Dealers of rice in Nigeria under the aegis of the Rice Millers, Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria, RIMIDAN, have alleged a high level of corruption and under-declaration involving Customs and importers at the various land borders across the country.
The association said it had observed that rice import through the land borders is not structured while proper procedures are not followed in making declaration and clearance.
In a letter sent to the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali on the allegation, RIMIDAN said, “Sir, we want to bring to your notice our observations on the new rice policy. We gathered from reliable sources that massive under-declaration has now replaced outright smuggling in virtually all our land borders,” RIMIDAN stated in the letter dated 16th November, 2015 and titled UNDER-DECLARATION AS THE BANE OF NEW RICE POLICY.
“Form M is not original or may not be opened at all; PAAR is not included in the documents; customs officials are issuing assessments without form M; no NAFDAC numbers on the bags; rice dealers buy CFA and other foreign currencies through illegal means.
The letter was signed by the RIMIDAN National President, Tunji Owoeye.
It was learnt that, the least a bag of rice imported through the land border is expected to cost is N 10,300.
It was reported that, in major Nigerian rice markets such as Daleko, Iddo, Alaba & Sango in Lagos, Bodija in Ibadan, Oyarugbulem/Oba Oyemekun in Akure, Oja Obal new market in Borin, Kuto in Abeokuta, Igbudu in Warri, new Benin in Benin and Maraba, Wuse, & Garki in Abuja, bags of rice are unbelievably landing far below N 10,300; an indication that massive under-declaration is going on at our land borders.
It was also learned, according to findings, that smugglers/under-declaration agents are able to carry out their nefarious activities by paying for only 50% of whatever volume of cargo that is being passed.
It was gathered, for instance, that a truck of 60 metric tons is only asked to pay officially for 30 metric tons.
According to RIMIDAN, the implication of the anomalies with regards to rice importation through the land borders are grave on the health of the citizenry and the national economy.
The association stated in the letter, “Other agencies of government such as NAFDAC, SON, NPA, Quarantine Services etc are deprived of their statutory functions with very serious implications on the health of our people especially if there is food poisoning/contamination.
“Between July – October 2015, 16 vessels with a total volume of 515,731 metric tons laden with parboiled rice (Beninese eat only perfumed rice) have called Cotonou in Republic of Benin (Schedule attached). All this quantity has entered into Nigerian markets and we are not sure that duties are completely paid for same.
“This under-declaration/smuggling must not be allowed to continue otherwise the serious revenue leakage we are witnessing now will become unimaginable. Genuine rice importers through the seaports and investors in (the) rice value-chain development would be pushed out of business.
“The problem of unemployment may be compounded as more drivers, truck owners, motor boys, mechanics, spare part dealers, dock workers, terminal operators, shipping and clearing agents etc. may lose their jobs.
“We may also see reversal of some of the gains we have achieved through the efforts made by your good self. In fact, the impacts on the economy is better imagined sir.
“It is in the light of this that we crave your indulgence to use your good office to halt this trend and to also have a comprehensive review of the new policy (of allowing rice importation through the land borders) with a view to making it more efficient.”