Food Importation: Why Nigeria is still struggling despite border closure

Food Importation: Why Nigeria is still struggling despite border closure
Seized goods and Vehicle by Customs

On August 14, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, not to give a cent to anybody to import food into the country.

This development has thus created several questions by various stakeholders in the country as well as experts across the world on the independence of the nation’s apex Bank.

President Buhari had disclosed that the call was in line with the current administration efforts to bring about a “steady improvement in agricultural production, and attainment of full food security”.

“The foreign reserve will be conserved and utilised strictly for diversification of the economy, and not for encouraging more dependence on foreign food import bills,” Buhari added.

Furthermore, six days after the directive, Buhari also ordered the closure of the land borders with a view to curtailing the smuggling of goods into the country from neighbouring countries as well as ensuring compliance with existing trade rules as to how trade should be conducted.

However, the development has not been sustainable, as stakeholders across the nation have indicted the Nigerian Customs of sabotaging the President’s mandate.

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A source who preferred to be anonymity told iBrandTV in a chat that, the goodwill of President Buhari has not been effective, stating that Customs engage with business owners to smuggle foodstuffs into the country.

According to him, “There are still a lot of things that are been smuggled into the country through the borders. A lot of rugged-looking vehicles still carries banned items into the country.

“How can that happen when we have Customs operatives available at the border every hour. This shows the level of irregularities happening around that region.

“For instance, on a daily basis, we see rugged vehicles lining up on the way with banned products in their booth, under their seats. Some of those bordering town like Idiroko, Owode in Badagry, amongst others.

Customs in action

The Ogun one Command of the Nigeria Customs Service said it has generated N19,598,500.00 between April and June, 2020.

The Area Controller of  Customs, Ogun Area 1 command, Michael Agbara disclosed this to newsmen during a press briefing to highlight the activities of the command in the last three months.

Agbara said, during the period under review, the Command made 439 seizures, which included; 11,841 bags of 59kg foreign parboiled rice, 130 units of vehicles including 2018 Model Black Mercedes Benz AMG G63, (bulletproof), 39 units of motorcycle (means of conveyance) and 98 kegs of Vegetable oil (25 liters each).

Other items are 11 bales and 40 packs of secondhand clothing, 100 pairs of used shoes, 3,204 ctns of frozen poultry products, 98,200 liters of PMS (Petrol) , 306 kegs of palm oil (25 liters each) and 1,950 liters of Diesel.

The seizure also include 3,250 liters of Kerosene, 73 packet of handbags (New) 33 cartons body cream, 2 sacks of margarine (Blue band) 149 bags by 50kg and 3 cartons of Sugar, 26 sacks of Kolanut, 7 sacks of Bitter kola, 55 sacks of Cannabis sativa, 5 bundle and 9 pack of used tyres, 2 cartons of Milk

12 cartons of Spaghetti, 40 drums of Ethanol (alcoholic spirit), 9 cartons of mosquito coil and flit, 90 packs of pineapple, 17 cartons of fresh herbal soap and 697 bags of Sodium Hydroxide Chemical The total duty paid value of the items is N500,766,215

Also, the Defence Headquarters stated that the military arrested seven suspected sea pirates, impounded bags of smuggled rice and destroyed oil thieves’ camp in the Niger-Delta region in the last one week.

The Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. John Enenche, stated that in the South-South zone of the country, the Land and Maritime components of Operation DELTA SAFE have recorded tremendous successes within the period under review.

“Troops of 3 battalions arrested seven suspected sea pirates at Snake creek in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta.”

Enforcement of policies

As a move to address the policy gaps in the country, Dr. Sunday Dosumu, the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Funtes Investment Limited, in a chat with iBrandTV, stated that regardless of the many policies in the country, if our borders are still porous, we will continue to experience serious gaps in food sufficiency in Nigeria.

READ ALSO: Tackling the Soaring Price of Local Rice Amid COVID-19

Dr Dosumu, after a live programme, titled Farmers’ Show at iBrandTV Headquarters said: “Currently, as a nation, Nigeria has enough policies on ground, but having the will to ensure that those policies are enforced, that is where we have a problem as a country. We are not short of policies as a country, but we are short of implementing the policies that we have.

If we enforce the policies issued on the existing 41 items already ban by the federal government through the Central Bank of Nigeria, the country’s agricultural sector will be sustainable for both Nigeria as a country and farmers.

On the inclusion of Maize into the list of 41 ban items, he stated that, “What the federal government should have done is to find out what we need as a country to get through the harvest season and allow the importation of that quantity so we do not begin to pay a terrible price from it.

“The federal government also need to fine-tune policies on intervention funds to the agricultural sector. The way commercial bank process and access the sector’s risks structure is like any other business, and there are peculiarities in the agricultural sector that need to be considered.”

 

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