The Federal Government has foiled an attempt by an unnamed country to donate ship load of poisonous rice for use by the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the northeast.
Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, who disclosed this in Abuja, also alerted the Nigeria Customs Service and other law enforcement agencies of a plot by smugglers to flood Nigerian markets with over one million tons of foreign rice, allegedly warehoused in neighbouring Benin Republic.
He stated that the smugglers want to take advantage of high demand for rice during the yuletide to move the contraband product into the country.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting involving big hoteliers, departmental stores, farmers associations, and others; on how to curtail smuggling of agricultural products into the country, the minister said government discovered that the rice was not fit for human consumption in the course of quality control test in the laboratories.
However, to forestall a reoccurrence in future, Lokpobiri said, government policy now, is that any country wishing to donate rice to the IDPs must use Nigerian rice.
“Locally made products in the market are fresh but the imported ones; we don’t know how long they had been in the silos. Recently, one country decided to donate a ship load of rice to Nigeria to use and support the IDPs in the northeast; when we subjected the rice to tests, we discovered that the rice were actually poisoned; which means that most of the rice that is imported into the country had been in the silos for 10 to 40 years.
“But what we have told them is that anybody who wants to support any of the IDPs or anybody in Nigeria should come and buy the locally made rice. The argument is that the rice made here is more expensive and we are saying, even if you can buy half bushel, come and buy. It’s better for us to eat a smaller quantity of nutritious rice than for us to eat poisonous ship load of rice.
“On poultry, we discovered that the poultry products brought into this country have formalin, which I earlier said is a chemical used for the preservation of dead body. I don’t know why somebody should have that in his food when you’re not dead. It’s when you are dead that you should be embalmed with formalin but not when you are alive. But what I want us to know is that anybody who eats smuggled poultry product is actually embalming himself or herself,” the minister stated.
Even as Lokpobiri revealed that findings showed that Beninese do not eat parboiled foreign rice, he regretted that smugglers have continued to route the contraband through the Republic of Benin borders; to the detriment of the Nigerian economy.
Read Also : Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
On government’s plans to arrest the trend, he said “We don’t want to use force in addressing the issue, but engage all stakeholders by pointing out the dangers in smuggling and consuming foreign foods, frozen fish and other poultry products”.
In his remarks, Secretary General of Nigeria Association of Agriculture Products Dealers (NAAPD), Kingsley Chikezie, said members of his association were faced with the challenge of double taxation in purchasing and transporting farm products across the country.
He also accused government agents involved in the fight against smuggling of insincerity, saying they have continued to compromise at various entry points.
According to the association’s investigations; Chikezie revealed that there are more than 300 porous entry points for smugglers at both Lagos and Oyo border towns, adding that most of the law enforcement agents are not found there.
Government has therefore, warned Nigerians to beware of rice, fish, chicken and turkey smuggled into the country through the land borders because they contain poisonous substances that are injurious to health.
The ministry urged people to patronize locally produced rice and poultry meat to stay healthy.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh had at a recent meeting with the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) called on the customs to clampdown on smugglers of frozen fish and chicken into the country.
Speaking when the Customs CG paid him a courtesy visit in his office, disclosed that reports from the Rice Farmers Association indicated that 12.2million people now grow rice in the country but lamented that the activities of smugglers dampen the morale of the farmers.
Ali had at the occasion assured that the priority of NCS at the moment was to reduce to the barest minimum the importation of rice, poultry, and other items on banned list in order to encourage growth of the nation’s economy.
By Ajansii Mgbom
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