Rice Smugglers: EFCC, Security Agencies Get Matching Order
The days of the illicit rice smuggling business may soon be over as the Presidency has given the anti-graft bodies, security agencies and intelligence outfits, a marching order to put a stop to the ‘deliberate’ act of economic sabotage by persons it claimed do not mean well for the nation.
The law enforcement agencies have also been mandated to check the excesses of unrepentant smugglers, who have devised ways to beat the security agencies and Customs officials in the import of foreign rice into the country.
This is coming against the backdrop of the frightening alarm raised by the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), who recently said that over one million metric tons of rice have been smuggled into the country in the last three months.
In the wake of RIPAN’s worrisome revelation, PRNigeria gathered that some ‘highly notorious smugglers’ who operate within and outside the country and their routes have been identified.
“The suspected smugglers and their collaborators in government are currently being monitored. Not only will security operatives raid various rice smugglers market across the country, their patrons would soon be apprehended, while their bank accounts will also be frozen,” disclosed a top intelligence source.
Meanwhile, as part of measures aimed at tackling rice smuggling menace, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)Ibrahim Magu, held a meeting with executive officials of RIPAN, at his office in Abuja, on Tuesday.
Magu, reiterated EFCC’s readiness to dealing with criminal elements such as rice smugglers, whose illicit trade is sabotaging the diversification agenda of government. He regretted that the country is losing huge revenues, foreign exchange and Jobs as local rice processing companies are shutting down because of their inability to gain market access.
“We will definitely confront and deal decisively with the enemies of progress and economic saboteurs very very soon!” Magu assured.
In a statement issued by EFCC spokesperson, Tony Orilade, Members RIPAN, led by its Vice President, Mr. Paul Eluhaiwe sought the Commission’s intervention towards stemming the tide of rice smuggling, which they noted was threatening the Federal Government’s initiative on domestic rice production.
According to them, they are losing millions of naira in revenue to rice importers as they are now unable to sell their stock due to dumping by the importers.
The importers are a cartel that ship-in parboiled rice into the country through Benin Republic and Niger Republic, from where the products are smuggled into Nigeria. According to Eluhaiwe, “The smugglers do not pay duties, government loses revenue in the process, a clear case of economic sabotage.”
He disclosed that the rice is imported from India, Thailand and Vietnam, saying “The produces are inferior to our local rice, but the importers are able to sell at cheaper prices because they do not pay duties.”
One of the local producers claimed that he used to sell 10 trucks loads per day before December 2018, but since then, he is barely able to sell two trucks per day. Consequently, he was forced to lay off staff and reduce the capacity of his mill.
He has also not been able to patronise those who supply him as a consequence. These experiences, he said, cut across all producers.Checks have shown that although there is enough local rice for consumption, various brands of imported rice whose import duties and taxes are not paid which made them cheaper have flooded Nigerian markets in recent times. A development that has made nonsense of the achievement so far recorded by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
At a recent press briefing, RIPAN’s Chairman, Mohammed Abubakar Maifata, said: “Investors in Nigeria have made (an) enormous financial commitment in the rice sub-sector. Unfortunately, the only threat to the industry’s total development is smuggling. Over 1 million metric tons of Rice which is equivalent to about 20,000,000 bags of 50kg Rice have been smuggled into Nigeria in the last three months.
He said investigations conducted by the association in the last few months indicated that “all our international borders have been converted to smugglers route and our markets are filled with smuggled foreign rice.”
Mr Maifata also stated that “government must as a matter of urgent national importance, take strong diplomatic action with our neighboring countries who allow parboiled rice into their country for final destination to Nigeria. The government may consider closing the borders for some time if diplomatic overtures fail.”