By BUKOLA IDOWU, OLUSHOLA BELLO, TAIWO OMILANI, YUSUF BABALOLA, ZAKA ABD-KHALIQ
The federal government has commenced the implementation of certain strict measures to check against smuggling of rice into the country.
As part of these measures, it hinted yesterday that it will shut down the land border between Nigeria and a neigbouring country in a few days time to avoid smuggling of foreign rice into the country.
In the past few months, the federal government had been seeking ways to ensure that the Memorandum of Understanding (M0U) Nigeria signed with its neighbouring countries to check smuggling is implemented. The minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, disclosed the plan to shut the border yesterday in Abuja while speaking with youths in a leadership clinic under the auspices of Guardians of the Nation International (GOTNI). Although he did not mention the particular country and border, Ogbeh noted that shutting the borders had become necessary to encourage local production and sustain the country’s economy.
He explained that the neighbouring country is bent on destroying the economy of the country and discouraging local production of rice, hence the need to shut down the border. His words: “Our other problem is smuggling. As we speak, a neighbor of ours is importing more rice than China is importing. They do not eat parboiled rice, they eat white rice, they use their ports to try and damage our economy. “I am telling you now because in a few days, you will hear that the border has been shut. We are going to shut it to protect you, us and protect our economy. You will start seeing all sorts of negative things on the Internet.
“Let me tell you why we need to shut the border. I grow rice; I was the first Nigerian to mill rice free of stones. If you plant rice in certain parcels of land, some poisonous materials gets into the rice. There are three kinds of water in their natural state; there is fresh water from the river, salt water from the sea and blackish water. “If you go to the Delta in many countries, in South East Asia where they grow the rice, if you plant rice in the same place like four to six years continuously, the quantum of arsenic begins to increase and arsenic causes cancer and that is what they are dumping for us. Some people say they prefer Thai rice because they are very sophisticated; welcome to poison”. The minister further noted that the federal government in two years reduced rice importation by 95 per cent and increased the number of rice farmers from five million to 30 million. He announced that states like Anambra, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Kano, Jigawa are doing well in rice production. “We just have to handwork you to prosperity, otherwise this country will not grow. My wish for you is to have a better time that we had,’’ Ogbeh said. On his part, the president of GOTNI, Dr Linus Okorie, who commended the minister for sharing prosperity experiences with the youths, noted that the leadership clinic was organised by GOTNI to expose young people to practical leadership principle for life success. According to him, GOTNI is committed to changing the narrative of poor leadership in Nigeria by consciously developing the capacities of generational leaders. Okorie said, “A lot of young people are asking questions, seeking answers to their questions, wish that they have an experienced person who will hold them by the hands and show them the way to achieve success. There are a few people that are readily available to do this; a lot of them are making decisions everyday on the basis of their limited exposure.
“If Nigeria must make progress, if we must consciously build the next generation of leaders, then we must expose these young people to experienced leaders that have gone ahead for a conscious transfer of knowledge and experiences”. Some of the youths who spoke at the meeting called for continuous mentorship from leaders, access to finance and low interest rates to assist them in businesses. GOTNI is a non-profit youth leadership capital development organisation with a passion to nurture various categories of young people that are less than 40 years of age into transformational leaders.