Respite is coming the way of Nigerians who had been decrying the galloping price of rice in the market as the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), has ordered the immediate removal of rice from import restriction list. Accordingly, he has re-introduced import duty payment at land borders.
The Public Relations Officer of customs, Mr. Wale Adeniyi, made this known in an interview with journalists in Abuja.
He 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.
Investigation on Saturday around major rice selling markets including Alaba-Rago and other spots along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, the key smuggling route for rice to Lagos, show that rice price is now in descending order following the Customs directive.
A dealer, Alhaja Bilikisu Shuaib said “With the removal of rice from the list, all the bribe money we give out on the road from Seme to Alaba-Rago will stop and this will automatically lead to lower rice price and saturation of the market”. She explained that what skyrocketed the price of rice is the high expenses they make while smuggling in the priducts. her position can be said to have vindicated a recent report by the World bank that Nigeria lose over N37 billion from smuggling and rice is at the top of the list.
Adeniyi further 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.
“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 (rice) 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 reognise 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.`
It would be recalled that before the ban on rice importation, customs had placed different rate of levy on rice imports as over 30 per cent levy was placed on rice millers (preferential levy) and 70 per cent for rice importers.
The essence of the different rates of levy was to encourage local production which experts say do not have the capacity to flood the country now.