Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) has rebuked the Senate over its order to Customs to release seized contraband foreign rice to traders in Ibadan.
RIPAN said if the decision is implemented, it will kill the local rice industry, and throw over 7 million Nigerians out of jobs as rice smuggling will be entrenched in Nigeria.
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The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on the 4th of May 2021 asked the Nigeria Customs Service to return the smuggled goods it impounded from rice traders’ shops in Ibadan, Oyo State.
At the hearing, the Senate concluded that the Nigeria Custom Services erred by raiding the market in Ibadan and confiscated smuggled Rice packed in the various shops.
Briefing journalists in Abuja on Thursday, Andy Ekwelem, the director-general of the association, said the “instruction given to the Nigeria Custom Services, counteracts the resolve of both the Nigerian Government and Good people of this country to grow our local capacity in the Rice sector in-order to be in control of our food security.”
“The instruction is nothing but tacit support to smuggling and it leaves much to be desired. It also to a very large extent paints a picture of insensitive to the plight of the Nigerian investor.
“RIPAN and indeed all actors in the entire rice value chain are patriotic individuals who hearken to the invitation of the federal government of Nigeria for private sector investments in the rice processing sector in particular and the rice value chain in general.
“These individuals have invested trillions of Naira and are currently providing millions of employments (both Direct and Indirect) to the teeming Nigeria labour force. It is worrisome that the legislative chamber whose responsibility it is to protect them are the ones unwittingly undoing the efforts” they wondered.
The DG further stated that since the inception of the present administration in 2015, the federal government through its various agencies particularly the Central Bank and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, has expended billions of naira in taxpayers money trying to grow local capacity in the rice subsector, but the legislators want to jeopardise that huge investment.
“The major challenge that has confronted both private sector effort and various government investments in the rice sub-sector, has been smuggling across the country’s porous borders. Unpatriotic elements and some briefcase local and foreign merchants who will not invest in the Nigerian economy continues to frustrate our noble economic hard work to grow the rice value chain,” he said.