Worried by the increasing activities of rice smugglers which are impacting negatively on the nation’s revenue and efforts of local millers, the Rice Millers, Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (RIMIDAN) yesterday donated 150 patrol vehicles valued at over N600 million to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to tackle rice smuggling.
Speaking during the presentation ceremony at the Customs Headquarters in Abuja, President of RIMIDAN, Tunji Owoeye, said the donation was informed by the need to protect the rice business in Nigeria and ensure that the sub-sector plays its role of sustaining its due GDP to the nation’s economy.
He informed that investments in plants by members of RIMIDAN as of last count in 2012 were in the region of N200 billion with total people employed in the value chain standing at about 4.5 million.
The group which accounts for about 78 per cent of local rice production out of the 1.8 million metric tons produced locally also imports to bridge the gap between local production and consumption.
RIMIDAN, according to Owoeye, is about to consolidate relationships with international affiliates in the areas of technology transfer aimed at boosting local production of rice in view of the fact that agriculture accounts for about 30 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP.
“The above statistics go to show that RIMIDAN is indeed a major stakeholder in the agricultural and by extension, economic sectors of this country, hence our resolve to partner governments at various levels to realise the critical objective of food sufficiency and boosting local rice production,” he said.
He disclosed that government lost over N32 billion to rice smuggling in 2012 alone, adding that it was disheartening to note that these investments and policies of government were being threatened on a daily basis by the incessant smuggling activities of a small few.
“By their actions, these smugglers also threaten the means of livelihood of genuine investors in the rice business, denying the government of tax due them,” Owoeye noted, adding that no sector or professional group which makes as much commitment as MIRIDAN would keep quiet and not fight determinedly for the survival of this critical sector of the Nigerian economy.
“Incidentally and in truth, these commitments and potentials of the rice sector are being daily put at risk by the activities of these smugglers and their collaborators,” he said. “Whilst the government is trying to encourage local production of rice, thereby creating employment, income and value chain, some other people are rubbishing these noble efforts by smuggling the product into the country,” he further added.
Commissioning the vehicles, Comptroller-General of Customs, Abdullahi Dikko, who was represented by ACG, Headquarters, Musa Tahir, assured that the vehicles made up of 100 trucks and 50 cars, would be put to appropriate use.
While thanking the association for the rare gesture, Dikko called on other stakeholders to emulate them in partnering the NCS even as he urged RIMIDAN to further support the Service by offering relevant information. He stated that the support from RIMIDAN was commendable as government alone could not solve all the nation’s problems all by itself. ???