Rice is smuggled into Nigeria mostly from the land borders, and this will make loans given to rice farmers in Nigeria by the Central Bank go bad if not checked.

Based on this, Senator Saraki believes checking smuggling of rice will increase the chances of the apex bank recouping its loan to farmers.

Smuggling, according to him, is a setback for efforts being made to diversify Nigeria’s economy from crude oil.

He was addressing members of a committee on Monday after he declared open a public hearing on tackling smuggling in the country organised by the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariffs at the National Assembly, Abuja.

A Statement by a spokesman for Senator Saraki, Sanni Onogu, said the Senate President asked the Committee and other persons at the hearing to come up with relevant recommendations on the way forward to save the nation’s farmers, small scale industries and financial institutions from impending crisis. 

“My presence here this morning is to make a point of the importance that this Senate places on this subject matter.

“For me personally, it is my view that the singular greatest threat to our economy is this issue of smuggling. What is militating against the success of our government is this issue of smuggling.

“The level of smuggling that we are seeing cannot continue because they will definitely rubbish all the policies of government if allowed to go on.

“I am saying that with all sincerity and all level of responsibility and I tell you why.

“Today, the greatest threat to small holder farmers is smuggling. Today, rice farmers who have gone to take loans either from the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) or from commercial banks are being threatened by rice coming in from across the borders at highly subsidised rate.

“The meaning of that is that the imported rice will always be cheaper than those produced by our local farmers.

“A time will come, if we do not do anything, these farmers will not be able to pay their loans to the banks and this will result in serious crisis.

“The banks that have given loans to these farmers, will also have crisis in their hands. And for the Central Banks that has intervened with billions of Naira again will not be able to recoup their money,” he said.

rice farming and rice smugglingA crude way of processing of rice in Nigeria that farmers adopt 

Other persons at risk of losing their capital are rice processors who have invested in rice mills.

Nigeria has injected over $7 billion in the last 10 years to stimulate local production of rice, but Saraki believes that this fund will go down the drain if smuggling is not checked.

He then expressed his belief in the members of the Committee and others at the hearing to come out with robust solutions to smuggling to stop persons engaging in it from further sabotaging the economy.