The Federal Government on Monday said it was considering some measures, including temporary closure of a neighbouring country’s borders, to curb unbridled rice smuggling into Nigeria.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Chief Audu Ogbeh, disclosed this in Abuja while speaking with youths in a leadership clinic under the auspices of Guardians of the Nation International (GOTNI).
Ogbeh said that shutting the borders had become imperative in order to protect local rice farmers from the threats of smuggled rice and sustain the current efforts targeted at ensuring that Nigerians consume what is produced locally.
Specifically, the minister accused one of the nation’s neighbouring countries as undermining the efforts to achieve food security by engaging in reckless importation of the commodity in order to illegally smuggle it into Nigeria.
He said: “Our other problem is smuggling. As we speak, a neighbour 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”, Ogbeh added.
The minister said that government, through nationwide rice farming programmes, had reduced rice importation by 95 per cent and increased the number of rice farmers from five million to 30 million in two years .
The President of GOTNI, Dr Linus Okorie, commended the minister for sharing prosperity experiences with the youth, noting that the leadership clinic is organised by GOTNI to expose young people to practical leadership principles for life success.
He assured that the group was committed to changing the narratives of poor leadership in the country by consciously developing the capacities of generational leaders.
Okorie clarified: “A lot of young people are asking questions, seeking answers to their questions, wish that they have an experienced person who will hold them by the hands and show them the way to achieve success.
“There are a few people that are readily available to do this; a lot of them are making decisions everyday on the basis of their limited exposure.
“If Nigeria must make progress, if we must consciously build the next generation of leaders then, we must expose these young people to experienced leaders that have gone ahead for a conscious transfer of knowledge and experiences”, he added.