The Association of Indigenous Sea Food Stakeholders says the country loses N9bn revenue annually to illegal fish importation and smuggling.
The association’s national chairman, Lamina Rasheed, said in Abuja on Wednesday that the members of the association paid import duty of 14 per cent, which amounted to millions of naira to the Federal Government while the illegal importers paid next to nothing through the land borders.
According to him, it is difficult to compete with them in the market because these illegal importers slash their prices to the detriment and loss by the genuine fish dealers.
He frowned at the development which he said had discouraged so many genuine importers and local fish farmers across the country.
The chairman appealed to the Federal Government to expedite action toward setting up a task force that would stop the illegal importation of fish and other sea foods into the country.
Rasheed said that the illegal importation was still ongoing through the borders, but setting up the monitoring and prosecution task force would help curb the menace.
He said that some of the sea products which were being produced in Russia, Norway, Mexico, were being smuggled into the country through the Republic of Benin.
“The government loses about N9bn revenues to this act.
“We are still trying to create awareness to let the government know that the illegal act is still persisting.
“Until they arrest somebody and apply the penalties, the perpetrators will not stop.
“The government said they will set up a monitoring committee but up till now, we have not seen any committee.
“As long as the committee is not in place, we will not make any meaningful progress in the seafood business.
“Local production of fish is currently still very minimal,’’ he said.
Rasheed appealed to the Nigeria Customs Service to assist in regulating the operations of smugglers.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture had in March promised to set up a committee that would be responsible for arresting and prosecuting illegal importers.
It would also seal cold rooms where the imported products were being sold.
The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri, had earlier announced a fine of $250,000 or five years’ imprisonment or both as punishment for offenders.
Lokpobiri said this was in addition to the forfeiture and destruction of the product.
He said that the country’s annual demand of fish was currently at 3.2 million tonnes and deficit at 1.9 million tonnes.
The minister said that the ministry’s department of fisheries and aquaculture is the only competent authority empowered by the Nigeria Sea Fisheries Act to issue distant water fishing licences for the importation of frozen fish into Nigeria.