Call for security beef up at land borders to curb smuggling of commodity
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Nigerians were baffled by the twist and turn of the #EndSARS protest across the country to fight against police brutality as it became violent affecting, the rice industry was attacked on all fronts, making operators count huge losses over looting and burning of their infrastructures.
This made the Coordinator, Nigeria Farmers Group and Cooperative Society, NFGCS, Redson Tedheke, to express dismay and condemned the protest over looting and burning private warehouses after which investors have taken huge loans with high-interest rates to fund rice fields and pay workers in order to boost the rice value chain and make a profit to recoup their investments.
According to Tedheke the looting and burning of warehouses under the guise of the protest and with the excuse of looking for COVID-19 palliatives stored and stocked in warehouses was really uncalled and condemned it.
He said: “Every movement in Nigeria that is nationalistic and directed and targeted at the Nigerian nation is good. However, once it gets beyond improving the Nigerian nation it becomes a problem and that was what #EndSARS became at the later stage of the protest.
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“We the Nigerian Farmers Group and Cooperative Society, NFGCS, are farmers, now a cooperative and a business employing over 500 Nigerians, sitting on a 3,500 hectare of farmland in Nasarawa State, paying over N5 million excess in salaries monthly and just coming out of COVID-19 did not need #EndSARS.
“We needed it to stop the police from extorting us on the road. We did not need it to break into warehouses where Nigerians like us have suffered to produce and kept our goods in the warehouse.
“Secondly, we also did not need it to open up borders and allow foreign imports to flood the Nigerian market, and what does that do because that in itself becomes another pandemic to Nigerian farmers.
“In short it became an epidemic for farmers nationwide because a nation can only survive by what she is able to do locally, produces locally, revives her local industries and support, and I saw that in all of the challenges that faced every nation during the COVID-19 era she is able to generate, regrow based on her local capacity.
“So when #EndSARS protest started looting, violence started, what simply happened was that some of us who are farmers who had produced and warehoused our produce, when it was time to sell it became difficult to sell because the land borders were overrun by bandits, criminals, those who did not believe in the Nigerian dream because every time you forcefully open the border and bring in imports-rice, pepper, tomatoes or whatever you think we can produce here, what you are bringing in is poverty, joblessness, hunger, banditry, kidnapping.”
He decried abandonment of the land borders that currently affects local investors and said, “So for those days we felt we were doing something noble to be able to reform the police, EndSARS, and stop what they were doing that was wrong we inadvertently created another monster and that monster is joblessness because as far as there are imports running in through our borders and in Lagos, what we have ended up doing we have created calamity for farmers in this country are going to live with for a very long time. So, #EndSRAS as noble as it was is a curse to the Nigerian farmers.”
He also added that “So when you (youths) complain about joblessness, remember, you are part of those who succeeded in tearing our borders down and survival down, and you were a problem and not a solution.”
Also speaking was the National President, Rice Millers Association of Nigeria, RIMAN, Peter Dama, lamented the negative impact of the #EndSARS protest on his members which their operations were stopped and supply chain to their customers disrupted.
According to Dama the disruption led to a scarcity of rice in the distribution chain and an increase in the price of the products in the market as supply was disrupted and demand increased.
He said: “The forceful opening of the borders led to the smuggling of rice into the country and Nigerians who have developed taste for foreign rice began to reject our locally produced rice for the smuggled ones.
“In fact, some of our distributors began to reject our supplies under the guise that they already have enough stocks that are unsold. That in itself affected rice Millers as they were unable to recoup funds already invested in the produced rice given to distributors. It, therefore, affected their sales and profit margins.”
The RIMA boss also expressed worry based on an alleged statement made by the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, that soon the Federal Government will open land borders, which he said will tremendously impact the rice value chain.
“At the moment Rice millers/ farmers and all those involved in the rice value chain in the country are worried over the rumour credited to the Minister of Finance that Nigerian borders will soon be reopened.
“This will have a tremendous negative impact on our investments and government desire to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production. In short, it will amount to disaster and policy summersault. We advice strongly that government should not allow rice importation into Nigeria.
“The current situation about production and sale of rice is that millers have increased their production capacities because of the festive season that is approaching and the new harvest of rice paddy that is presently ongoing in the rice-producing zones in the country. Sales will therefore pick up because of demand at this period. Prices of different brands will begin to go down as new rice paddy comes into the market hopefully.”
However, he demanded that RIMAN should be compensated by the government following attacks on his members’ properties that were terribly damaged and looted.
“In addition government should provide adequate security to rice milling factories across the country. It is also important that trucks conveying tonnes of milled rice for delivery to zones in the country be given special security cover and easy passages on our routes for delivery.
“Government should not open borders and if they insist on reopening the borders rice should not be allowed into the country as it will destroy all investments done in the rice value chain in addition to our near attainment in rice production self-sufficiency.
Meanwhile, he advised Nigerian youths to go for the dialogue option instead of violence that would make their future hopeless.
“We advice that youths should always seek the path of dialogue instead of embarking on the protest that leads to destruction of lives, goods, properties and services.
“Government should on its part listen to the youths and adhere to it is promises made for implementation of the demands of the youths. Efforts should be made to provide gainful employment for the youth’s and they youth’s should also respect constituted authorities.
“Youth’s should avoid anti-social behaviours and try to proffer solutions to problems peacefully instead of taking up a path that hoodlums will capitalize on their good intentions to bring havoc on the society. The destruction of our commonwealth sets us back”, he stated.
The situation the #EndSARS protest current puts investors in the rice value chain indicates pain and backwardness it has caused the industry.
The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Farmfunded, Ajisope Joshua, asserted that the protest has done more harm than good following the violence that it later threw across the country which rice investors have been terribly hit by this action.
“The #EndSARS protest lead to security officials abandoning the land borders which foreign rice were brought into the country despite closure of the borders and before the #EndSARS protest there were movement of foreign rice into the country through the land borders but at an expensive rate because smugglers pay people for it to come into the market.
“The #EndSARS protest also contributed a lot to the inflow of foreign rice into the country as there were no security personnel then to man the borders and the commodity flowed into the country freely.
“This led to the price of Nigerian rice to reduce. From the information I gathered at Galekan market in Lagos, which is one of the biggest rice markets in Lagos State, a bag of foreign rice was sold at about N30, 000 while Nigerian rice was selling according to grades ranging from N25, 000-N17, 000”, he said.
He also said the smuggling of foreign rice into the country is affecting their morale and commitment as a result of this they are feeling the impact on their business.
“Now the borders are indirectly opened it is affecting us as entrepreneurs and largely traceable to the bloody #EndSARS protest.
“There will be job losses with this action of youths who carried out looting and stealing. The government couldn’t restrain them and our members were affected as their mills were looted and burnt, and also we have to refund monies paid by our customers because they were afraid, and we made losses as a result.
“What we need as an association is for government to compensate us because we are really down with the devastation made by hoodlums and miscreants under the guise of #EndSARS protest”, he stated.