Abuja, Dec. 7, 2017 (TNE) The Federal Government on Wednesday expressed concern over smuggling activities especially on the Nigeria-Benin Republic land border, through which tonnes of rice are flooding Nigerian markets.
The Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr Heineken Lokpobiri, raised the concern at a stakeholders’ consultative meeting in Abuja.
Lokpobiri said federal government has uncovered more than one million tonnes of rice waiting to be smuggled into Nigeria through the border from Cotonou.
He said smuggling activities, particularly relating to rice, poultry products and fish are becoming alarming.
“We all know the dangers of the consumption of these frozen products, the consumption of this imported rice and fish. There are strange diseases now surfacing in Nigeria and the reason is that instead of us to patronise our local products, we rather use foreign ones,’’ he said.
The minister said the ministry has introduced quality control measures to regulate fish import with a view to reducing the huge gap in demand and supply of the product.
“We know that criminal activities are going on the land border, particularly through the Benin Republic where people bring in frozen fish and poultry products that are not healthy for human consumption.
“These smuggled frozen products contain chemicals being used to preserve dead bodies,’’ he said.
Lokpobiri said the federal government has the duty to ensure that the citizens eat healthy foods only.
He said the essence of the meeting is to work together with the agriculture stakeholders and dealers of different food items to ensure food security in Nigeria.
“The time has come for us to discuss with those selling frozen products and imported rice to find solution to these criminal practice in Nigeria.’’
Earlier, Dr Bukar Hassan, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, had said the attention of the federal government has been drawn to the activities of unpatriotic individuals and organisations involved in smuggling in Nigeria.
Hassan urged government officials at all levels to do everything possible to curtail these nefarious activities.
He noted the smuggling activities have negative and multiplier effects on human health and the economy.
“Let us, as government, join hands to curtail these evil practice of smugglers in view of its implications on the economy and the health hazards it constitutes to the populace.
“It is on this note that the minister of state set up a committee to find short, medium and long-term solutions to the illegal importation of food items,’’ Hassan said.
He assured that the ministry will work with all stakeholders for the actualisation of the objectives of establishing the committee.
In their responses, some of the stakeholders appealed to the federal government to intervene by subsidising some food products.
They said that buyers will rather prefer to patronise the cheaper foreign food items, rice in particular, to the local ones that tend to be expensive.
Mr Ezekiel Ibrahim, the National President, Poultry Association of Nigeria, said that Nigeria poultry has great potential if supported by the government.
“We have varieties of food that can feed Nigerians, but patronising foreign food is hampering the locally produced food items.
“If we patronise our local food products, it will go a long way to sustain the nation’s economy and create more jobs,’’ he said.