As the economic downturn and recession continue to bite harder with prices of goods, especially food items rising daily, Nigerians have called on the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to lift the ban on importation of rice through the land borders to ease the current hardship.
A market survey indicated a sharp increase in the price of rice as a bag now sells between N17,000.00 and N18,000.00 from N9,000.00 and N10,000.00 last year.
In separate interviews, some residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, appealed to NCS re-consider the ban because rice remains one of the stable foods Nigerians eat and that the high cost of purchasing it has further affected their well-being negatively.
“Rice has become gold, one mudu now sells at N500, you have not talk of the ingredients to cook it. This is too much suffer, let Customs lift the ban on rice importation through the lands borders, we are suffering, most families cannot afford this increase,” Mrs. Betty Okoro, a primary school teacher lamented.
Another resident, Mr. Bisi Adegboyega, who works in a private firm, urged NCS to think of the plight of the average Nigerians and lift the ban.
“There is no food, nothing is working, yet the prices of food and goods are sky-rocketing, only the rich now afford rice, Customs should not just think of revenue for government alone, but what people go through daily to eat rice. I want the policy to be re-visited because it has made living more difficult,” he posited.
Also speaking, another respondent, who gave his name as Abubakar and works as a civil servant spoke in the same vein.
He argued the need for Customs to revise the policy since it has further impoverished Nigerians.
“In an era when salaries are being owed workers, Customs placed a ban on rice through land borders, everyday, we hear of seizures and Nigerians are groaning buying a mudu of rice at N500. How do they want us to survive?” He queried.
It would be recalled that the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, had urged Customs to consider lifting the ban on rice importation through the land borders when the Comptroller-General of the Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd), visited him in his palace in Sokoto.
”The policy should be revisited with a view to make amends and ameliorate the suffering of Nigerians.
“There is no food in the country hence the need for the borders to be reopened for rice importation,” he was quoted as saying.
The sultan had said that he had been receiving “cries’’ from the masses on their plight over hardship in the land, and appealed to the service to address the issue urgently.
NCS had re-introduced the restriction order across the country in March, 2016.
Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (Retd) gave the approval for the reversal of an earlier policy in October 2015 which allowed rice imports through the land borders, once appropriate duty and charges were paid.
NCS spokesperson, Wale Adeniyi, had said that at a review session with comptrollers of border commands and FOUs held in Abuja, the service noted that dwindling revenue from rice imports through the land borders do not match the volume rice landed in neighboring ports. Rather, reports from border commands indicated an upsurge in the tempo of rice smuggling.
He had noted that implementation of the restriction order got off to a smooth start, with a high level of compliance in October 2015, but revenue started dwindling from January 2016, with importers blaming access to forex as major impediments.