Aniezechukwu lauds Customs over ban on importation of rice through land borders


The Chairman, the Association of Igbo Maritime Practitioners, PTML Chapter, Mr. Uchechukwu Aniezechukwu has commended the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) over its decision to once again ban importation of rice from the land borders describing the action as a welcomed development.

Aniezechukwu who made the commendation in an interview with Primetime Reporters in Lagos last week stated that the action was desirable owing to the fact that the Nigerian borders were porous adding that people who were calling for rice to be imported through the borders were people who were used to smuggling.

He stated that government had more control if importation of rice was restricted to the seaports than it had if it had come through the nation’s borders saying that revenues that were collected through the importation of rice through the seaports was more channeled and that the money could be ploughed back into more meaningful ventures.

On shippers’ insistence that rice should be allowed to come through the borders without any hitches, he said,” Of course, the shippers are businessmen, the whole essence of business is getting to maximize profit. We are looking at national interest, the basic reason shippers are routing to go through the borders is because of the incentives they enjoy from the authorities there. They know that the chances of smuggling in much more than they declare is higher at the border that it is at the seaport.

“The policy of the government is what should be maintained more so when this policy is in the interest of the general populace and not to the restricted few who call themselves importers, the shippers or whatever name they go with. I strongly believe that it is in the interest of Nigerians that rice come through the ports”.

When told that most of the freight agents were calling for the reversal of that directive, the Igbo Maritime boss challenged this medium to name one of the agents who was calling for the reversal of that policy adding that if such a call was made by any agent, it must have come from an agent or agents who had tremendous interest at the border posts.

“I don’t want to start mentioning names but we are leaving in a society where we take our personal interest over and above government interest. Everybody knows that our borders are porous, the government knows that our borders are porous, the freight logistics providers know that our borders are porous. What is happening at the borders is that a certain percentage of the duty that is supposed to be paid to the Nigerian government is splinted between the government of Benin Republic and Nigeria. Most of these people who are rooting for it is for their personal interest, it is not for the general interest of Nigerians”, he said.

While tracing the problem with the borders, he recalled that while it was not as though Nigeria had not enough personnel to man the border posts but for the mere fact that Nigerians were corruption prone.

He said,” There is nothing wrong with our personnel, there is nothing wrong with our manpower, there is nothing wrong with our logistics, there is nothing wrong with our arms procurement in terms of equipping our personnel, but honestly, it is just that corruption tendency is high in us. The chances that our personnel at the borders will collect money and allow goods and services to flow in are higher compared with other borders of the world. This is a border that you can cross anyhow unchecked, anything flows in through our borders”.

On whether or not the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali was ill-advised about eight months ago when he lifted the ban on importation of rice through the borders and did everything to defend the act then, Aniezechukwu disclosed that while he would not hold brief for Ali, it was possible that he must have weighed the development in terms of revenue before and after lifting the ban and discovered that government was losing a lot which prompted him to revisit the ban.

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