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Customs loses 70 officers in fighting smugglers of rice, others in 10 months

There is palpable apprehension at the quarters of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), following the report released by the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, that the service has lost 70 officers to smugglers this year.

Addressing members of the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria who paid him a courtesy visit in his office in Abuja, Ali said the biggest problem confronting Customs was the issue of smuggling.

He said smuggled rice in injurious to health, as the life span of rice is two years. He said most of the smugglers re-bag the rice and change their life span to three to five years.

While decrying that “The borders are porous and they are long,” the CG revealed that “All the smugglers and rice millers are targeting December, and I can assure you that we have alerted all our men and also working with police, military and para-military to make sure that smuggling is reduced to the barest minimum”.

“All we need from you is information, because it is key to what we do; we cannot achieve much without correct information.

“You (Millers) have said that you have identified some routes; all we need is the correct information about this route to track these smugglers,” Ali said.

“I was in Benin Republic few months back to speak with Benin Customs and identify areas of collaboration and see what can be done to make sure that the trade between us does not jeopardise Nigeria’s economy.

“The Benin economy is dependent on Nigeria and the only thriving business there is the port.

“Customs will deploy every possible means to fight because most of these smugglers are highly technically organised.

“Some are within us; some part of us because some of them have dual dealings; they work as farmers and at the same time smuggled rice; we are narrowing down on this people and surely the law will take its course,” he said.

Responding, the Chairman of the association, Alhaji Ibrahim Abubakar, said with the efforts of the current administration, rice production in the country had doubled, adding that more than 25 major farmers were into rice production.

He disclosed that the aim of the visit was to discuss issues of rice smuggling and provide strategic ways to solve the problem.

Abubakar was happy to tell the CG that “Nigeria is heading towards self-sufficiency in rice”.

He told Ali that “One of the things we need to do as millers is to alert the customs on our experiences as regard to rice smuggling”.

“This rice is not coming into the country from one angle; but from almost all our borders in the north, especially from Daura in Kastina, Jigawa, Ilorin, Ibadan and from the creeks in the south-south.