By Stephen Ubanna
For years, rice millers and processors, have been working on officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, particular, Godwin Emefiele, the CBN, governor, who has the ear of former President Goodluck Jonathan and now Muhammadu Buhari , in to faciltate the closure of the common borders with the neigbouring Republic of Benin, Niger, Chad and the Central African country of Cameroon.
The rice milles and processors may have spearheaded the closure of the land borders to retain their control of the nation’s rice mart which have almost slipped out of their hands because of people’ s patronage of the smuggled par boiled rice from the Asian country of Thailand. parboiled rice as seen as n match.
Note that the local rice millers and processors had almost lost the rice market which they blamed on smuggling and dumping through the Republic of Benin and other border posts across the country. It was not surprising why they were said to have piled up pressure on Emefiele and other top CBN officials to impress it on President Muhammadu Buhari, to ‘’do something about it. That much was confirmed by the CBN governor. The pressure from the Rice Millers and Processors may have forced him to arrange a meeting with the President in order t to listen to their Complaints. The meeting between the CBN governor and the millers and processors, particular, according to sources were said to have been held several time and later with the President. Who became convinced that the land borders across the country needed to be closed to protect the local rice farmers market.
Emefiele, the CBN governor also said that much while addressing Reporters on the border closure on Abuja on Monday, October 28, 2019. ‘’I am aware that some meetings we held, in addition to the engagements with the President before the borders across the country were closed’ he had said. Perhaps, when the Rice Millers and Processors became convinced that they have won the heart of the CBN governor who has the ear of the President, they shifted their attention to the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS. The Rice Millers and Processors were said to have closely with the Rice Millers and Dealers Association of Nigeria, RIM DAN, to reach out to Abdullahi Dikko, the immediate past Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS and continued the pressure on Hameed Ali , a retired Army Colonel, and who is incidentally the current customs Comptroller General , in order to win their support. RIMDAN may have got it right when they started donating anti-smuggling patrol vehicles and giving financial support to the Service as a way of giving a helping hand in the fight against rice smugglers, across the country’s porous borders.
The fallout was that when the government came up with the border Drills comprising of the NCS, as the lead agency, Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, the Police, Military, Department of the State Security, DSS, and the Directorate of Military Intelligence, DIM, to man the borders with the neigbouring countries, to ensure that there would be no imports or exports, Ali, the NCS , Comptroller General, threw his weight on it.
Investigation by The Values t shows that that since the the Katsina state born Nigerian President gave ahead for the closure of the nation’s land border, foreign rice smuggling into the country has been minimised over the last two months. This evident going by the report of the Rice Millers and Processors Association to the government that within one week of the country’s border closure they sold over 50,000 ‘’50’’ bags of rice, an indication that the foreign rice smugglers who use Benin and other neigbouring countries as base to smuggle the item into the country had actually deprived them of having a firm control of the country rice market.
The Chairman of the Rice Millers and Processors Association who could not hide his feelings over the border closure across the country and its gains , was said to have to have confided on the CBN governor that before the border closure they were having over 25,000 metric tonnes, which translates to 500,000 ‘’50’’Kg bags of rice of unsold milled rice in their warehouses in different parts of the country because of the activities of the foreign rice smugglers from Benin and other neighbouring countries.
Emefiele, disclosed that the same Rice Millers and Processors, who had been complaining of lack of patronage over the years are happy that all the rice in their warehouses had been sold as they now struggle to meet the local demand. Given that the foreign par boiled rice smugglers from Republic of Benin, are no longer finding ease to smuggle the item into the country because of the tight security at the country land border areas across the country, let alone meet the demand of their local Customers, many of the foreign rice dealers who do not want to be forced out of the market were said to have transferred their loyalty to members of RIMDAN who deal directly with the rice millers and processors, to get their supplies for sales.
The dealers were said to have been depositing money into the Millers and Processors account in the recent time to ensure that their supplies are regular to meet the need of their Customers, including hoteliers who need it on a daily basis .
Indeed, the border closure may have forced importers who were landing the cargo at Benin Terminal, Cotonou, and Bollore port in in Republic of Benin to resort to the use of’’20’’ Containers to stock the item and land it at the Nigerian ports, The Containerised rice importers may have been unlucky at Tin can Island port as Comptroller Abdullahi Musa, eagle eyed officers at the port were said to have frustrated their efforts as the Containers were seized.
This may have been one of the reasons why the Customs Comptroller General based was in Lagos on Tuesday, October 29, 2019. O Given the briefing from Musa , the Area Comptroller, the Customs Comptroller General, disclosed that the Command discovered 33 Containers which were loaded with ‘’50’’ bags of rice and an additional Container of rice Concealed with Spare parts. Note that given the government policy on rice imports into the country through the portsand land borders, the Containerised cargoes were promptly seized.
This is an indication that no matter the tactics employed by rice importers to flood the Nigerian market with the item, by land or the seaport, Ali, the Customs Comptroller General was said to have prepared the mind of the Officers to be ready for them.
Given the tight security at the land borders and the country seaports to ensure that foreign rice did not enter into the country, the local rice farmers appear to have risen up to the challenge to fill the gap created by the rice importers and smugglers in the country rice market in the last two months. Recall that an elated , Emefiele, had attributed it to the rise in the number of Companies setting up integrated and small mills across the country.
He disclosed that between 2015 and 2019, the Companies were able to set up the facilities because of the loan from the apex bank . The loans were said to have also encouraged the farmers to acquire seedlings, fertilizers and some herbicides for rice production.
Notwithstandung that the local rice millers and processors are making a headway in the Nigeria rice market, other Heads of State and Government of other West African countries , including Cyril Ramaphosa, African Union, AU, Chairman, and President of South Africa were said to have intensified pressure on Buharithe Nigerian President, to re-open the closed borders with the neighboring countries which is already having a toll on their economies.
But Emefiele, the CBN governor was said to have told those that cares to listen that before the borders would be opened ‘’ there must be concrete engagements with the neighbouring countries that allowed their ports to be used as landing ports for bringing in goods that are smuggled into the Nigerian market’’.
The apex bank governor insists ‘’that the engagements must be held at all cost, so that the countries will agree on the basis of what products they can import into the country. He noted that if the imports are for their local consumption , ‘’it is understandable, but if it is for re-export to other land locked countries like Niger and Tchad, which are smuggled into the country, , the parties would have no option but to agree to stop it because ‘’it undermines the nation’s economic policies’’.
There are fears in both official and unofficial circles, that Patrick Talon, the Beninese President may not want Buhari, his Nigerian counterpart to dictate for him what type of goods should be landed at his country’s seaports. He was said to have told his close political associates that he will never mortgage the sovereignty of Benin to satisfy the Nigerian government economic interest.
This is an indication that the borer closure would drag until he is ready to see reason to stop allowing his country to be used a s base for smuggling prohibited goods, particular foreign parboiled rice into the Nigerian market.
In a related development, Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, may have taken advantage of his visit to Tincan Island port to discuss the i overtime cargoes that liter the terminals with Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, and the terminal Operators, as they agreed to set up a Task Force, to look into the matter without further delay.
the terminal operators had at a meeting a recent meeting with the Representatives of the importers with their agents had agreed to give waivers of 90 % on the demurrage charged importers as a way of encouraging them to take delivery of their overtime cargoes but that was how far they could go.
5,057 total views, 2 views today