Stories by STAN OKENWA
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has given more insights into the rationale behind its decision to ban importation of rice through land borders.
In an interview with the Services’ Public Relations Officer; Mr. Wale Adeniyi, he agreed that “since October last year when the ban was lifted, there has been no commensurate revenue from rice importation from across the land borders”.
Adeniyi noted that Customs only collected a paltry N1.69 billion in the last two months. According to him, this is much lower than the revenue projected, stressing that “We have observed low level of compliance with implementation of importation of rice through the land borders.
“A number of reasons have been adduced for this but the Comptroller General has also received reports about some kind of allegation of compromise between officers and rice smugglers. “When the restriction on importation of rice through land borders was lifted, there was a high level of implementation.’’
“In the last two months, 24. 9 metric tonnes of rice was imported through the land borders since the reversal of the restriction of importation through the land borders. “Since the reversal of the restriction started, N1.69 billion revenue has been generated.
However, this is much lower than the revenue projected. “And we got intelligence reports from neighbouring ports that huge consignment of rice was coming into the country. “Conversely, we are not getting the revenue. Rather the revenue has been dwindling in the last two months’’, Adeniyi said. He said that there has been an increase in the level of seizures.
“So given all of these, the Comptroller General finds it necessary to review the restriction order and has therefore decided to re-impose the restriction with effect from Tuesday, March 22, 2016’’, he said.
Adeniyi said that rice would therefore no longer be allowed through the land borders. However, he said “those who have started the process; who have paid for rice across the land borders will have up till Friday, March 25, to clear their rice through the land borders.”
He emphasised that after March 25, there would be a zero tolerance “not even a bag of rice will be allowed to come into the country through the land borders.”
Daily Champion recalls that the Comptroller General of the Service; Col Hameed Ali (rtd) had last October ordered the immediate removal of rice from import restriction list and the re-introduction of import duty payment at land borders.
Announcing the decision in October 2015, the Service’s Public Relations Officer; Mr Wale Adeniyi had explained that prior to last year, restriction was only applied at land border stations, but affirmed that the customs boss had lifted restriction on rice importation at border stations. Adeniyi had said that all rice imports through land borders by rice traders would attract the prevailing import duty of 10 per cent with 60 per cent levy. He added that rice millers (preferential levy) with valid quota allocation would also attract duty rate of 10 per cent with 20 per cent levy on rice importation.
But in a TV programme monitored in Lagos by our correspondent, DCG Dan Ugo explained that the new directive takes immediate effect, adding that the service has put in measures to check smuggling activities from the border posts. He acknowledged that smugglers are smart and are always thinking of ways to bring up ideas to beat officers and men of the service.