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Contrary to claims by the Nigerian Customs Services (NCS) that it has fought rice smuggling to standstill at land borders, investigations have shown that up till now, over 80 per cent of rice consumed in Nigerian cities especially Lagos is smuggled either from Seme axis or Idiroko in Ogun State.
Checks by Business Hilights Intelligence Unit (BHIU) along Lagos-Badagry Expressway, weekend showed that the rice smugglers either hustle in rice in concealments to beat Customs surveillance at the border post, or they ferry rice in through the criss-crossing creeks dotting Lagos and Ogun State ocean water bodies.
However, majority of the dealers who are tagged by other business operators around as ‘powerful and highly connected women’ stock their rice in a hideout warehouse somewhere around Alabarago, near Lagos State University, Ojo campus main gate.
Further investigations showed after successfully storing safely smuggled rice bags, the dealers use Motorcycle operators (Okada) to ferry the bags to their customers inside any part of Lagos. The Okada Riders carry between five and six bags at a go depending on the strength of the machine.
They also move in a convoy with the dealer trailing them for direction and security checks along the highway.
Additional checks at the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture product depot near Ojo Military Cantonment, on the Badagry Expressway showed that since this year, Lagos State Government has not taken any delivery of Lake Rice from its rice farming partners in Kebbi State.
In an undercover interview with one of the staff at the depot, the official revealed that “There seems to be some logistic issues between the Lagos and Kebbi State governments on the rice farming partnership even before the recently concluded 2019 election.
“We have not taken any delivery of rice from Kebbi State since this year and nobody is telling us the reason behind it.
Only recently, the leadership of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), announced in Abuja that Nigeria currently consume rice worth not less than N1.2bn daily.
However, checks across Lagos and several other cities in Nigeria punctured the claims of the RIFAN President, Aminu Goronyo, who claimed that his group’s findings showed that virtually all rice consumed across the country were cultivated and processed locally.
Goronyo was reacting to recent advertorial against RIFAN and the CBN suggesting that contrary to using the funds from Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) of the apex bank to produce rice locally, farmers are in the habit of importing rice in a veiled format after converting funds from ABP.
RIFAN president noted that “No single naira was converted to the dollar to take to China, India, Thailand or anywhere else to bring rice into Nigeria for Nigerians to consume since 2015.”
“All the rice we eat are grown and processed locally and that has been the case for a good four years. So foreign rice has never entered Nigeria through the deliberate plan against importation by the Central Bank of Nigeria, to help those of us who farm this rice.”
Continuing, he averred that “Every blessed day, Nigeria consumes a minimum of N1.2bn worth of rice. This happens every day. So if there is no deliberate effort to grow production, where are we going to get this rice?”
While defending that the CBN and the Federal Government had succeeded in blocking the importation of rice into Nigeria, he noted that rice farmers are seriously deepening their production capacities in every state.
But the puzzle that is yet to be solved is how many Nigerian rice brands can be easily found in markets in Lagos and other cities across Nigeria?
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