“The challenge we have with our neighbours is that, because of the extant ECOWAS Protocol, people dump their rice products in their region and rebag them and bring them into Nigeria.”
Okwe Obi, Abuja
The Federal Government has attributed the spate of rice smuggling into Nigeria to the protocol of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) being abused by most countries, especially, Benin Republic. Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Heineken Lokpobiri, who said this, at the weekend, when he received representatives of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Ms Ndine Gbossa, regretted that Benin Republic allows a country like Taiwan to dump parboiled rice in its country, and later re-bag and smuggle them into Nigeria.
Lokpobiri said: “The challenge we have with our neighbours is that, because of the extant ECOWAS Protocol, people dump their rice products in their region and rebag them and bring them into Nigeria.
“Based on that, those from Thailand would go to Benin Republic with their par-boiled rice, and rebag them as though they were produced in Benin Republic; and, then smuggled into Nigeria, thereby, denying the people of Benin the opportunity to grow rice and benefit from the Nigerian market.
“But, president Buhari has invited the President of Benin Republic, to engage him on how to tackle the problem.”
Lokpobiri used the visit to commend IFAD for supporting the nation’s agricultural value chain development programme with $500 million.
“We take our partnership with IFAD very seriously and we appreciate the investments and the support we are getting from you.
“Today, Nigeria is rated the highest producer of rice and cassava in Africa, courtesy of IFAD intervention and the Anchor Borrowers Programme, and Nigerians are answering the clarion call of this administration to go back to the farms to produce what we eat and eat what we produce.”
On her part, Gbossa said IFAD approved additional $89 million for Nigeria in the value chain development programme, totalling $228 million, for supporting rice and cassava production. This, she said was in addition to another $60 million for supporting the Niger Delta youths known as the Alive for Niger Delta Fund.
“Altogether, we have investment in Nigeria that is worth half a billion dollars. Nigeria is one of the biggest investment countries for IFAD, so, it is a very important country.”
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