Saraki: Smuggling Threatening $7Bn Investment in Rice Production

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The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has expressed concern that about $7 billion invested in rice production in the past 10 years is being threatened by smuggling of the grains into the country.
Saraki said except the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, moves fast in bringing smuggling of rice into the country to a stop, the huge investment will be wasted.
Speaking during a public hearing on smuggling organised by the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariffs, the Senate President said smuggling has become a big threat to efforts to boost national development such as local rice production.
He called on stakeholders to come up with recommendations on how to save the nation from smuggling.
Saraki said, “The level of smuggling that we are seeing cannot continue because they will definitely rubbish all the policies of government if allowed to go on. Today, the greatest threat to small holder farmers is smuggling. Rice farmers who have gone to take loans either from the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) or from commercial banks are being threatened by rice coming in from across the borders at highly subsidised rate.
“A time will come, if we do not do anything, that these farmers will not be able to pay their loans to the banks and this will result in serious crisis. The banks that have given loans to these farmers, will also have crisis in their hands. And for the Central Banks that has intervened with billions of Naira again will not be able to recoup their money
“The processors who have invested in rice mills at the beginning of this administration will also be threatened if we do not address the issue of rice smuggling.”
Saraki promised that the National Assembly will assist the executive in the efforts to check smuggling.
He also called on the Customs to do more on checking smuggling of rice through the border stations.
He said, “There is no government, any serious government, that will render itself helpless because we must know the individuals who are doing this smuggling. We must be able to know who they are. Is it that they are larger and bigger than government? Is it that we cannot stop them? Or is it that we don’t want to stop them? Or is that we lack the competence to stop them? These are the questions that we put before us today. We must stop them. Customs must do what it takes to stop smuggling .
“We must be able to sanction officers who are responsible for this and we must be able to reward officers who prevent the issue of smuggling. We want this Committee to sit down for the length of days of public hearing and ask ourselves what is the way forward. I can assure you that our responsibility as a Senate is to ensure that whatever recommendations are made by this Committee we have to send them back to the executive because as I said this matter is the singular greatest threat to our economy and to this government”.

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