The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has described the plans by the Federal Government to close the nation’s land border so as to curtail the rise in the smuggling of rice into Nigeria as too simplistic to deal wit smuggling.
Director General of the LCCI, Mr Muda Yusuf, said the Federal Government needs to be more strategic to successfully tackle the issue of smuggling foreign rice into the country.
He described smuggling as a symptom of problem and that closing the borders will not solve the problem of smuggling of rice.
He said: “We have to be more strategic when dealing with economic issues. This is a very simplistic way of dealing with the challenge of smuggling. Smuggling is a symptom of a problem and when you begin to fight a symptom you cannot solve the problem. You need to identify the cause of the problem”.
Muda said rice smuggling cannot be eradicated in Nigeria by simply closing borders. According to him, the solution “is to see what you can do to scale up productivity so that it can narrow the demand-supply gap.”
He then urged the Federal Government to implement problem-solving policies and not merely block borders.
“Sometimes, you solve a problem not just by physically blocking the road and borders but through policies.
“If you are going to close the border entirely for a product that is just about 2% of the nation’s GDP. What happens to 98% of the GDP,” he said.According to him, there is major problem with productivity of agricultural produce in Nigeria.
“There is a major issue with productivity in Nigeria’s agriculture sector. If we have a country of this kind of population and this kind of agriculture sector that has very serious productivity challenge, you are likely to have this kind of problem”, he argued.
He said although the Federal Government has taken steps to boost agriculture, especially rice production, the demand, however, surpass the supply.
Therefore, better solutions need to be proffered by the Federal Government.
“Although, there have been some efforts (by the Federal Government) to support the production of rice but we are still very far from what the demand is. There’s a demand gap of close to 2.5 to 3 million metric tonnes of rice locally,” he said.
Meanwhile, a member of the Senate; Shehu Sani also yesterday described the move by the Federal Government to close Nigeria’s border with an unidentified country due to rice smuggling as wrong.
The Kaduna senator shared his point of view on his Twitter handle, where he wrote; “It’s wrong to shut down the land borders ‘because of rice smuggling’.”
“Our layers of security operatives should be able to combat or prevent smuggling without suffocating legitimate businesses and stifling border communities,” Sani added.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh had said on Monday that the Federal Government will soon shut down the land border between Nigeria and a neighbouring country.
Ogbeh who did not mention the particular country and border, said that shutting the borders had become necessary to encourage local production and sustain the economy of the country.
The minister said that a neighbouring country was bent on destroying the economy of the country and discouraging local production of rice, hence the need to shut down the border.
“Our other problem is smuggling. As we speak, a neighbor of ours is importing more rice than China is importing.
“They do not eat parboiled rice, they eat white rice, they use their ports to try and damage our economy.
“I am telling you now because in a few days, you will hear the border has been shut, we are going to shut it to protect you, us and protect our economy.
Meanwhile, rice farmers under the auspices of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN)have hailed Federal Government’s move. National President of RIFAN, Aminu Goronyo, said the move by the government will save the country billions of naira spent on rice importation on daily basis from Thailand and other countries, and increase productivity of his members across the country. According to Goronyo, Nigerians have been consuming chemical preserved rice from most countries, and have, therefore, become carriers of cancer-related diseases, aside from negatively impacting the economy.
He said: “It is a good move by the government for the entire country because huge amount of money has been spent on rice importation from Thailand.”