Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has condemned the high rate of smuggling of rice and poultry products into the country, describing the practice as â€œeconomic sabotage.â€
This is even as he mandated the Senate Committee on Agriculture to investigate why the Federal Ministries of Agriculture and Finance are yet to pay compensation to all poultry farmers who lost their birds during the recent outbreak of the Avian Influenza (bird flu) in the country.
The Senate president spoke when the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Anadariya Farms, Alhaji Usman Dantata Jr., led representatives of the Poultry Farmersâ€™ Association of Nigeria on a visit to him in Abuja.
According to a statement by the Senate president Special Assistant on Print Media, Chuks Okocha, Saraki also tasked the Nigerian Customs Services (NCS) to step up its anti- smuggling campaigns in rice, chicken and other items as â€œNigeria can no longer serve as a dumping ground for imported smuggled goods.
The Senate president said: â€œWe will see what we can do particularly on the issue of non-payment of compensation to farmers who lost their birds to the Avian Influenza. These farmers need our encouragement.â€
â€œThis is where the government will show true interest in agriculture and ensure that all compensation are paid. So, Chairman Committee on Agriculture take note and meet the ministers of agriculture and finance and see what we can do.â€
On the crippling effect of smuggling through the borders, Saraki said: â€œAnother issue you raised which has become a very big one is the issue of smuggling. We all know that about 40 to 50 per cent of poultry products are still being smuggled into the country and this is bad.
â€œSomething needs to be done about it. Nigeria Customs officers must sit up because it is an economic sabotage. It is now that we must stop this smuggling particularly on agricultural products like rice and chicken.
â€œWe will take this up aggressively. Without that, we are only wasting our time. There is nothing we can do at this level in support of agriculture if products are still being smuggled in. Chicken and rice are still being smuggled in
â€œThis is something we must fight as a nation. This is economic sabotage we are talking about, and the management of the Nigeria Customs Service must rise up. Either they are ready to do it or we give it to people who are ready to do it.
On access to finance, the Senate president said: â€œI am surprised, however, this is the aspect we have to take up. Organisations like yours are borrowing money from banks at 25 per cent interest rates. I think the Chairman of Senate Committee on Agriculture has a lot of work to do here. If we have organisations that are serious, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) must give them total support, and it is clear that they need more support.â€
Earlier, the leader of the group, Alhaji Dantata Jr., lamented the non-payment of compensation to all the farmers who lost their birds during the last outbreak of bird flu in the country.
He insisted that the progress of poultry farming in the country is greatly being undermined by the activities of smugglers and high interest rates being charged by commercial banks in the country.
Dantata said: â€œWe humbly request you to implore the NCS to do more to curtail the level of smuggling. We are equally concerned about difficulties in accessing finance for poultry and other agriculture products by most farmers.
â€œWhere available, the interest rate is between 25 and 27 per cent; the collateral terms are very stringent and the tenor of loan is very short which does not match with long term nature of our business and the potential cash flow available for debt service of agriculture business in Nigeria.â€