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Senate wants restoration of ban on rice importation




The Senate yesterday decried the lifting of ban placed on rice importation and urged the Presidency to prevail on the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to immediately restore it.

According to the Senate, the lifting of the ban on rice importation has led to increased diversion of vessels to neighbouring countries.

Adopting the report of the Ad-hoc Committee on Import Duty Waivers, Concessions and Grants which investigated the lifting of the ban on rice importation through the land borders, the Senate expressed concern that the decision would increase rice smuggling into the country.

It therefore urged the Federal Government to direct the Nigeria Customs Service to reverse itself and maintain the status quo, which was said to have brought about stability in the tariff regime.

Presenting the report of the committee, a member of the panel, Senator Donald Alasoadura (APC, Ondo Central), faulted the decision of the NCS, saying there are serious security implications accompanying uncontrolled number of trucks to the nation’s porous borders.

He said the committee found out from the presentation of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), that the NCS had a wrong notion that importers of rice through the land borders are ‘small-time’ importers of a few bags that will not have negative effect on the rice policy.
The committee, he said, noted that most of the rice brought into Nigeria through Benin and Niger Republics are brought in by ‘big time businessmen’ who have perfected evasion of payment of customs duty to the country by bringing rice in trucks.

The panel found out that any importer that imports five to ten loads/vessels of rice into Benin Republic and destined them to Nigeria through the land borders already had predetermined motive to cheat Nigerian government of revenue through duty evasion.

The panel discovered further that lifting of the ban led to more serious revenue leakages as a result of heightened activities of smugglers across the borders as they exploited it by paying for less number of trucks than actually brought in.

According to the ad-hoc panel, the action of the Customs led to evasion of duty and revenue losses to Nigerian maritime industry, Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Maritime and Security Administration Agency (NIMASA), Freight Forwarders, haulage subsector, among others.

Alasoadura said: “There is strong possibility for dubious businessmen to indulge in round tripping. That is, paying duty on three or four truck loads of rice and using the clearing document to bring in more than 100 more truck loads. This will inevitably affect the revenue going into the Federation Account.

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