Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) has frowned at the directive given by the Senate to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to return to their owners confiscated smuggled foreign rice seized from various shops in Ibadan and other parts of the country.
The Director-General of the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), Dr. Andy Ekwelem who spoke to newsmen in Abuja noted that the ugly development was a gradual reversal of the gains made so far in combating the scourge of rice smuggling into the country of which the Federal Government has committed so many resources.
The development is a sequel to the directive given by the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges, and Public Petitions on Tuesday 4th of May 2020, where it asked the Nigeria Customs Service to return the smuggled goods it impounded from rice traders’ shops in Ibadan, Oyo State to their owners.
At the hearing, the Senate concluded that the Nigeria Customs Services erred by raiding the market in Ibadan and confiscated smuggled Rice packed in the various Shops.
But RIPAN through its Director-General, Andy Ekwelem said they were shocked and disappointed by the directive, and wish to state unequivocally, that the instruction given to the Nigeria Customs Services, counteracts the resolve of both the Nigerian Government and Good people of this country to grow local capacity in the Rice sector in-order to be in control of the country’s food security.
He noted that the Nigerian Customs Services has over the years borne the blames for the smuggling of food items especially Rice, stressing that each time the menace rises, stakeholders fall over themselves blaming the Customs.
“This instruction is nothing but tacit support to smuggling and it leaves much to be desired. It also to a very large extent paints a picture of insensitive to the plight of the Nigerian investor”, they queried.
He noted that members of the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) and indeed all actors in the entire Rice value Chain are patriotic individuals who hearken to the invitation of the Federal Government of Nigeria for private sector investments in the Rice processing sector in particular and the Rice Value Chain in general.
He also posited that all these individuals have invested trillions of Naira and are currently providing millions of employments (both Direct and Indirect) to the teeming Nigeria labour force, adding that “It is worrisome that the legislative chamber whose responsibility it is to protect them are the ones unwittingly undoing the efforts.
“Today the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria is shocked to learn that after the Nigeria Customs raid on some markets across the country, the Senate has directed the Nigerian Customs to return impounded smuggled Rice to their owners Ibadan.
“Indeed, we are shocked at the fact that now that the Nigeria Customs Service has decided to its duties creditably well and wield the big stick against Rice Smugglers, they are been antagonized and reprimanded by no other organ of Government than the Nigerian Senate.
“For us as patriotic investors in the Nigerian Economy, it is most disheartening, saddening, and unfortunate that the Hallow chamber appears to give support, encouragement, and protection to smugglers.”
He advised that Nigerians should know that by this instruction, the senate is inadvertent, demoralizing the officers and men of the Nigeria Customs Services while at the same time emboldening smugglers and Economic Saboteurs who are the true troublers of the Nigeria Economy.
He said the instruction/ directives from the Senate to the Nigeria Customs Services portends dire consequences for both the Nigerian Economy and her People especially current investors, potential investors, and Youths.
“It is capable of sending shock waves that can collapse the industry. of course, when investors release that their investments are not protected by adequate legislation, they will have no option but withdraw their funds from the economy”, he said