Smuggling Costs Nigeria $5bn Yearly as FG Approves N5 bn for Erosion Control

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Cross Section of Ministers during the FEC Meeting held at the Council Chambers State House in Abuja. PHOTO; SUNDAY AGHAEZE
  •  Kyari, Oyo-Ita make up

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

The federal government wednesday resolved to deal decisively with rice smugglers whose activities, according to a World Bank disclosure, cost Nigeria a whopping $5 billion annually.

This came as the Federal Executive Council (FEC) also approved N5.567 billion for erosion control under the aegis of Erosion Control Intervention and Acceleration for the control of erosion in six states in different parts of the country.

Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, listed the beneficiary states to include: Sokoto, Kano, Ondo, Enugu, Bayelsa and Osun States.

In his own briefing, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said activities of smugglers were undermining the progress being made on local rice production in the country.

According to him, rice was mainly smuggled into Nigeria from Benin Republic and sometimes from Niger Republic. He said people of Benin Republic don’t eat parboiled rice, hence every bag of parboiled rice which arrives Benin Republic is brought to Nigeria.

He said the smugglers’ commitment is to ensure that Nigeria’s drive to boost local rice is frustrated, recalling how smugglers bring in bags of rice at N12,500, a price he said is not affordable to local rice millers as a result of local rice production adding that the delays in the coming of several rice millers are caused by activities of smugglers.

“The delays happen because many of the millers tell me that they can’t mill because of the activities of smugglers. They mill the rice. The smugglers dump them at N12,500. And the smugglers can dump at N12,500 because they are subsidised from Thailand. They are determined to see that we don’t succeed. We can’t do that because we can’t subsidise to that level.

“We say if everything goes well without the smugglers, our people should be able to sell here at N13,500 per bag. They agreed, but then the smugglers are coming and the millers are holding back. I, alone can’t solve the problem. That was why the president had to say yesterday (Tuesday) that we will come down hard on activities of smugglers because they are doing us a lot of damage. In fact, the World Bank says that they are costing us $5 billion worth of loss per annum. We keep fighting, a little here, a little there. We ‘ll get there,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and the Head of Service, Winifred Oyo-Ita, wednesday resolved their differences and embraced each other before the commencement of wednesday’s FEC meeting.

Both of them had engaged each other in a heated argument last week before the start of a similar meeting over a leaked memo on the controversial reinstatement of pension thief, Abdulrasheed Maina.
Their reconciliation wednesday was spearheaded by Oyo-Ita who first reached out to Kyari who is her immediate neighbour in the council’s siting arrangement.

In response, Kyari stretched forth his hands to her and after a handshake, he drew her closer in a warm embrace to the admiration of others in the chamber who cheered them with a round of applause.
Ogbeh said as a show of government’s commitment to halt the trend, it had resolved to revisit the existing memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Nigeria and Benin Republic during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

He sad the agreement centred on a pledge by both countries not to compromise the interest of each other, disclosing that FEC had in accordance with President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration while presenting the 2018 budget before a joint session of the National Assembly, resolved that activities of smugglers would no longer be condoned as FEC had resolved to fully implement the agreement.

According to the minister, FEC had mandated him to work with the committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo comprising of the Minister of Finance and Comptroller General of Customs to revisit the agreement.

He said: “The president has given instructions. There is an existing memorandum of understanding between Nigeria and Benin Republic entered into when President Olusegun Obasanjo was in office that we would work together, not to compromise each other’s interest.

“That MoU has not been implemented strongly. We are going to take it up from there. Already the vice-president has been working together in a committee which he heads with the Minister of Finance with the CG, Nigeria Customs and we in Agriculture Ministry. We ‘ll take it up.”

In his own briefing, the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, said the council approved a bilateral air services agreement between Nigeria and Canada with the aim of opening up businesses between the two countries and boost commerce and trade.

He described the agreement as a standardised form of agreement that will enable Canada to land, take-off, bring passengers, cargoes and repatriate their monies and consequently get Nigeria connected to the country in trade and business.

Meanwhile, the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and the Head of Service, Winifred Oyo-Ita, wednesday resolved their differences and embraced each other before the commencement of wednesday’s FEC meeting.

Both of them had engaged each other in a heated argument last week before the start of a similar meeting over a leaked memo on the controversial reinstatement of pension thief, Abdulrasheed Maina.

Their reconciliation yesterday was spearheaded by Oyo-Ita who first reached out to Kyari who is her immediate neighbour in the council’s siting arrangement.

In response, Kyari stretched forth his hands to her and after a handshake, he drew her closer in a warm embrace to the admiration of others in the chamber who cheered them with a round of applause.

  • Funds for agriculture is allocated to the northern states, they own agriculture. Funds for reconstruction go the NE because only them were devastated by war, funds for dams go to the North since only them live on dry ground, more of federation funds go to the north because they are said to have more states, population and land mass. All Northern states are classed as educational disadvantaged states and cut offs are lowered for them. Now for even erosion that devastates the SE, only one state is included in erosion funds and most of the beneficiary again are the North.