Last week, the federal government through the Minister of Finance Mrs Kemi Adeosun announced its plan to spend the sum of 1.12 billion naira on the purchase of anti-rice smuggling vehicles.
According to the Minister, this is necessary to control the illegal importation of smuggled rice, which gets into the Nigerian market and end up making local rice farmers lose out due to competition. This gradual phasing out of local farmers is behind the FG’s decision to approve the sum of 1.12 billion for the purchase of the vehicles. At first glance, this is a reasonable justification for spending such a huge sum. However, given the reality of Nigeria’s borders and the more pressing problems the country faces, going ahead with this plan is downright farcical.
This once again shows the low-level of intelligence being displayed by those at the helm of affairs in the Presidency. To start with, smuggling has been an age-long issue owing to the porous and insecure nature of the borders. It is very easy for smugglers to bring in items without paying the necessary customs duty.
The borders are so porous that a former Comptroller General of Customs stated that there are more than a thousand illegal entry points into Nigeria. This assertion, which has been re-echoed by successive Comptroller Generals is the main problem that needs to be addressed and not the purchase of vehicles.
The cause of smuggling is known, the solution is what is needed and that’s what our thinkers at the federal level should have done. This is a challenge that could be solved by two or more agencies in the country. The Nigeria Customs Service, the National Boundary Commission and other security agencies.
The boundary commission has detailed information on the country’s borders. The military has complex aircrafts which can effectively monitor our borders through aerial surveillance. The purchase of more aircrafts may cost more money, but it will in turn, help safeguard the borders. Continuous aerial surveillance will provide details about the entry points and the illegal ones will be blocked and manned by officials of the Nigeria Customs Service.
It’s important to note that majority of items being smuggled into Nigeria is done in connivance with customs officials. As a result, it is necessary for the Hameed Ali-led NCS to reform the service, removing corrupt officials.