The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, yesterday, said the Federal Government spent $2.41 billion on rice importation between January 2012 and May 2015.
The CBN boss disclosed this on a day the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, sealed warehouses of defaulting rice importers over non-payment of N23.6 billion excess importation levy.
Emefiele, who spoke at a stakeholders’ meeting with officials of paddy rice producing states and rice value chain investors in Abuja, said the bank’s decision to ban foreign exchange for importation of rice; fish and other items would not be reversed.
According to him, the apex bank has no plan to reverse the ban, adding that the reason for inclusion of rice in the exclusion list was not far-fetched.
He said: “ Figures available with the CBN show that from the period January 2012 to May 2015, the country had spent over $2.41 billion on importation of this commodity.
“Unfortunately, this trend has resulted in huge unsold stock of paddy rice cultivated by our farmers and low operating capacities of many integrated rice mills in Nigeria.”
Emefiele said the CBN in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development would come up with a comprehensive financing model to support rice millers and other investors in the sector.
He said the bank decided to intervene in the sector through funding and other packages because the country would not achieve its true potentials if it imported everything it could produce locally.
He said: “The bank will make funds more accessible to farmers through some of its funding programme such as the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme and the N220bn Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Development fund.
“ The funds will be made available to rice farmers through the Microfinance Banks at an interest rate of nine per cent and any bank that charges interest above that rate should be reported to the CBN.”
“We appeal to the state governments to provide lands for the farmers on a large scale and we will work with them to clear some of these impediments. We are at a stage where we must feed ourselves and all hands are in deck to ensure this work.”
Customs seals warehouses of rice importers
Meanwhile, the companies sealed by the Customs Service are OLAM, Stallion, Masco Agro, Ebony Agro and Conti Agro (Milan).
The NCS Public Relations Officer, Mr Wale Adeniyi, made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
He said “the four rice importers are indebted to the Federal Government to the tune of N23.6 billion.This drastic action was taken to compel them to make payment.”
Adeniyi said series of advertisements had been made in newspapers to make them pay for their excess importation.
He added that an ultimatum was also given to them to pay the outstanding charges, which they did not comply with.
“Today, we are no longer issuing ultimatum. We are ready to walk the talk with decisive action to recover outstanding duty due to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“That is why we have sealed their premises to prevent them from making importation into Nigeria.
“We have blocked them from our system so that they will not be able to make declaration and we will not allow them to discharge their imports in any of our ports.
“All these will be done preparatory to instituting full legal proceedings to compel them to pay what they owe Nigeria when the courts are back from recess.”