Border Closure increases local rice patronage

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Following the partial closure of Nigeria’s borders with intensified joint patrol conducted by the Customs and Immigration, there has been high patronage of locally produced rice.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) investigation at six different borders revealed on Monday that traders of locally produced rice in Illela, Gwadabawa, Kware and Sokoto metropolis were making brisk sales as patronage had increased.

The border patrol has shut out smuggling activities, which also led to the scarcity of foreign rice widely being consumed while prices of foodstuffs and other commodities have increased in many border towns.

NAN recalls that Federal Government on Aug. 20 partially closed its borders with Benin Republic due to insecurity and to curb smuggling across the western borders of the country which government said had been threatening government’s policy of self-sufficiency.

NAN correspondent, who monitored the situation at borders of Illela in Sokoto State, Lolo in Bagudo Local Government, DoleKaina and Kamba borders in Kamba LGA of Kebbi State reports that the border remained shut.

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NAN reports that hundreds of vehicles mostly trucks were parked at the opposite side of the roads at the borders between   Nigeria, Benin and Niger Republic.

A trader in Illela, Alhaji Garba Dankwanni, told NAN that the hike in the price of foreign rice had made consumers have a preference for local rice.

“Price of foreign rice has increased to N1000 per measure and 50 Kg bag of the commodity is being sold at above N18, 000.

“The increase has led to consumers demanding for locally produced rice with a stable price of between N550 to N600 a measure.

“The farmers are now selling because, in the past, the preference for foreign rice has affected the sales of local rice, but because of the stability in the price, local rice is now in high demand, but am suspecting the price will increase very soon,’’ he said.

Dankwanni said that the price of foreign vegetable oil had also increased as a big bottle now sells at N400 from the previous N330, while a 10-liter jerry can sells at N11, 000 from N9, 000 sold in the past.

Another trader in Illela market, Malam Halliru Yusuf, said prices of all commodities had been on increase since the commencement of the exercise.

He said the increase affected all commodities and household items except local rice which still maintained it old price of N550, N600 and N800 depending on the location and harvest period.

A trader in Lolo in Bagudo Local Government, who deals in sales of seafoods, turkey and chicken, who refused to mention his name, said that the prices were on the increase because they were smuggled items.

He said since most traders were running out of stocks and they did not know how long the exercise would last, they had to increase the prices of their commodities.

The trader told NAN that a carton of turkey, the hard type, that was selling for N9,000, was now going for N16,000 and the soft type sold for N7,500, was now selling between N13,500 and N14,000.

He said a carton of Crocker fish, the big size is now selling at N25, 000 as against N12, 000 or N15, 00 depending on the size and bargaining power.

The trader said that other imported fishes such as Titus, salmon, crabs and shrimps are also on the increase.

Meanwhile, Alhaji Muhammad Salah, the District Head of Kasagu, a border town in Bagudu Local Government Area in Kebbi State, commended Federal Government’s commitment for the exercise as most illegal trans-border traders had been finding it very difficult in carrying out their trade.

Salah said no fewer than eight settlements in Kebbi State  share borders with some communities in Benin and Niger Republic and the residents were speaking the same dialect of Dandi with their neighbors.

The monarch, however, pleaded for consideration, especially so that the farming activities would not be affected, adding that the exercise was putting pressure on local produce.

He said this had become imperative because the two communities have interwoven relationships as Nigerians cultivates farms in Benin Republic, while citizens of Benin Republic were also farming in Nigerian communities for a long time.

“Crops have ripped for harvest and security teams have denied farmers access to bring their produce to markets,’’ he said.

Malam Hassan Adamu, a councillor representing Lolo Ward also in Bagudo LGA in Kebbi State called for adequate support for President Muhammadu Buhari to sustain such efforts.

He said the exercise would go a long way to actualising government policies on ensuring food security, check illegal migrants and activities of smugglers.

“Some people are using the borders in making illicit gains and  they are dumping all sort of things or commodities through these borders into our country” Adamu said.

Adamu called on affected neighboring countries to be in tune with Nigerian government policies if they wanted government to open up the borders.

According to him, Nigerians mostly in the rural areas are going back to their farms and the country has saved huge sums of money which will otherwise have been expended on importing rice using the scarce foreign exchange.

A Customs officer, who pleaded anonymity, said the exercise was expected to promote inter-agency cooperation.

The officer said that it was also aimed at increasing preparedness to address trans-border security challenges such as terrorism, armed banditry, smuggling, proliferation of small arms and light weapons, among others.

“The exercise is yielding results as some seizures which include drums of petroleum, bags of parboiled foreign rice, bags of fertiliser, vehicles, groundnut oils, tin tomatoes and other items were seized, ’’ he said.

NAN reports that the exercise involved the NCS, NIS, the Armed Forces, Police and other security and intelligence agencies.

They are being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) in the four zones of North West, North Central, South West, and South South.

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