Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh has raised alarm over news that 571,000 metric tonnes of parboiled rice shipped from Thailand has arrived Benin Republic and is waiting to be transported to Nigeria ahead of the Christmas celebration.
The minister made the comment while speaking to journalists in Abuja, even as he pointed out that the ECOWAS treaty that allows free trade within West Africa was being violated by traders as they imports goods, station them at the borders and smuggle them into Nigeria.
The ECOWAS treaty was for products manufactured within the region, but some of our neighbours are not moving goods produced in their country, they import goods, station themselves at our borders and smuggle these items into our economy.
Rice is not grown in the Republic of Benin, why should it come in to the country as goods produced in that country? Because the Nigerian market is so big they want to exploit it.
No economy should out of sympathy damage our own and we should not allow anybody out of sentiment do to us things that we can’t do.
When Dangote was trying to ship his cement through the Republic of Benin to Togo it took one year to persuade them. They said he could not because they have a cement factory in Onibolo.
He commended the Senate committee on Customs headed by Senator Hope Uzodinma for raising awareness on the need to restructure the ECOWAS treaty, adding that Nigeria is at the loosing end.
“I sympathise with the committee and fully endorse the plan,” Ogbeh added.
According to reports, the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) disclosed last month that one million metric tonnes of parboiled rice arrived Republic of Benin just as they accused the country’s government of providing smugglers with warehousing facilities and transport logistics to smuggle rice into Nigeria because of import duties accruing to them.