Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd)

The Senate has summoned the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) to explain the reasons behind the recent lifting of ban on rice importation.

In a motion sponsored on Thursday by Senator Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central) and 28 other senators, the lawmakers expressed concern over the reintroduction of import duty payment at land borders.

During the debate, the senators queried what they described as the Comptroller General’s unilateral decision to reopen the country’s land borders to rice importation.

They move, they collectively argued, might reverse the gains so far recorded in rice production in the country.

The Comptroller General had, in a recent directive, ordered the immediate removal of rice from import restriction list and reintroduced import duty payment at land borders.

The Customs authority had explained that the previous restriction which only applied at land border stations had been lifted by the C-G.

Going by the directive, rice imports through land borders would attract the prevailing import duty of 10 percent, with 60 percent levy.

Senator Aliero however argued that the unilateral decision by the Customs boss posed dangers to local rice production and also could discourage further investment in rice farming and agro-allied industries in the country.

Aliero noted that Nigeria is presently the largest importer of rice in the world, adding that the Ministry of Agriculture has projected that the demand for rice will continue to rise from the current level of five million metric tons to 36 million metric tons by 2050.

Quoting figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, the senator put the national supply deficit gap at 1.5million metric tons.

Many other senators who contributed to the debate however argued that the Customs boss should be given the opportunity to offer explanation for his actions to enable the Senate take informed decision.

The senators, including Emmanuel Bwacha, Shehu Sani, Dino Melaye and Foster Ogola submitted that rather than asking the Customs boss to reverse the directive, he should be allowed to defend his action.

President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who rounded off the debate, also stressed the need to give the Customs boss a fair hearing on the matter.

Saraki said, “The only reason we are talking about this is that we really need to give the Comptroller-General a chance to explain why the decision was taken.

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