AgroNigeria, an agro-based information and consulting services outfit, has urged the Nigerian government to drag the government of Benin Republic to the African Union and Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) for aiding smuggling of foreign rice into Nigeria.
Its Chief Executive Officer, Richard Mark-Mbaram, in a chat with newsmen in Abuja on Wednesday said that it is the only way to encourage local rice production and businesses in the country.
Mbaram suggested that the issue be discussed at the ECOWAS and African Union’s meetings as a way to resolve persistent smuggling of rice into Nigeria. The outfit’s boss called on the federal government to adopt stiffer penalties to check rice smuggling at the borders with neighbouring countries.
“If we have to confront Benin Republic and read a riot act to them, telling them that we feel threatened that they are undertaking inimical measures against our economy, I don’t see anything wrong with it.
“The countries that have borders with us are stockpiling rice; so Nigeria needs to take definite, radical measures.
"There is no point playing big brother; it is about our life and that of the nation. It is about the businesses of our citizens.
‘‘If businesses are challenged and threatened, we have a problem as a nation,” he said.
Mbaram explained that a measure of confrontation is what is needed to put the conversation on the front burner.
He noted that the forthcoming high level conference on rice scheduled to hold in Abuja from April 11 to 12 would also deliberate on the issue of smuggling.
Discussants will include Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, the Director-General of Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) and the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
The conference, he said, is aimed at addressing issues in the rice supply value chain to enable the country achieve self-sufficiency in the production of the crop.