There are strong indications that expired foreign rice smuggled into the country may have flooded Nigerian markets, LEADERSHIP can report.
The commodity, according to LEADERSHIP investigation are being imported from neighboring Benin Republic into Nigeria.
Nigeria shares major borders with Benin Republic at Seme Border (Lagos), Idiroko (Ogun State), Shaki (Oyo State) and Chikanda (Kwara State).
It was gathered that a larger percentage of rice imported into the Francophone country were meant for sale in Nigeria. The rice has been exposed to poor storage facilities, rain, weevils and other unhygienic forms of storage, thereby making the commodity toxic and not fit for human consumption anymore.
However, the unwholesome commodity is also smuggled into the country through methods that include pouring grains of rice into various crevices of vehicles.
The product are also believed to be conveyed in open wooden canoes across creeks and waterways with large quantity of unhygienic waters splashing on them.
It was gathered that despite the very obvious activities of the Federal Operation Unit (FOU) A, Ikeja to stem smuggling, border commands of Seme, Idiroko, Oyo/Oshun – have not been able to check smuggling of these toxic commodities from getting into Nigeria in large quantities.
Recall that FOU A had seized over 29,750 bags of 50kg of smuggled rice with Duty Paid Value of N193m and arrested over 163 suspects from January to September 2016. The same cannot be said of Seme, Idiroko and Oyo/Oshun Command who had the primary responsibility of policing the borders.
LEADERSHIP investigation further showed that the business of rice smuggling is growing and appearing increasingly unabated at the land borders thereby putting Nigeria at risk of consuming the expired rice.
For instance, last week two trucks load of frozen chicken estimated to be over 2062 cartons valued at over N11million were intercepted at Ijebu-Ode enroute Sango, a suburb in Ogun by Comptroller General Compliance team, South West Zone after it had escaped Ogun border Command.
It was reported that articulated vehicles, cars and canoes loaded with rice crossed through the waters and creeks of Badagry and Agbara, Idiroko and Saki to land in Sango, Kuto, Iyana ipaja, Iddo, Badagry, Mile 2, Daleko markets.
Early morning visits to some of these markets showed vehicles in large quantities offloading their smuggled wares.
In the case of Sango market, opposite the Divisional Police Station, LEADERSHIP reporter saw smuggled vehicles used to move the commodities with the connivance of some security operatives, thereby Police causing early morning traffic as they take turns to discharge their smuggled consignments into the Sango market for onward distribution to other parts of Lagos.
The buyers of the expired products are already at hand buying the products and moving them in large quantities into commercial buses to their various destinations.
Reacting to the LEADERSHIP inquiry, the Customs Public Relations Officer, Wale Adeniyi said the service is aware of the availability of expired rice in Nigeria markets.
“We have raised the alarm of expired rice because they have stored the rice in neighbouring countries and they cannot bring them into the country.
“The rice have been there for a long time and it got expired because they cannot bring them in and that was why Customs raised the alarm that Nigerians should be careful with the kind of rice they buy in the market,” he told our correspondent.
The Customs Area Controller, Oyo/Oshun Command, Tope Ogunkua also confirmed the existence of expired rice in various markets across the country.
“The public Nigeria should be vigilant when they want to purchase rice in the market to ensure that they do not consume expired rice. There was the need to inform the public again because of the increase in the rate at which smugglers have attempted to import expired rice to the country.”
Ogunkua disclosed that the Command has continued to discover so many bags of expired rice out of the many lorry loads of the commodity which it has impounded saying that it was an indication that the smugglers have continued in their attempts to bring expired rice into Nigeria.
‘’In some of our dealings with the smugglers, we discover that some of the bags of rice are expired, that is why we are telling the public to be mindful of what they consume. If those rice was to get into the market, they would just put them in another set of bags or in basins and retail them to the unsuspecting public,’’ he said.
FOU A, Comptroller Mohammed Dahiru said rice importation through the land borders was banned by the Federal government in other to control whatis being brought into the country.
He said the FOU A has done enough to curb smuggling of rice through the land border.
“I believe we have been able to achieve greater percentage of suppressing smuggling and if somebody is to be objective and fair to customs FOU A, I believe it will be a pass mark because what is in the FOU A warehouse, both open and other warehouse is a good testimony that FOU is working. It is full to the brim with rice.
Getting the National Agency of Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to comment on how Nigerians can identify expired rice in the markets and what they are doing to mop up such commodity from Lagos market was not fruitful as calls placed to the agency’s spokesperson in Lagos, Mrs Christy Obiazikwor were not answered and series of text messages sent to her phone were also not replied.