Senate President Bukola Saraki on Monday said the activities of smugglers are threatening Nigeria’s self-sufficiency in rice production and must be dealt with in the interest of citizens.
Speaking at the opening of a public hearing on “Smuggling – A Threat to Nigeria’s Quest to Self-Sufficiency in Rice Production’’, organised by the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff in Abuja on Monday, Saraki said that in spite of the present administration’s effort to make food sufficiency a cardinal policy, it was faced with rising level of smuggling at various borders.
He cautioned that if not nipped in the bud, the situation would adversely affect the growth of the local market and revenue generation among others. “Our local producers have continued to face daunting obstacles posed by the activities of smugglers, in spite of government’s restrictions on importations.”
He decried the health problems posed by smuggled goods, saying that importation of unwholesome goods had caused ill health and even deaths.
He said that the Senate’s intervention was informed by the need to find a lasting solution to the problem.
Saraki said that sanitation of local rice production in the country would, in line with Senate’s Legislative Agenda, encourage diversification.
He called on the Nigeria Customs Service to identify the smugglers to bring an end to their menace, describing them as “greatest saboteurs of the economy’’.
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The Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Hope Uzodinma, said reports had revealed the huge harm being done to the economy by activities of smugglers. “Those that may imagine that this is an exaggeration should do well to refer to a recent report of the World Bank on smuggling in Nigeria.
“The report was unequivocal in stating that an astonishing five billion dollars or N1.45 trillion worth of different goods are smuggled into Nigeria annually through Benin Republic alone.”
The lawmaker stressed that it was more frightening to note that the annual turnover in the hands of smugglers was more than the country’s annual budget.
He said the World Bank report further noted that over 25 per cent of the total annual revenue collected by Customs was lost to smugglers each year.
According to him, if you go by the projected revenue of the service for this year, which is approximately N600 billion, it means that the service will lose N200 billion in revenue, this year alone.
He pointed out that there were other issues of leakages, arising from miss-invoicing by international traders, abuse of free trade zone policies and temporary import permit.
“No serious legislative arm of government will sit supine while smugglers are allowed to ravage the economy and deny the government huge sums of legitimate revenue.”