government against these countries for aiding and abetting smuggling of rice into Nigeria might go a long way in reducing this economic sabotage against Nigeria,” he said.
Mohammed called for partnership of the Nigerian Customs Service and the Department of State Security Service (DSS) and other relevant agencies to track down the activities of smugglers, adding that activities of conglomerates that are in the forefront of this smuggling must be investigated.