- As Customs begs Nigerians: Treat Smuggling, like Robbery
African Development Bank (AfDB) President, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, at the weekend predicted that Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, will become the largest exporter of rice in the world within the next four years.
Adesina indicated this at the Mo Ibrahim Forum in Morocco, noting that by 2021, the pilot phase of the Dangote Outgrowers Scheme launched in Sokoto State would have created jobs for 16,000 rice farmers in the state.
He therefore advised that Africa should focus on agriculture to drive growth and employment on the continent, recalling that during his tenure as Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture, Dangote decided to invest in local production of rice due to government’s import substitution policies.
Adesina noted that Dangote initially planned a 300 million-dollar investment in production and processing of rice in Nigeria but later changed it to one billion dollars, three months after.
“If they continue that policy, he would probably be the single largest producer of rice in the world, in about four years.
“The reason why I was so excited about that is that agriculture is cool, agriculture is a business and agriculture pays,” Adesina said.
Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chairman, Dangote Ltd, said he ventured into rice cultivation because of government’s interest to revive agriculture as the mainstay of the economy and reduce importation of food that could be produced locally.
He lamented that Nigeria consumes 6.5 million Metric tonnes of rice which costs the nation over two billion dollars annually and commended government’s policy that encourages private sector’s active participation in agriculture.
“In the next three years, we want to produce one million tonnes of quality rice, make it available and affordable to the people.
“We hope to do 150, 000 hectares and when we are done, Nigeria will not have anything to do with importation of rice,” Dangote said.
According to him, Dangote Rice Outgrowers Scheme is committed to creating employment, increasing incomes of smallholders farmers and ensuring food security in the country.
He said that to achieve the goal, the scheme would provide high quality seeds, fertilizers, agro-chemicals and technical assistance on best agricultural practice to farmers.
“This scheme will help to diversify the economy, alleviate poverty and reduce the nation’s import bill.
The scheme has been designed as a one stop solution for the rice value chain,” Dangote stated.
In the meantime, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) image maker, Joseph Attah has stressed the need to see smuggling as a crime, lamenting that until Nigerians see it in the same prism as stealing or robbery, the Service might not receive the required support.
Attah stated this in Abuja, while appealing for maximum support of the citizens, stressing that the Service is only carrying out Government mandate and policies and nothing else.
”In Nigeria when a thief is arrested or an armed robber is arrested, you hardly get to see people going to beg for them.
“But today when a smuggler is arrested you see Nigerians, including some respected ones in our society, coming to beg for such persons to be released because they don’t see smuggling as a crime; they see it as a trade,’’ Attah said, urging Nigerians to always avail the Service with desired information to curb smuggling.
The image maker was however happy that current strategies of the Service was yielding positive results, noting that in the past three months, the service had seized 136,506 bags of rice.
“All Nigerians should see smuggling as a crime so that they will support the service to succeed in our ongoing war against smugglers.
“Seeing smuggling as a crime means that you will be willing to give creditable information that will help us succeed.
“As villagers that live around border line, they should be willing to support customs officers whenever they make seizures and they are encountering some difficulties, rather than supporting the smugglers against customs”, he posited, assuring that the Customs Service would do better, if Nigerians provide more relevant information the activities of the smugglers.
He raised the alarm that smugglers now take advantage of the porous borders, adding that oftentimes they are supported by villagers at the border line and unpatriotic well to do individuals in carrying out their smuggling activities.
“NCS cannot 100 per cent vouch for its officers like any other human organisation; it is totally wrong to suggest that every criminal activity must be with the connivance of
an operative,” he added.
Attah however assured that the service would remain focused on its core mandate, particularly the enforcement of government policies, rather than being distracted by the blame game.