The Federal Government on Wednesday expressed concern over smuggling activities on the Nigeria-Benin Republic land border, through which tonnes of rice are flooding Nigerian markets.
The Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr Heineken Lokpobiri, raised the concern at a stakeholders’ consultative meeting in Abuja.
Lokpobiri said federal government had uncovered more than one million tonnes of rice waiting to be smuggled into Nigeria through the border from Cotonou.
He said smuggling activities, particularly relating to rice, poultry products and fish were becoming alarming.“We all know the dangers of the consumption of these frozen products, the consumption of this imported rice and fish.
“There are strange diseases now surfacing in Nigeria and the reason is that instead of us to patronising our local products, we rather use foreign ones,’’ he said.
The minister said the ministry had introduced quality control measure to regulate fish import with a view to reducing the huge gap in demand and supply of the product.
“We know that criminal activities are going on the land border, particularly through the Benin Republic where people bring in frozen fish and poultry products that are not healthy for human consumption.
“These smuggled frozen products contain chemical being used to preserve dead bodies,’’ he said.
Lokpobiri said the federal government had the duty to ensure that the citizenry only eats healthy foods.
He said the essence of the meeting was to work together with the agriculture stakeholders and dealers of different food items to ensure food security in Nigeria.
“The time has come for us to discuss with those selling frozen products and imported rice to find solutions to these criminal practices in Nigeria.’’
Earlier, Dr Bukar Hassan, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, said the attention of the federal government had been drawn to the activities of unpatriotic individuals and organisations involved in smuggling activities in Nigeria.
Hassan urged government officials at all levels to do everything possible to curtail these nefarious activities. He noted the smuggling activities have negative and multiplier effects on human health and the economy.
“Let us, as government, join hands to curtail these evil practices of smugglers in view of its implication on economy and health hazards it constitutes to the populace.
“It is on this note that the minister of state set up a committee to find short, medium and long-term solutions to the illegal importation of food items,’’ Hassan said.
He assured that the ministry would work with all stakeholders for the actualisation of the objectives of setting up the committee.
In their responses, some of the stakeholders appealed to the federal government to intervene by subsidising some food products.They said that buyers would rather prefer to patronise the cheaper foreign food items, rice in particular, than the local ones that tended to be expensive.
The National President, Poultry Association of Nigeria, Mr Ezekiel Ibrahim, said Nigeria poultry has great potentials if supported by the government.“We have varieties of food that can feed Nigerians, but patronising foreign food is hampering the locally produced food items.
“If we patronise our local food products, it will go a long way to sustain the nation’s economy and create more jobs,’’ he said.