Customs re-imposes restriction on rice importation through land borders

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By; Kayode Atofolaki, Lagos.

Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has re-introduced the restriction order on importation of rice through land borders across the country.  Comptroller-General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) 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 held in Abuja, the service noted that dwindling revenue from rice imports through the land borders had not match the volume of rice landed in neighboring ports.   Rather, reports from border commands indicated an upsurge in the tempo of rice smuggling it said.

In statement by by its spokesman, Mr Wale Adeniyi, the Deputy Comptroller said that the implementation of the restriction order got off to a smooth start, with a high level of compliance in October 2015.  However, he explained that the revenue started dwindling from January 2016, with importers blaming access to forex as major impediments.

Adeniyi noted: “During the Five-month period when the  importation was allowed October 2015 – March 17th 2016, a total of  24.992 Metric tons of rice valued at N 2, 335,131,093 was imported through the land borders. During the period, total revenue generated amounted to N 1,685,112,810.  “This is considerably lower than the revenue projected to be generated with the removal of import restrictions. However, an upsurge in the number of the seizures has been reported across the land borders since January 2016. In the first two months of  the 2016, many bags were seized, with Duty Paid Value of  N64,666,000 was made by the Customs anti-smuggling patrol teams of  Federal Operations and Border Commands.”

Adeniyi stressed that the Comptroller-General of Customs had said that that his officers and men could not be totally exonerated from the abuse associated with the implementation of the order on Rice, as his office had  been inundated with reports of collusion between them and rice importers.  Already the Comptroller General had directed investigation into the reports, insisting that indicted personnel would be sanctioned.

While directing a zero-tolerance to rice imports through the land borders irrespective of volume with immediate effect, he stated that importers who have already initiated import processes will have a grace period ending Friday 25th March, 2016 to clear their consignments.

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