By Rev.Fr. John Damian Adizie

An order of few bags of rice was made by me, Rev. Fr. John Damian Adizie of Adoration Orphanage Home, Amede, Ekpoma, Edo State, as I was reliably informed that the prize of rice is cheaper at Lagos than over here in Edo State.

With our meager fund we decided to order eighteen bags  of rice for our orphanage home but unfortunately, the men of Nigeria Customs & Exercise impounded the rice at Ore checkpoint under the leadership of one Mr. Okorie. The driver explained to the officers that the rice belong to an orphanage home, but they paid a deaf ear. After the seizure, I decided to send a good number of people to plead with the custom officers to release the bags but Mr Okorie, the Custom officer in charge, bluntly refused to release the bags, He told me  that he will not release the rice, insisting that the order was from the Presidency.

But let’s assume it is a foreign rice, the purchase was made in a local market in Lagos where it was cheaper. I was surprised that goods sold in open market in Lagos suddenly became contraband in the process of covenyance to a location in Nigeria.

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Recently the RICE farmers in Nigeria under the aegis of Rice Farmers Association (RIFAN) appealed to the Federal Government and Edo State government to come to their aid following the destruction of thousands of hectares of rice farmlands by flood in several communities in Edo State. And my question goes thus:  with the ravages caused by flooding this year 2018, does the ban on rice importation still make sense?

The National Vice President of the association, Mr. Dirisu Abdulsalam, laments “There are problems in rice production and the worst of it at the moment is that flood has washed away crops and even submerged some of our members and other villagers’ houses. “Therefore, we appeal for assistance from any tier of government… so that our farmers will not commit suicide.

“The flooding will reduce rice production chain in the state, and more so, these farmers have lost millions of naira to the flood. The funds were sourced externally from banks, among others and now they are indebted to those that borrowed them the money.” So, what does this say concerning our so-called local rice production.”

Rice that was sold at N9000 Naira before the coming of this present regime is now sold at N20000 in places like Edo State which is more than 100 percent increase.

During the World Food Day, the UN Secretary-General declares, “Zero hunger is about joining forces…” He insisted that the world need “stronger political will and more financial support… until everyone has enough and quality food”.

Pope Francis also stated; “what is needed is the willingness to end hunger, and this ultimately will not happen without a moral conviction… The struggle against hunger urgently demands generous financing, the abolition of trade barriers and, above all, greater resilience in the face of climate change, economic crises and warfare,”

Some well meaning Nigerians have also advocated for Export free zone, as opposed to trade barrier. Among them is the Oba of Benin Kingdom, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare 11 during his visit to the office of the Executive governor of Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki.

He declared; “I have been passionate about the export free processing zone. When President Buhari came to visit me at Uselu when I was Ediaken N’Uselu, I mentioned it to him. I repeated it in the coronation speech and then reiterated it when the governor visited me as the Oba of Benin. This is to show how passionate I am about the Export free zone.

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“When I was in Rome I tried to bring some investors to Benin, to develop the Gelegele sea port specifically. But I was advised by some professionals that if I focused on the development of Gelegele sea port, the Federal Government would not support it but if I looked towards the development of Export free zone tied to agro allied industries, the government would like it. I looked at it and I started working on that ever since and when I came to Nigeria I focused on it. When I read in the papers that the technical committee has been set up for the development of Gelegele sea port by the state government I was very happy. But I know what the governor wants to do there is not the sea port itself but Export free zone which we want to pursue there.”

The ban on the importation of food is directly against the Export free zone, which the Oba and other well meaning Nigerians are advocating for.

His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, also declared that Nigerians are hungry and angry: “Our young people are the worst hit.  They are unemployed, hungry and angry.  They are venting their anger on one another while we, their elders, are silent.  Could it be that some of us, their elders, are stoking the embers of violent disintegration?” The so-called hate speech, riots and insurgencies that are paramount in the country is as a result of hunger and unemployment. An idle mind is devil’s workshop. A hungry man is indeed an angry man,” Okogie said.

While the Holy Father, the United Nations and well meaning Nigerians are calling on world leaders to end hunger at all cost, the Nigerian leaders are actually making life difficult and unbearable to their citizens by banning the importation of certain essential food. As the Holy Father rightly declares, the only way to solve the problem of hunger is by abolishing every trade barrier that has to do with food. Food is a basic human need!

When there was famine in the land of Israel the children of Jacob went to Egypt to purchase some grains. Imagine what would have happened if there was a ban in the importation of food. The Israelites would have all starved to death.

With all the killings that has taken place in our country either by the herdsmen, Boko Harram and other insurgents, the country has recorded the highest number of orphans. Last week Wednesday the UNICEF’s Deputy Representative in Nigeria, Pernille Ironside, declares that  a ministerial strategic plan states that Nigeria has 10.5 million children aged 6-14, out of school. Most of these Out-of-school Children are orphans. Unfortunately, the government does not even have any programme for orphans. Does it mean the orphans are not citizens of this great nation?

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Whatever be the case, I am using this medium to appeal to the Comptroller general of the Customs, the Presidency to wade into the matter to release the 18 bags of rice belonging to the Orphanage of the Holy Spirit, Amede, Ekpoma, Edo State. We are not receiving any subsidy from the government to run the orphanage. So, I don’t see any reason why the Customs officials and the government should starve the orphans, especially now that Christmas is at the corner.

Rev.Fr. John Damian Adizie is the Spiritual Director, Orphanage of the Holy Spirit, Amede, Egoro, Ekpoma, Edo State.

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