Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has restated that the importation of rice into the country through the land borders remains banned.
The NCS said the clarification became necessary following various online publications over the weekend to the effect that the ban had been reversed.
A statement issued by the NCS’ Public Relations Officer, Mr. Wale Adeniyi, said: “Our attention has been drawn to publications on various online platforms indicating that the NSC has reversed the ban on rice importation through the land borders.”
The reports, the statement said, were attributed to a press interview purportedly granted by him (Adeniyi).
“It has become necessary to re-state the true position in view of the confusion which these online publications may create in the industry. It is even more expedient to provide this clarification given that the fact that the Service has taken a firm position earlier in the week through a joint press conference with stakeholders.
“First, we like to reiterate the position that importation of rice remains banned through our land borders, and we have the commitment of partner government agencies and stakeholders to enforce this restriction. While this restriction is in force, rice imports through the ports are still allowed subject to payment of extant charges.
“It is equally important to restate the confidence of the NSC in the ability of Nigerian rice producers to fill the existing sufficiency gaps in the supply of the product.
“The service has noted with satisfaction the ongoing rice revolution undertaken by many state governments, and strategic interventions by federal government agencies. The service is convinced that the bumper harvests expected from these efforts will address the supply gap in 2017,” the statement said
The NCS said it was of the belief that continuous waste of scarce foreign exchange on a commodity that can be produced locally makes no economic sense, most especially at a period of recession, adding that it will therefore advocate a total ban on rice importation into Nigeria with effect from 2017.
“It is worrisome that the publications that resurfaced this weekend were being attributed to a press interview granted in October 2015. We strongly suspect that some powerful forces behind rice smuggling are at work, recycling an old report under a different circumstance to create confusion.
“We urge Nigerians to watch out for similar antics as the firm stand on Rice smuggling will pitch their selfish interest against our national interest,” the statement added.