Worried by the hardship faced by Nigerians as a result of the ban on rice importation, the House of Representatives on Wednesday called on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency and national importance, implement the agreement it reached with some stakeholders, last year.
The House also mandated its committee on customs to summon all relevant stakeholders in order to fashion out a way forward on the issue of the ban.
The House took this decision after adopting a motion on the matter moved by Rep Nasiru Baballe Ila.
It will be recalled that the Federal Government reached an agreement with the Rice Millers Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (RIMIDAN) on 21 November 2013 for customs duty on rice to be brought down to $190 per tonne from the current $570.
Leading debate on the motion, Baballe observed that the Federal Government increased duty on rice importation from 50 percent to 100 percent in 2013 to further stimulate local farming and, subsequently, local production.
He noted: “The good intention of the Federal Government has been sabotaged by unquantifiable smuggling at a rate never witnessed in the past. Nigeria lost over N300 billion from sharp practices.”
He regretted that “over three million tonnes of parboiled rice was smuggled into Nigeria in 2013 through Benin Republic, adding, “this culminated in that country gaining over N200 billion in dutiable levies.”
Continuing, he said: “To further worsen the situation for Nigeria, Benin Republic deliberately removed 18 percent VAT on all par boiled rice imports destined for Nigeria, whilst the duty of 12.5 percent is to be charged on the benchmark price of only $200 per metric tonne, thereby bringing down effective duty to only $25 per metric tone, against the $570 per metric tonne dutiable rate being charged at Nigerian ports.
“Nigeria Customs Service, which is the second largest revenue generator to the government coffer, lost over N300 billion from sharp practices of smuggling. It is pertinent to note that import duty on rice is the major source of revenue to the Service.”
According to him, following the November 2013 meeting between the government and stakeholders on rice, the committee observed the fall in rice prices, internationally, from $600 to $350 and recommended that Nigeria should bring its own down to $190 per metric tonne.
However, the government was yet to implement the recommendation.
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