Again, Customs bans rice importation through borders

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Bags-of-rice
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has re-introduced the restriction order on importation of rice through land borders across the country.

This is contained in a statement made available to newsmen by the Spokesman of the service, Mr Wale Adeniyi on Tuesday.

According to the statement, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Retired Col. Hameed Ali gave the approval for the reversal of an earlier policy in October 2015 which allowed rice imports through the land borders, once appropriate duty and charges were paid.

“At a review session held with Comptrollers of Border Commands and Federal Operation Units in Abuja, the Service noted that the dwindling revenue from rice imports through the land borders do not match the volume of rice landed in neighboring ports.

“Rather, reports from Border commands indicated an upsurge in the tempo of rice smuggling.

“Implementation of the restriction order got off to a smooth start with a high level of compliance in October 2015. However, revenue started dwindling from January 2016, with importers blaming access to Forex as major impediments.

“During the five-month period when the importation was allowed between October 2015 to March 17, 2016, a total of 24.992 tonnes of rice valued at N 2.33billion (Two billion, three hundred and thirty five million, one hundred and thirty one thousand and ninety three naira) were imported through the land borders,’’ the service said.

It said, “During the period, total revenue generated amounted to N1.68 billion (One billion, six hundred and eighty five million, one hundred and twelve thousand, eight Hundred and ten naira only). This is considerably lower than the revenue projected to be generated with the removal of import restrictions.’’

The statement, however, said that an upsurge in the number of seizures had been reported across the land borders since January 2016.

“In the first two months of 2016, a total of 9,238 bags were seized, with Duty Paid Value of N64,66 million made by the Customs anti-smuggling patrol teams of Federal operations and Border commands.

“The comptroller-general noted that his officers and men cannot be totally exonerated from the abuse associated with the implementation of the order on rice, as his office has been inundated with reports of collusion between them and rice importers.

“He has directed investigation into the reports, insisting that indicted personnel will be sanctioned,’’ the service said.

The comptroller-general directed a zero-tolerance to rice imports through the land borders irrespective of volume with immediate effect.

He also said that importers who had already initiated import processes would have a grace period ending Friday, March 25, 2016 to clear their consignments,’’ the service said.

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