Determined to ensure total compliance to the ban on rice imports into the country, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has forbidden the exit of rice from Free Trade Zones (FTZs) in the country. Mr Joseph Attah, the Public Relations Officer of NSC said in Abuja, that the Service has taken its war against rice smuggling to the FTZs. Attah said that due to the high level of security along the border lines, some Nigerians were taking advantage of the status of the FTZ to smuggle rice into the country. “Just last week the Comptroller-General of Customs (CGC), Col. Hameed Ali, issued a directive that no rice should exit from FTZ into the country. We know that the FTZ enjoys special status under the law. “It is known as a country within a country. That is why some items that are not allowed in the country are allowed by law to be imported into the country by the operators in the FTZ.” However, the NSC has discovered that some operators are taking advantage of the status of the FTZ. They now circumvent the law restricting rice imports through the land borders.
It should be recalled that it was in a bid to preserve foreign exchange and boost local rice production that the Buhari administration engaged, last year, in a mission to end rice imports. “So if we block the land borders and allow operators of FTZ to bring in rice through the seaport into the FTZ and then exit into Nigeria, our efforts at the land borders will be in vain,’’ Attah said. He explained that the FTZ was a land of its own, as such the law that apply to the land border should also be apply to the FTZ because it is a land, and “between the two borders, there is no seaport.” He however did not point out if all FTZs are culprits or not and whether warnings were issued before the latest blanket ban.