Being a remark by DCG Customs, Mr. Umar Iya at Joint Customs- NAFDAC Press Conference in Abuja December 29, 2016
It gives me great pleasure to address gentlemen of the press on a topical issue arising out of our operations as a critical actor in national security management. Yet again, we are doing this jointly with our sister Agency, the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, (NAFDAC) underscoring our belief in collaboration and synergy between Agencies of Government.
You may recall that recently, our operatives in Lagos intercepted a consignment of Rice, based on credible intelligence. Customs action was based on an earlier intelligence we received from Office of the National Security Adviser, alerting us and other frontline Agencies that large consignments of plasticized rice were said to be shipped from the Far East to Africa. As the largest market for imported Rice in Africa, Customs took the alert seriously and charged Officers to watch out for such imports that do not conform with regulatory requirements.
When the consignments of Rice in question were brought to Customs Warehouse, our apprehension became heightened when we observed glaring lapses in the packaging. The bags of Rice had no NAFDAC Number, batch number, manufacturing or expiry dates.
We could also not see any detail about the manufacturers on the bag. We were left with no option than escalating our findings to the Agency that is statutorily charged with the responsibility of confirming the true status of the import.
As required by the law, officials of NAFDAC were invited to draw samples for laboratory analysis. However as we know how social media works in our clime, the outcome we are about to hear today was pre-empted.
Irrespective of the outcome of the laboratory analysis, Customs will remain vigilant and alive to its responsibilities. We are still guided by the intelligence we have which indicate that several metric tonnes of expired and dangerous rice are still lying in wait at warehouses in neighboring Countries.
The target of these products is Nigerian markets. We will therefore intensify our patrols to ensure that economic saboteurs do not succeed. We will urge Warehouse owners across the country not to accept such smuggled products in their facilities. We enjoin transporters to reject moving such products as under the law, both smuggled products and the means of conveyance are liable to seizure. We will rely on the synergy with NAFDAC and other Agencies of Government to ensure that only rice that is certified fit for human consumption is allowed on our shores.
We also like to use this medium to commend the determination of Nigerian Rice Producers who have taken the challenge of addressing the rice sufficiency gap very seriously. We commend the various State Governments whose decisive interventions have led to the present bumper harvest of local Rice. While this may lead to significant revenue reduction for Customs in the short run, the multiplier effects of increased local production of Rice in terms of job creation in the value chain will benefit the economy in the long run.
Once again, we want to commend the Acting Director-General of NAFDAC, Mrs. Yetunde Oni for this partnership. We appreciate the dispatch with which the laboratory analysis is being handled, so that we can quickly address this topical issue.
Nigeria Customs Service