The National Rice Millers Association of Nigeria (NRMAN) said that the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) erred in its decision to lift the ban on importation of rice through the land borders.
The Chairman of the association, Mohammed Abubakar, said the NCS overreached its statutory mandate as an enforcement agency in taking such a policy decision.
Besides, Abubakar said, if the customs succeeded in its decision, it would destroy Nigeria’s rice value chain attained by the previous administration.
He said the decision was an attempt by the customs to legitimise the smuggling of rice.
“First of all, the customs does not have the power to do that, it is a matter of national policy and customs does not make national policy, it is an implementation agency.
“This will completely kill the rice value chain and everything concerning rice production will stop; customs does not have the right to make such decision.
“This ban was placed six years ago and everybody knows that, so it does not have any reason to say rice should be brought in through the land borders.
“Anyone who gives such directive has smuggling intentions,” he said.
Abubakar said the association would do everything possible to make customs to see patriotic reason and rescind the decision.
He urged government to be focused and have the political will to make sure Nigeria becomes self sufficient in rice production. It was reported that the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), on Wednesday ordered the immediate removal of rice from import restriction list and the re-introduction of import duty payment at land borders.
The Public Relations Officer of customs, Wale Adeniyi, said that the restriction was only applied at land border stations before now, adding that the customs boss had lifted restriction on rice at border stations.
Adeniyi said that all rice imports through land borders by rice traders would attract the prevailing import duty of 10 per cent with 60 per cent levy.
He added that rice millers (preferential levy) with valid quota allocation would also attract duty rate of 10 per cent with 20 per cent levy on rice importation.
He said: “Over the years, importation has been restricted to the seaports because border authorities have found it difficult to effectively monitor and control importation of rice. When the decision to ban it was taken it was not an effective measure because smuggling of the product thrives with people using different means of conveyance including small trucks, bicycles and even animals – putting them on donkeys and some actually carry it on their heads.
“These new measures will be for customs to reorganise their anti-smuggling operations in the border areas and ensure that all those importers through the borders bring their rice through approved routes and pay their extant duty.”
By Pita Ochai