Even though it is preaching local cultivation of rice and claimed to be working towards total ban on importation of the staple food item, fresh indications have emerge that the Ministry of Agriculture has secretly receiving foreign rice from China.
A reliable source at the port confirmed to Shipping Position Daily last week that more than 60 containers of rice were recently received by the ministry through the Apapa port and that the rice was destined for some Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.
The containers were said to have arrived the Apapa port on 6th of April and were subsequently detained for a week by the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) an agency under the Ministry of Agriculture. The Quarantine Service apparently was not informed about the import.
Our source confirmed last week that the containers were later released after directives were passed from higher authorities.
He expressed shock that: “The ministry has been canvassing Nigerians to stop importation and purchase of foreign rice and embrace locally produced rice, this is why we were shocked to find out that the ministry imported 60 containers of rice from China, they said it was a gift from China for IDP camps”
“The government is not being sincere to itself, how can they be telling us that there is enough rice produced locally in Nigeria and yet they are accepting foreign rice from China”
"I believe there are other relief items they could have got from China for the IDP Camps"
However when he was contacted by Shipping Position Daily, Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Minister of Agriculture; Dr. Kayode Oyeleye denied the report.
Oyeleye told our correspondent that: “I am hearing from you for the first time that the Ministry of Agriculture imported rice, I had no such knowledge, I don’t think the ministry is involved”.
“Let us even assume that the ministry imported the rice, the ministry is working towards boosting local production, so let us even assume (which is not likely to be true) that the ministry is importing, they would want to use the Quarantine Service to check the issues of quality and safety before such consignment is allowed into the country, so if the Quarantine Services were not carried along, that shows clearly that the Ministry of Agriculture is not involved”, he concluded.
Also speaking with our correspondent on the development, Apapa Customs Area Controller, Compt. Musa Jubril said that rice importation through the seaport was not banned. He said that importers are allowed to import the commodity, provided they have all necessary documents.
“Rice is not prohibited from coming in through the seaport, the federal government has banned the importation of rice through the land borders, but any rice that is imported normally with the Form ‘M’ and everything and all necessary documents can come in through the port”, he said.