Rice farmers under the umbrella of this Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), yesterday kicked against the directive by the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to reunite the smuggled goods it transports from rice traders’ shops in Ibadan, Oyo State.
The team said that the resolution of the committee was in variance with all the resolve of both the federal authorities and Nigerians to increase local capacity from the rice sector in order to reach food security.
The institution also argued that the”Nigerian rice is cheap, and within the range of the Nigerian people”.
The Director-General of RIPAN, Mr. Andy Ekwelem, at a media briefing in Abuja, said, the senate directive was effective at sending shock waves that may collapse the rice business, discourage additional investments and place over 15 million jobs at risk as well as erode the gains so far achieved in the nation’s rice revolution.
The institution, therefore, contended that if smuggling was not tackled with appropriate dispatch, the size of the loss to Nigerian stakeholders particularly the national government, incorporated rice millers, financing banks, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and farmers, amongst others, would be devastating for the country’s fledgeling economy.
Ekwelem pointed out that there was the requirement for urgent action to stop a looming national food crisis, adding that all hands must be on deck to fight to smuggle.
“What we need is to increase our local capacity and not foreign rice,” he said.
The body further voiced support for the Nigeria Customs Service, adding that the raid on markets that were dealing in smuggled rice was legitimate and welcoming.
RIPAN further guided the Senate Committee to”have a second look at the matter from a national economics prism because from where we’re now with the Nigerian economy, private biases must be eschewed if we have to make progress”.
They further contended that the development had serious implications for growing the local industry partly because”when investors realise their investments are not protected by adequate laws, they will have no choice but draw their funds from the economy”.
The farmers maintained that “Over the past five years that the current government has invested almost everything it can, to promote processing and production of rice all in the bid to preserve foreign trade, fortify our food safety, supply jobs for Nigerians and expand our market generally.
“A lot of people are encouraged by the forceful thrust of government.
He said: “Jobs are being created, private sector participation is living and busy and new entrepreneurs are emerging from the sector. The entire rice processing and grinding sub-sector employs between 13 million to 15 million Nigerians and should we promote smuggled rice to flourish in our market, these jobs and the noble efforts of authorities is going to be lost within the shortest possible time.”
Ekwelem, especially, pointed out that Nigeria is currently a top rice producer in Africa and rated among the top 14 states on the planet.
He attributed the feat to the doggedness of the present administration to make certain we”produce what we consume and eat what we create”.
He said, however, that it will be”foolhardy people to fold our hands and watch economic saboteurs ruin our collective resolve to make sure that Nigeria migrated out of some food importing country to a food-producing country”.
“Today we are crying insecurities and the consensus is that the menace persists because most youths are not gainfully employed.
The institution insisted that the costs of locally produced rice have been”not out of reach for the Nigerian people”.