Benin, Nigeria to establish framework to tackle rice smuggling

Customs seizes N1.4bn contraband, 10 truck load of smuggled rice

The Benin Republic Ambassador to Nigeria, Paulette Yekpe, says the proposed tripartite meeting by Nigeria, Niger and her country, will establish a framework to address rice smuggling.

She stated this on the sideline of activities marking the 58th Independence anniversary of the West African country while briefing reporters in Abuja on Monday.

Yekpe said that the smuggling of rice and other products posed a threat to the relationship between both countries.

She said that although ECOWAS protocol paved way for the free movement of citizens within the sub-region, more needed to be done through regional integration to tackle rice smuggling.

According to her, Nigeria and Benin have always worked together to beef up border security in the past.

The envoy, therefore, expressed the determination to strengthen the collaboration between the two countries, to curb illegal rice smuggling into Nigeria.

She said, ‘‘Nigeria and Benin have historical ties with over 800 km of land borders; no matter the number of customs officers we put to man the place, our borders will always be porous.

“Benin, Nigeria and Niger have decided to meet, based on what is happening concerning rice smuggling.

“When people come into our country because of ECOWAS, we cannot reject them; we have no right to; we have been fined for stopping them before for bringing rice in.

“ECOWAS had fined us; what such people say is we are travelling to Niger and once they are somewhere in Bardi, they go to Kebbi, Kano and that is what it is.

“So, we have decided to have a tripartite meeting with Niger, Nigeria and Benin to discuss and find a way to address rice smuggling.”

Yekpe added that the date for the tripartite meeting had not been fixed but plans were underway to ensure it brings the issue of rice smuggling to the barest minimum.

She, however, urged the governments of the three countries to sensitize their citizens more about the dangers of smuggling, to keep people away from it.