By Bankole Wright
The Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, on Monday commenced an investigation into rice smuggling in the country, with a public hearing in Abuja.
Opening the session with “Smuggling – A Threat to Nigeria’s Quest to Self-Sufficiency in Rice Production’’, President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, decried the rising trend in smuggling in the country.
Saraki said that activities of smugglers were a threat to Nigeria’s self-sufficiency in rice production and must be dealt with in the interest of citizens.
He said that in spite of the present administration’s effort to make food sufficiency a cardinal policy, it was faced with rising level of smuggling at various borders.
He cautioned that if not nipped in the bud, the situation would adversely affect the growth of the local market and revenue generation among others.
“A considerable amount of revenue to be collected by the Federal Government is being lost in addition to other adverse impacts that the smuggled items cause to local industry.
“Obviously, this act cannot be achieved without the cooperation and connivance of corrupt officials, including those in the law enforcement agencies.
“A World Bank report of 2016 states that an astonishing N1.45 trillion worth of assorted goods are smuggled into Nigeria through the Benin Republic alone every year.
“Therefore, we must exploit all avenue and investigate corrupt practices in various Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government,’’ Saraki said.
He said that the Senate’s intervention was informed by the need to finding a lasting solution to the problem.
The president of the senate said that sanitation of local rice production in the country would, in line with Senate’s Legislative Agenda, encourage diversification.
He urged the committee and other stakeholders at the hearing to make recommendations for prompt intervention.
The Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Hope Uzodinma, said that reports had revealed the huge harm being done to the economy by activities of smugglers.
The lawmaker stressed that it was more frightening to note that the annual turnover in the hands of smugglers was more than the country’s annual budget.
Uzodinma urged the stakeholders to make useful submissions that would aid the committee in its investigation.