Rice: Panic border shut or right policies

By Soni Ehi ASUELIMEN

The shutting of Nigeria’s borders with neighbouring countries by the clueless Buhari administration shows that we are in deep trouble by economic ignoramuses that recycle 40 year old failed policies, yet expect success result.
Agriculture Minister Audu Ogbeh said Monday June 18 that Federal Government is to shut unnamed borders to check imported rice smuggling this time, not smuggling of phantom petrol to neighborhood.
Ogbeh spoke from both sides of the mouth when he claimed in one breadth that this APC government has reduced, within two years, rice importation by 95 percent and increased rice farmers from five million to 30 million. Fantastic Fantasy.
With such propaganda success, why this sudden panic border seal? What with the Ogbeh ministerial lies that rice milling industries in Thailand were shutting down because of government phantom success in checking rice imports. That was about three months ago, a claim speedily denied by Thailand ambassador in Nigeria who said nothing of such was discussed and that rice mills in Thailand were bubbling, creating jobs, while Nigeria brews phantom jobs. Ogbeh never replied only to spring this border seal.
Ogbeh said our neighbouring countries imported excessive rice beyond their needs, targeting Nigeria as destination. What made importers to patronize Republic of Benin seaport instead of Nigeria’s?
I gave the reasons in my opinion in April entitled, “Political Rice, Ministerial lies”, hereby refreshed.
Nigeria charges more than six times import duties compared to Benin Republic. It takes 24 hours to clear goods in Benin compared to nearly one week in Nigeria.
Benin government makes its port administration more attractive and friendly. The prohibitive cost of importing the about 60 percent deficit in domestic rice consumption via regular ports makes smuggling through land borders very attractive.
Even the Customs Department had in the past 14 years appealed to FG to reduce rice import tariff and levy to discourage massive smuggling, which overwhelmed border officials, many losing lives daily.
Rather, FG had continued to apply import ban or restrictions via harsh tariff first used since Obasanjo military regime in 1978.
Warning, border ban must not affect only Seme, Idiroko but all the northern freestyle smuggle borders of Katsina, Maradi, Niger Republic; Adamawa etc through which trailers of rice end guns enter Nigeria. Else…
Yet, Nigeria has in the 40 years of rice restrictions failed woefully to genuinely improve domestic production.
Why continue with previous failed policies and expect right results?

ASUELIMEN writes via soniasuelimen@yahoo.com

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