The Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN) has advised the Federal Government to adopt a gradualist approach in implementing the rice policy to avoid creating more problems than it seeks to solve.
The association stated this in reaction to the partial closure of the borders by the federal government through the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in collaboration with other sister security agencies.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Friday by Chairman and Secretary of the association’s Board of Trustees (BOT), Ejike Metu and Innocent Elum, respectively, the association said that closing the borders just for some days is no silver bullet and cannot achieve any meaningful result.
It noted that the action of the government begs the question of why the grains have continued to find their way into the country illegally despite measures to contain the trend.
The statement said,” AREFFN appreciates and commends the passion of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in encouraging national self-reliance in rice production and general food security. We support and identify with government’s strategic policies and programmes geared towards achieving the laudable objective.
“Thus we condemn in strongest terms the nefarious activities of the smugglers capable of stymieing the government laudable policy and align with any credible actions government might take to rein in the economic saboteurs.
“However, we believe that closing the border just for some days is no silver bullet and cannot achieve any meaningful result. Indeed, the action begs the question of why the grains have continued to find their way into the country illegally despite measures by government to contain the trend. We think that government should do a more thorough thinking to ascertain the fundamental causative factors and provide lasting solution.”
On why rice smuggling had refused to stop, the statement said, “The quantity produced locally at present is hardly sufficient to complement the imports and satisfy the demand of over 120 million Nigerians, not even with the smuggled ones. This explains its exorbitant price of between N17, 000 and N18, 000 before the border closure, and currently between N19, 000 and N20, 000 apparently beyond the reach of the poor.
“Instructively, the local ones appear nonexistent in the market and even if you are lucky to find it, it is almost the same price as the foreign one. We recommend that government adopts a gradualist approach in implementing the rice policy to avoid creating more problems than it seeks to solve.
“On importation of automobiles through the land borders, our investigation has revealed that a good number of the rice smugglers are inhabitants of the border communities who hitherto engaged in legitimate clearing of used vehicles, with many of them graduates of many years standing but with no jobs. We recommend that government should revisit and reconsider the policy.
“ It is common knowledge that the nation’s land borders, from North through South are very porous with over 1,400 illegal and ineffectively manned routes and waterways. Very often customs officials and the smugglers clash on these routes, sometimes with casualties on one or both sides. This is usually reported by the media.
“It requires no deep imagination, therefore, to understand that the smugglers carry out their illegal activities through the unapproved routes and certainly not the official border that plays host to heavy and ubiquitous security presence. Importers and other legitimate trans-border traders are those you find here processing their documentations with Customs, Immigration, etc. We recommend that government draft more security personnel to man the unapproved routes, but should also bear in mind that smuggling is a global phenomenon that can be checkmated but perhaps impossible to do away with totally all at once.”
The statement further recommended that government should in future engage freight forwarders or non-government actors operating at the borders for information, advice and proper guidance before taking certain actions to avoid mistakes.