The federal government has warned a neighbouring country that if 120,000 metric tonnes of rice from Thailand headed for her, but meant for the Nigerian market slips in, that country would see her its eyes.
Nigeria has banned the importation of rice; but, like other banned goods, Everyday.ng learnt, they are imported into the Republic of Benin or Togo, and then smuggled into Nigeria.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had early last year released data to journalists showing that the amount of Chicken and other goods shipped to Benin from abroad were the largest in Africa, because they were meant for the Nigerian market.
It was not clear Monday if the federal government would consider the “sabotage option” to stop the rice from arriving the neighbouring country, but it was gathered that a stern warning has been issued “at the highest level of government” to stop these “insiduous acts that were targeted at derailing” the Nigerian economy.
Once, when Nigeria closed her borders on the western flank over increasing trans-border crimes, the leaders of countries there came begging because their countries depended on her for business to survive.
Meanwhile in Abuja, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has told the country’s neighbours in clear terms that smuggling remained a threat to Nigeria’s existence adding that the government could not permit the level of smuggling going on.
At the Quarterly Business Forum on agriculture, agribusiness, and the agro allied value chain in the State House, Osinbajo noted that the country was at a special moment in her journey to food security, and to becoming a power of processed agricultural products, but feared that smuggling, among others, was becoming an impediment.
Said Osinbajo: “Smuggling is a serious threat to our economy, and Mr. President has asked me to head a team to work out what needs to be done. We are making the point to our neighbors, that smuggling is an existential threat, we can’t permit the level of smuggling going on.
“Last year, there was over 500,000 metric tonnes of rice around Christmas, which the Minister of Agriculture told us about and how it came in through one of our neighbours, but we blocked it.
“Now, three shiploads of rice have left Thailand, 120,000 metric tonnes, going to this same neighbour of ours who have very large warehouses where they store this rice. It is very clear that this rice is for us because our neighbours don’t consume parboiled rice, they consume the white broken rice. It is clear that our neighbours do excellent business, with allowing rice to come into Nigeria and other products including poultry
“I think it is important for us as a country, to make the point clear, that we are not going to accept that. We are all within the same economic zone and work together, so we go in a friendly and polite manner as possible, to ensure that this practice stops.
“For those who are familiar with it, the duty in some of these neighboring countries, especially for rice, is deliberately set lower than ours, it is about a fourth of ours. We have increased duty tax so as to discourage importation but they would naturally drop duty to encourage import and then it would come to Nigeria.”