The Federal Government on Monday said it was considering fresh measures, including temporary closure of borders, to curb unbridled rice smuggling into the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Chief Audu Ogbeh, gave this hint Abuja while speaking with youths in a leadership clinic under the auspices of Guardians of the Nation International (GOTNI).
Ogbeh said that shutting the borders had become imperative in order to encourage local farmers engaged in rice production and sustain the current efforts at making the country to produce locally what its citizens consume.
The minister accused one of the nation’s neighbouring countries as undermining the efforts to achieve food security and by so doing, the economy’s capacity to grow sustainably by engaging in reckless importation of the commodity in order to illegally smuggle it to Nigeria.
He explained: “Our other problem is smuggling. As we speak, a neighbour of ours is importing more rice than China is importing. They do not eat parboiled rice, they eat white rice, they use their ports to try and damage our economy.
“I am telling you now because in a few days, you will hear the border has been shut, we are going to shut it to protect you, us and protect our economy. You will start seeing all sorts of negative things on the internet.
“Let me tell you why we need to shut the border, I grow rice, I was the first Nigerian to mill rice free of stones, if you plant rice in certain parcels of land, some poisonous materials gets into the rice. There are three kinds of water in their natural state; there is fresh water from the river, salt water from the sea, blackish water.
“If you go to the Delta in many countries, in South East Asia where they grow the rice, if you plant rice in the same place like four to six years continuously, the quantum of arsenic begins to increase and arsenic causes cancer and that is what they are dumping for us.
“Some people say they prefer Thai rice because they are very sophisticated, welcome to poison,’’ Ogbeh added.
The minister said that the government, through nationwide rice farming programmes, had reduced rice importation by 95 per cent and increased the number of rice farmers from five million to 30 million in two years .
He listed Anambra, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Kano, Jigawa amongst the states that had done well in recent times in rice production.
“We just have to handwork you to prosperity otherwise, this country will not grow. My wish for you is to have a better time that we had,’’ Ogbeh said.
The President of GOTNI, Dr Linus Okorie, commended the minister for sharing prosperity experiences with the youth, pointing out that the leadership clinic was organised by GOTNI to expose young people to practical leadership principles for life success.
According to him, GOTNI is committed to changing the narratives of poor leadership in Nigeria by consciously developing the capacities of generational leaders.
Okorie clarified: “A lot of young people are asking questions, seeking answers to their questions, wish that they have an experienced person who will hold them by the hands and show them the way to achieve success.
“There are a few people that are readily available to do this; a lot of them are making decisions everyday on the basis of their limited exposure.
“If Nigeria must make progress, if we must consciously build the next generation of leaders then, we must expose these young people to experienced leaders that have gone ahead for a conscious transfer of knowledge and experiences,’’ the GOTNI boss added.