By Maxwell Adeleye
The Federal Government has threatened to shut some land borders if the smuggling of rice continues from neighbouring countries.
Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, gave the warning on Monday while speaking to newsmen on some of the Federal Government’s achievements in the agriculture sector in the last two years in Abuja.
Ogbeh said the decision had become necessary to encourage local rice farmers and to enable the country achieve self sufficiency in rice by 2018.
“We believe they are determined to sabotage the efforts that we are making to guarantee self sufficiency in rice and to save foreign exchange which we don’t have.
“They insist on bringing in rice through the land borders, avoiding the duties and the levies we put on them and they are definitely bent on sabotaging our efforts and we are getting increasingly unhappy with them.
“And I must say that very soon, if they persist, we will take very nasty measures against them.
“We will like to advise our neighbours, who believe that the ECOWAS treaty means that Nigeria is a volunteer nation for economic suicide.
“We have no such plans, destroying our own economy to make any neighbour happy.
“The ECOWAS treaty number two does not suggest that any country can be an avenue of smuggling foreign goods not produced in that country for dumping in his neighbours territory.
“If they insist, I do not think that government is far away from considering permanently closing certain borders very near us and when we do, nothing will make us change our minds on the issue, ECOWAS treaty or not,’’ Ogbeh warned.
The minister said that the importation of rice reduced from 580,000 tonnes in 2015 to 58,000 tonnes by 2016.
According to him, by the end of this year, we will eliminate the difference because more people are growing rice in the country.
He said the Federal Government would distribute no fewer than 200 rice mills to millers across the states of the federation to encourage fresh milling of locally produced rice in order to make them more palatable than the imported ones.
Ogbeh said the move would save about five million dollars for the country daily when achieved.
According to the minister, about three months ago, there was this cry about Nigeria going to starve and we told them that there will be such thing.
“We have never produced as much grains as we did in the last two years in this country’s’ history.
“We have fed not only Nigeria, we have fed West Africa and there are still thousands of tonnes in people’s warehouses.
“Those who bought grains and stored believing that starvation was near and they will make a killing they are now begging us to take off the grains from them because they are getting stock.
“The only shortfall we have is maize because of the disease called the armyworm.
“We are dealing with that and this planting season, we are going to support farmers to make sure that we bring that disease under control.
“We have done amazing things in agriculture in two years, we are still going,’’ Ogbeh said.
The minister said the government was working toward achieving self sufficiency in staples within the next two years excluding wheat.
He said that government’s ambition was that in five to six years from now, Nigeria should be able to earn between N10 to N30 billion from exportation of agricultural produce annually to service the country’s debts and build a robust foreign reserves.