By Victor Ahiuma-Young
NATIONAL Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN, has pleaded with the Federal Government to hasten the plan to shut down the land border between Nigeria and Benin Republic in an attempt to curb smuggling of foreign rice into the country.
The union, in a statement by its President and General Secretary, Mr. John Adaji and Mr. Issa Aremu, respectively, said: “We support the decision of the Federal Government to shut down the land border between Nigeria and Benin Republic in an official attempt to curb smuggling of foreign rice into the country.
“It is our considered opinion that Benin Republic is nothing but a ‘border smuggler-economy.‘ Nigeria’s economy cannot recover and create needed mass jobs, until there is a cessation to serial border smuggling of all manner of goods.
“We recall that Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, had said that shutting the borders had become necessary to encourage local production and sustain the economy of the country.
“Apart from crisis of electricity supply, endemic smuggling through Benin border is a singular factor that has led to the total collapse of most manufacturing, especially textile and automobile industries in Nigeria with attendant loss of millions of jobs.
“We commend the implementation of anchor-borrowers’ programme initiated by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, which has dramatically led to self-sufficiency in rice production.
“However, unless drastic actions such as border closures are taken, the new rice revolution, like other past self-sufficiency measures, would be a mirage.
”We recall that it was Benin border closure by the administration of then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in 2000 that led to an unprecedented recovery of the poultry and textile sectors in Nigeria.
“Smuggling must be treated as an unofficial declaration of economic war against Nigeria by Benin Republic. Smuggling is already killing Nigeria.
“Smugglers don’t pay taxes. They corrupt and even kill Customs workers, kill local industries and kill jobs with cheap and poisonous goods.
“Our union salutes the remarkable partnerships between the Federal Government and governors of Kebbi, Lagos, Kano, Jigawa, Anambra and Ebonyi, which under Buhari’s administration in two years reduced rice importation by 95 percent and increased the number of rice farmers from five million to 30 million.”