Association of Rice Millers and Importers decry activities of illegal importers

Association of Rice Millers and Importers decry activities of illegal importers

Tuesday, January 5, 2016 5:37 pm

Imported rice

Imported rice

Funsho Balogun

The Rice Millers, Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria, RIMIDAN, has refused to be silent over illegal rice importation into the country that has led to genuine importers counting their losses. RIMIDAN blames the woes of its association’s members on the decision to lift the ban on rice importation through the land borders which is being adhered to by the Nigerian Customs Service. RIMIDAN is particularly miffed that the smugglers and illegal dealers have now resorted to under declaration in bringing their commodities into the Nigerian market.

The National President of the association, Tunji Owoeye, stated at a stakeholders forum on Monday that the illegal dealers who have flooded the market with their commodity which has passed through the porous land borders are now even emboldened to the extent of brandishing documents of duties paid which are usually doctored and duplicated to cover several transactions instead of one. ‘’These die hard dealers go to the market to flag duties of what they have paid, which is duplicated four or five times as evidence to cover their illegal imports,’’ Owoeye stated.

Last month, it was reported that hundreds of trucks laden with bags of rice from Thailand had found their way into Nigeria through Cotonou. The RIMIDAN made it known to the Nigerian Customs Service that the commodity arrives in big trailers with 1200-1500 numbers of 50kg bags and that there is substantial under declaration and non-payment aspects in the massive shipments, making it non-viable for legal importers and local producers to compete with these shipments.

Based on the influx of the commodity into the country, the miffed RIMIDAN, through a letter to the Customs Comptroller General, Hameed Ali, complained about high level corruption, involving Customs officials and importers at the various land borders across the country. The association alleged that under declaration is now the new name of the game which was hitherto outright smuggling at most of the porous land borders.

Industry sources gathered that smugglers are currently having a field day through under declaration by paying only 50 per cent of whatever volume of cargo that is passed. On his part, Owoeye claims that a truck of 60 metric tons passes through after it officially pays for only 30 metric tons. The illegal process, as claimed by RIMIDAN, defeats the purpose of the NCS of allowing the passage of rice through land borders which is to attract appropriate import duty towards upping revenue generation.

The NCS had earlier claimed that lifting the ban on passage of rice through land borders was for Customs to reorganize its anti-smuggling operations in these areas while ensuring that all importers through the borders bring their rice through approved routes, after paying the extant duty.

Nigeria spends over 1 billion dollars on rice importation annually, and rice duty charges currently account for about 50 per cent of the entire revenue generated by the Nigerian Customs Service.

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