Confusion in Seme border as $3Bn Nigeria-bound rice hang in balance
More facts are beginning to emerge as to why a set of elements in the Customs and their allies in online media for spreading a fake news that the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has delisted Rice from ban on land border.
Findings over the weekend revealed that rice worth over $3 billion meant for the Nigerian markets are said to be stuck in various warehouses in Benin Republic due to the federal government’s policy banning importation of the commodity through land borders and fierce customs anti-smuggling drive.
It would be recalled that Customs has in the aftermath of the fake news tightened its intelligence along the nation’s land borders.
The annual routine of importing rice into the neighbouring countries from July to December to make massive sales in Nigeria during yuletide has ran into murky waters as the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) has insisted that his men tighten the borders.
Geography of the nation shows that Nigeria shares major borders with Benin Republic at Seme Border (Lagos), Idiroko (Ogun State), Shaki (Oyo State),Chikanda (Kwara State) and other smaller openings. Prominent among them is Seme where the highest volume of trade and largest smuggling opportunity exists because of its easier access to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital city.
Seme border, which hitherto was a major transit point for foreign rice importation and smuggling also became a no go area for the commodity as almost daily seizures of 50kg bags of it have taken a good portion of the government warehouse .
Most of the warehouses where the bags of rice are kept before shipment into the country are now battling for space.
Some Seme border smuggling rings explained that some consignments of imported rice into the small West African country that had no space at the usual and popular stores were moved to makeshift storage areas and are exposed to rains, weevils and other unhygienic forms of storage.
They noted that popular warehouses no longer receive rice shipments as thousands of bags earlier delivered to them since July could not be evacuated into Nigeria as planned and as the usual case in previous years. Popular Cherika warehouse in Akpakpa near Cotonou with a capacity to hold 25,000 bags is fully loaded with Thailand rice with no hope of evacuating them into Nigeria except government relaxes its policy disallowing rice imports through border or customs softening their round the clock enforcement in Seme.
Nigeria Customs had in an October 2016 press statement reiterated government’s ban on rice importation through the borders. The statement signed by customs spokesman, Wale Adeniyi, reinforced its resolve to protect government’s attempt to improve local rice capacity.
However, Nigerians seemed tired of waiting on the so called local rice saturating the market, a story they have lived with since the beginning of this government, but no reality after all.