The minister of agriculture and rural development, Chief Audu Ogbe has explained the federal government’s resolve to shut its land border with a neighbor saying that nation has been extensively used for illegal importation of foreign rice into Nigeria.
Speaking in Abuja at a leadership event for youths under the auspices of Guardians of the Nation International, Ogbe who did not disclose the country’s identity said the development had impacted on the Nigerian economy adversely.
He said shutting the border had become necessary in order to encourage local production of rice and sustain the nation’s economy.
“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, and they use their ports to try and damage our economy. I am telling you now because in a few days, you will hear that 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 on certain parcels of land, some poisonous materials get into the rice,” he said.
The minister pointed out that rice grown in certain environments is poisonous.
“There are three kinds of water in their natural state; there is fresh water from the river, salt water from the sea, and 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 for like four to six years continuously, the quantum of arsenic begins to increase. 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!” he said.
He said 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 states like Anambra, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Kano and Jigawa were doing well in rice production.
Meanwhile, the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) has hailed the federal government’s decision saying it will save the country billions of naira spent on rice importation on daily basis from Thailand and other countries, and increase productivity of rice farmers in the country.
National president of RIFAN, Aminu Goronyo, said Nigerians have been consuming rice preserved with chemical become carriers of cancer-related diseases.
“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.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) say it will enforce the closure of the nation’s border with neighbouring countries to check rice smuggling.
“We are very prepared to enforce the closure if it is announced. Once the border is closed, that is total blockade, and you don’t have any other reason to penetrate (Nigeria).
“We are prepared to enforce the fiscal policy of the Federal Government. We will enforce the closure, and if there is a need to get any of our sister security agencies to join in the enforcement, I am confident that they will be quite willing to join in the national enforcement,” said NCS spokesman, Mr. Joseph Attah.