Rice Smuggling: Govt May Close Down Some Borders – Ogbeh

  • As Osinbajo Warns against expectations of overnight solutions

Tired of policing a porous border, worsened by activities of unappreciative neighbours, the Federal Government on Monday threatened to shut down some land borders, if the smuggling of rice from the neighbouring countries continue unabated.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh issued the threat in Abuja, while speaking with newsmen on some topical achievements of the Federal Government’s in the agriculture sector, in the past two years.

Ogbeh said the decision had become necessary to encourage local rice farmers and to enable the country achieve self sufficiency in rice by 2018, stressing that Government’s vision is that Nigeria in five to six years from now, should be able to earn between N10 to N30 billion from exportation of agricultural produce annually to service the country’s debts and build a robust foreign reserves.

“We believe they are determined to sabotage the efforts that we are making to guarantee self sufficiency in rice and to save foreign exchange which we don’t have.

“They insist on bringing in rice through the land borders, avoiding the duties and the levies we put on them and they are definitely bent on sabotaging our efforts and we are getting increasingly unhappy with them.

“And I must say that very soon, if they persist, we will take very nasty measures against them.

“We will like to advise our neighbours, who believe that the ECOWAS treaty means that Nigeria is a volunteer nation for economic suicide.

“We have no such plans, destroying our own economy to make any neighbour happy.

“The ECOWAS treaty number two  does not suggest that any country can be an avenue of smuggling foreign goods not produced in that country for dumping in his neighbours territory.

“If they insist, I do not think that government is far away from considering permanently closing certain borders very near us and when we do, nothing will make us change our minds on the issue, ECOWAS treaty or not,’’ Ogbeh warned.

The minister said that the importation of rice reduced from 580,000 tonnes in 2015 to 58,000 tonnes by 2016.

According to him, by the end of this year, we will eliminate the difference because more people are growing rice in the country.

He said the Federal Government would distribute no fewer than 200 rice mills to millers across the states of the federation to encourage fresh milling of locally produced rice in order to make them more palatable than the imported ones.

Ogbeh said the move would save about five million dollars for the country daily when achieved.

According to the minister, about three months ago, there was this cry about Nigeria going to starve and we told them that there will be such thing.

“We have never produced as much grains as we did in the last two years in this country’s’ history.

“We have fed not only Nigeria, we have fed West Africa and there are still thousands of tonnes in people’s warehouses.

“Those who bought grains and stored believing that starvation was near and they will make a killing they are now begging us to take off the grains from them because they are getting stock.

“The only shortfall we have is maize because of the disease called the armyworm.

“We are dealing with that and this planting season, we are going to support farmers to make sure that we bring that disease under control.

“We have done amazing things in agriculture in two years, we are still going,’’ Ogbeh said.

The minister maintained that the government was assiduously working towards achieving self sufficiency in staples, excluding wheat, within the next two years and would not be dissuaded

In the meantime, acting President Yemi Osinbajo has advised Nigerians not to expect sudden fixes to the mirage of challenges facing the country.

The acting President said yesterday that it will take some time to solve both the economic and political problems of Nigeria which have been accumulated by mistakes of the long past.

In a nationwide broadcast to mark the 2017 Democracy Day celebration and two years of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government, Osinbajo said, “we did not find ourselves in crises overnight, and we simply do not expect overnight solutions to our challenge.”

Osinbajo stated that given the quantum of problems created by the bad leadership of the immediate past Goodluck Jonathan government, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2016, dedicated greater percentage of the budget to clearing up the ‘mess’ and putting things in order.

“Indeed, much of 2016 was spent clearing the mess we inherited and putting the building blocks together for the future of our dreams; laying a solid foundation for the kind of future that you deserve as citizens of Nigeria,” he said. Osinbajo, who noted that every Nigerian deserved a country that works, said the nation was not merely for the rich or those connected in high places.

The acting President, therefore, stressed that the vision of the administration was to ensure that the nation’s wealth would no longer be stolen by a few. He added that the situation where there was widespread corruption with impunity, whether in the public or private sectors, will no longer be standard operating practice in the country.

The Federal Government, according to him, would strive to rid Nigeria of all bandits and terrorists in every part of the country.

His words: “Our promise to you is that we will, with your support and cooperation, take every step needed to create that country of our dreams. “And that vision is also for a country where the wealth of the many will no longer be stolen by or reserved for a few; and where the impunity of corruption – whether in the public or private sectors – will no longer be standard operating practice; a land rid of bandits and terrorists.

“As citizens, you all deserve a country that works, not merely for the rich or connected, but for everyone. And our promise to you is that we will, with your support and cooperation, take every step needed to create that country of our dreams.

“We also know that this journey will, of necessity, take time. But we will not succumb to the temptation to take short-cuts that ultimately complicate the journey. We did not find ourselves in crises overnight, and we simply do not expect overnight solutions to our challenges.”

Additional report from Citizen