Benin Plans to Flood Nigeria with $30m Rice, Claims Laid Mohammed

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*As customs agents plead with FG to allow clearance of N5bn trapped goods at Seme
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Monday claimed that the Republic of Benin is planning to bring into Nigeria rice worth $30million, about 105,000 metric tonnes.
Mohammed made the claim in Seme border while addressing newsmen along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba; National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd) and the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammed Babandede during a visit.
He said that the federal government discovered that there were ships berthing in Benin waters with foreign rice which according to him were destined for Nigeria.
He said the target was for the rice to get to Nigerian market for the Christmas celebration.
The minister identified some of the ships carrying rice as MV Africana Jacana , 40,000 mt; MV Zilos, 20,000 mt and MV Sam Jarguar 45,000 mt.
According to him, the size of shipment of rice was not what could be consumed in Benin alone.
The rice consignment, he said, was from Japan.
The minister accused the Benin and Niger of working against ECOWAS protocol, which is for transit consignment when received to be escorted without the seal being tampered with.
He said Nigeria would not have closed her borders if not for the violation of various MoUs, ECOWAS transit protocols and ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) by these countries.
He said, ”Discussions on doing legitimate trade between Nigeria on one hand and Benin and Niger on the other, started in 2005. The discussions have led to MoUs in 2005, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, all designed to facilitating free movement of goods manufactured in their respective countries and work out the modalities through the Ministers of Trade of both countries for the realisation of this objectives.
”It is worth noting that there has never been legitimate transit trade between Nigeria and the two countries (Benin and Niger). For clarity, the ECOWAS protocol on transit demands that when a transit container berths at a seaport, the receiving country is mandated to escort same without tampering with the seal to the border of the destination country. Unfortunately, experience has shown that our neighbours do not comply with this protocol.”
“The partial closure has also curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into the country, in addition to other prohibited items. Our series of interactions and engagements with Rice Miller Association of Nigeria since the commencement of this exercise, has shown that the border closure has enhanced more production and milling of Nigerian rice.
“Patronage of Nigerian rice has increased and farmers are expanding their farms as well as engaging more hands. “Furthermore, the border closure has impacted positively on revenue generation of the federal government, which in turn will be used to build more infrastructure and develop critical sectors of the nation’s economy. The border exercise has also curbed diversion of petroleum products from Nigeria to neighbouring countries.”
He also added that the closure of the border has helped in checking the influx terrorists and kidnappers who have been using the borders to bring in arms and illicit drugs.
Also Monday, the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents said about 1000 trucks belonging to its members have been trapped in the border.
Chairman of the Task Force, Mr Samuel Igbowu, said duties on the goods were paid before the closure of the border.
He said what is painful is that members took loans to the tune of about N5 billion on the affected goods, adding that banks were on their trail.
He pleaded with the federal government to allow the affected goods to be cleared into the country since they are not contraband.

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