By Omotilewa Quadri
An agricultural markets and professional service firm, AgroNigeria, has called on the Federal Government to adopt stiffer penalties to check rice smuggling at the borders with neighbouring countries.
Chief Executive Officer of AgroNigeria, Richard Mark-Mbaram,told newsmen in Abuja on Wednesday, that it was the only way to encourage local rice production and businesses in the country.
“The countries that have borders with us are stockpiling rice; so Nigeria needs to take definite, radical measures.
“There is no point playing big brother, it is about our life and that of the nation, it is about the businesses of our citizens.
‘‘If businesses are challenged and threatened, we have a problem as a nation.
“What we are saying is that we should get radical, take on these countries directly.
“If we have to confront Benin Republic and read a riot act to them, telling them that we feel threatened and they are undertaken inimical measures against our economy, I don’t see anything wrong with it.
“That level of confrontation is what we need to put the conversation on the front burner,” he said.
Mbaram suggested that the issue be discussed at the ECOWAS and African Union’s meetings to find lasting solutions to the issue.
He noted that the forthcoming highlevel conference on rice scheduled to hold in Abuja from April 11 to 12, would also deliberate on the issue of smuggling.
According to him, a panel session will be dedicated to deliberate on smuggling during the conference.
He said that the panelists would include Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri, the Minister of state for Agriculture and Rural Development, the Director-General of Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
The conference is aimed at addressing issues in the rice value chain to enable the country achieve self-sufficiency in the production.
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