This appeal was made by him while addressing reporters in Abuja, over the influx of smuggled rice into the country.
According to a news report by the News Agency of Nigeria, Ekwelem called on the government to take active and decisive action to ensure that the Nigerian borders do not become porous, as the influx of smuggled rice would stimulate the collapse of all the mills in the country, and this would exacerbate the state of unemployment in the country.
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According to him, the rice value chain sub-sector had engaged about 13 million Nigerians on direct employment, hence if the border is not properly controlled, the number of people that would lose their jobs to the activities of smugglers would be much and this would be devastating for the economy.
He said addressing this challenge of smuggling was paramount so that all the efforts, commitments, and resources put in the rice value-chain sub-sector would not be a waste. However, the gains made in the sub-sector in the last few years were only possible through the support and interventions of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Ekwelem also called on the Nigeria Customs Service to step up in the manning of the borders to curb the activities of smugglers.
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What Ekwelem is saying
Mr. Andy Ekwelem said:
“We have said it many times on the need for government to criminalize sales of foreign rice in the markets and supermarkets. Rice is number one on the list of prohibited products in which CBN placed forex restriction
“It is assumed that any rice you see in this country now, in the markets, shops and even in your homes that is not Nigeria made rice, it is smuggled into the country.
“The country is losing revenue because these smugglers are not paying the right duties to bring the rice into the country and this ugly development is killing our economy.
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“We want a law that will empower law enforcement agencies to go to markets and shops to arrest anyone found with foreign rice because their action amounts to economic sabotage.
“When that is done, people will be discouraged from buying from these people that smuggled rice into the country. We need to take drastic measures against smugglers as well as those selling the products.”
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What you should know
- Ekwelem, lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for his giant stride in rice production, as about N3.4 trillion has been invested in the entire rice value chain production across the country.
- He revealed that there were only six Integrated Rice Mills in the country before 2015, in recent times, Integrated Rice Mills in the country had risen to about 60.
- It is essential to understand that most of the mills in the country were now working at half capacity because there were no off-takers for the products they produced for Nigerian markets.