The Rice Processors Association of Nigeria, RIPAN, has disapproved of the directive given by the Senate to the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, to return confiscated foreign rice seized back to their owners.
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 NCS to return the smuggled goods it impounded from rice traders’ shops in Ibadan, Oyo State to their owners.
In an interview with newsmen in Abuja, the Director-General of RIPAN, Andy Ekwelem, noted that the 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 had committed much resources.
At the hearing, the Senate concluded that the Nigeria Custom Services erred by raiding the market in Ibadan and confiscated smuggled Rice packed in the various Shops.
Mr Ekwelem revealed that they were shocked and disappointed by the directive and wish to state unequivocally, that the instruction given to the NCS 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.
According to him, the NCS has over the years borne the blames over 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 a tacit support to smuggling and it leaves much to be desired. It also to a very large extent paints a picture of insensitivity to the plight of the Nigerian investor”, they queried.
He noted that members RIPAN and indeed all actors in the entire Rice value Chain are patriotic individuals who heed 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.
Mr Ekwelam posited that the trillions of Naira invested are currently providing millions of employment 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 Custom Service have decided to its duties creditably well and wield the big stick against Rice Smugglers, they are being 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.”
The director claimed that the senate is inadvertently demoralizing the officers and men of the Nigeria Custom Services while at the same time emboldening smugglers and economic saboteurs who are the “true troublers of the Nigeria Economy.”
“The 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.”