The Federal Government has restated its readiness to shut down the land border between Nigeria and a neighbouring country in a few days to avoid smuggling of foreign rice into the country.
Speaking with youths in a leadership clinic under the auspices of Guardians of the Nation International, GOTNI, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, stated this Monday but did not mention the particular country and border.
Ogbeh said that shutting the borders had become necessary to encourage local production and sustain the economy of the country.
The minister said that a neighbouring country was bent on destroying the economy of the country and discouraging local production of rice, hence the need to shut down the border.
“Our other problem is smuggling. As we speak, a neighbor of ours is importing more rice than China is importing.
“They do not eat parboiled rice, they eat white rice, they use their ports to try and damage our economy.
“I am telling you now because in a few days, you will hear the border has been shut, we are going to shut it to protect you, us and protect our economy.
“You will start seeing all sorts of negative things on the internet.
“Let me tell you why we need to shut the border, I grow rice, I was the first Nigerian to mill rice free of stones, if you plant rice in certain parcels of land, some poisonous materials gets into the rice.
“There are three kinds of water in their natural state; there is fresh water from the river, salt water from the sea, blackish water.
“If you go to the Delta in many countries, in South East Asia where they grow the rice, if you plant rice in the same place like four to six years continuously, the quantum of arsenic begins to increase and arsenic causes cancer and that is what they are dumping for us.
“Some people say they prefer Thai rice because they are very sophisticated, welcome to poison,’’ Ogbeh said.
He said that the Federal Government in two years reduced rice importation by 95 per cent and increased the number of rice farmers from five million to 30 million.
The minister said that states like Anambra, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Kano, Jigawa were doing well in rice production.
“We just have to handwork you to prosperity otherwise, this country will not grow. My wish for you is to have a better time that we had,’’ Ogbeh said.
Dr Linus Okorie, the President of GOTNI, commended the minister for sharing prosperity experiences with the youth.
Okorie noted that the leadership clinic was organised by GOTNI to expose young people to practical leadership principle for life success.
According to him, GOTNI is committed to changing the narratives of poor leadership in Nigeria by consciously developing the capacities of generational leaders.
Reacting to the development Monday, rice farmers under the auspices of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, RIFAN, hailed Federal Government’s move.
Aminu Goronyo, National President of RIFAN, said the move by the government will save the country billions of Naira spent on rice importation on daily basis from Thailand and other countries, and increase productivity of his members across the country.
According to Goronyo, Nigerians have been consuming chemical preserved rice from most countries, and have, therefore, become carriers of cancer-related diseases, aside from negatively impacting the economy.
He said, “It is a good move by the government for the entire country because huge amount of money has been spent on rice importation from Thailand.
”In fact, a minimum of N1 billion is spent every morning if you go by the quantity of rice imported into the country annually, losing its economy, employment, including food security to another country, and by extension security of lives and property.
“That money will be used to create employment, boost the economy, food security, and rice self-sufficiency in the country.
“It is necessary for the Nigerian Customs Service to seriously get involved in this move because they are the custodians of our borders; formal and informal borders.”
Although, he argued that this government has been doing the right thing to boost the Nigerian Customs Service, and what he thinks should be done was to flood the market with local rice which if the borders are flung open those importing rice or smuggling it would not have anywhere to sell them, therefore it becomes a wasted effort to embark on such venture.
“I think the effort currently by President Muhammadu Buhari through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, is a good one by making rice available and sufficient in the country for local consumption. The rice these importers or smugglers bring into the country is ‘foreign cancer and diseases’ in the name of foreign rice.”