Senate invites Customs’ Comptroller-General over rice importation

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The Senate on Thursday summoned the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), to appear and brief it on issues surrounding removal of rice from import restriction list.
It directed that Ali should interact with its Ad hoc Committee on Import Duty Waiver.
The decision to invite the customs boss followed a motion by Senator Adamu Aliero (APC- Kebbi Central), which was supported by 32 other senators.
Moving the motion, Aliero expressed concern over the ‘’unilateral and unexpected’’ decision of the Comptroller-General to reopen the country’s land borders to rice importation.
He said that the action would reverse the gains recorded in rice production in the country.
According to Aliero, the decision will not only halt the rice revolution but also discourage further investment in rice farming and agro-allied industries.
He said that the decision of the Customs to liberalise the importation of rice to the extent of lifting the ban on land importation of the commodity, would escalate its smuggling.
“Nigeria is presently the largest importer of rice in the world,’’ he said, regretting that this was in spite of 15 new rice mills established across the country by private investors between 2010 and 2015.
He said that the millions, aside from striving to provide the commodity to the people, had provided employment to many Nigerians.
After a debate of the motion, which had many senators supporting ban on rice importation, the matter was referred to the Committee on Import Duty Waiver.
In his remarks, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, decried the rate of illegal activities at the nation’s borders.
He said that the motion was timely, given the need to reposition the economy to give investors the confidence to invest in the country.
“This motion should be looked at from the depth of knowledge that it represents.
“This issue is important; for as long as we say we want to be self-sufficient and we keep changing policy, we will run into hitches,’’ Saraki said.
Saraki warned that if rice importation was not banned, Nigeria would be building the economy of other countries at the expense of growth of its own.
“We have made so much noise about diversification but we are trying to truncate this process of diversification.
“We must also know the danger the decision of the Comptroller-General would pose to domestic industry in terms of job creation,’’ he stressed.
He directed that the committee had two weeks to investigate the matter and submit its report
Meanwhile, 10 bills scaled through first reading at Thursday’s plenary.
They are Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 Alteration Bill 2015, Delegated Legislation Bill 2015, National Library Act (Amendment) Bill 2015, Employment Services Bill 2015,
Others are Local Industry Patronage Bill 2015, National Planning Process Bill 2015 and National Commission for Peace Reconciliation and Mediation Bill.
Also included are Environmental Managers Registration Council of Nigeria (Establishment, etc) Bill 2015, and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill 2015.

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