The Nigeria Customs Service says it has seized 497,279 bags of imported rice between 2015 and August 2017 with a Duty Paid Value of N3.8 billion.
The Comptroller-General of the service, retired Colonel Hameed Ali, disclosed this in a document obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Sunday.
Ali said 90,073 bags of rice were seized in 2015 with DPV of N693 million, while 280,109 bags of rice were impounded in 2016 with DPV of N2.156 billion.
He added between January and August 2017, no fewer than 127,097 bags of rice were seized, with DPV of N978 million.
He said: “From January to March this year, about four enterprises registered with Tinapa Free Trade Zone Calabar in Cross River State syndicated the importation of 533 containers of rice.”
He said the containers loaded with 299,564 bags of rice were brought into the free zone through Onne Port in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Ali said: “Certainly, this rice cannot be consumed within Tinapa and there is no value added through further processing as to bring it to Nigerian territory.
“It took the Nigeria Customs Service a big battle with the importers and Tinapa authorities to compel them to re-export it out of Nigeria.
“As at September 19, this year, 299 containers were re-exported.
“If this is to be allowed, it has the potential of undermining the food security policy of the Federal Government.
“With the attendant consequence of driving all the industries in the chain of production out of business, primarily the local farmers and rice millers.”
Ali said in the past, the Federal Government had introduced policies like Operation Feed the Nation and Green Revolution to ensure food sufficiency.
He added that the major cause of failure of these policies was smuggling.
According to him, it is the realisation of this that made the Federal Government to ban the importation of rice through the land borders.
Ali said: “The ban of rice importation through the land borders has made the task of fighting smuggling by the NCS more challenging.
“Because major rice importers in the country have decided to shun the use of Nigerian ports and now divert their cargo to Cotonou where they bring it into Nigeria in trickles.”