Group accuses Customs officials of aiding rice smuggling

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Rice dealers under the aegis of the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), has accused officials of the Nigerian Customs Service of aiding the smuggling of rice into the country.

Speaking in Abuja at the weekend, Chairman of RIPAN, Mohammed Abubakar, disclosed that between January and March this year, over 20 million bags of rice were smuggled into Nigeria.

He said officials of the Nigerian Customs Service posted at the borders of colluding with smugglers to commit this economic sabotage against the policy of the Federal Government which aims to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production

Abubakar said that the 20 million bags (50 kilogrammes) of smuggled rice translated to about one million metric tonnes of the product.

He warned that the development could impact negatively on the integrated rice processor’s capacity, which had increased from 800,000 metric tonnes in 2014 to 1.6 million metric tonnes in 2018.

He said, “Investors in Nigeria have made enormous financial commitment in the rice sub-sector.

“Unfortunately, the only threat to the industry’s total development is smuggling. Over one million metric tonnes of rice, which is about 20 million bags of 50kg rice, were smuggled into Nigeria in the last three months

“Nigeria currently loses huge revenues, foreign exchange and jobs to this menace. Nigeria rice processing companies are shutting down because of their inability to gain market access.

“More painfully, millions of small-holder farmers are stuck with their paddy because the millers can no longer afford to buy from them.”

He added, “There is the need for urgent action to avert eventual national food emergency by combating smuggling so that we can continue to grow our local rice industry and the economy.

“Investigations have shown that all our international borders have been converted to smugglers’ routes and our markets are filled with smuggled foreign rice.”

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