The Oasis Reporters
October 30, 2020
By Greg Abolo
Rice, grains that a lot of Nigerians consume the most, and the soul of every party in Nigeria, has fallen greatly in price from the all time high that the federal government had put it.
About a year ago, in the wisdom of the Buhari administration, and to encourage home grown or production of rice, it abruptly shut Nigeria’s borders with neighboring West African countries. Worst hit was Benin Republic, while Togo, Ghana and others felt the heat considerably. All pleas to the government fell on deaf ears.
See why Benin Republic groaned louder than others: It is a small country, but with little population, yet has the smart sense to lower business tariffs to the barest minimum because they studied Nigeria well and knew that it was a colossal market. And it’s officials are perhaps the most brazenly corrupt in West Africa. Global Index ranking on Corruption easily proves this.
The corruption stifles business growth and frustrates it’s people. Take for instance, for a citizen to join the country’s Customs Service, bribes of about a million naira must be paid out by applicants. Therefore the customs men are usually tilted towards bribery and corruption to recoup their investments and make handsome profits.
Unable to bear the highhanded corruption at the Nigerian ports, most shippers of basic goods from Rice to automobiles, etc, shifted their focus and shipped their goods to Benin Republic. Thereby, businesses boomed in Cotonou, the port city. Hotels are usually filled to capacity there, with Nigerian businessmen, Asian importers, transporters, food sellers and intrepid smugglers.
Benin Republic imports of rice in a year is most often, much more than the Republic can consume in ten years. That means the excess are smuggled into Nigeria through legal and authorized routes.
This is also the goldmine for customs men and women who collect colossal bribes from smugglers and importers, thus making the officers amongst the richest civil servants in Nigeria.
Consequently, a bag of rice that landed at Cotonou or PortoNovo in Benin Republic at say less than 9,000 naira, would sell in neighbouring Nigeria for about 30,000 naira.
Worse still, Nigeria has not made the country’s ports to be pocket friendly to importers like Benin Republic does, netting it’s government so much income.
Then #EndSARS happened and the Lagos state government invited the military to put an end to the peaceful protests, the protesters being young Nigerians of a different generation. With the killings of Nigerian children and grandchildren at Lekki, all hell broke loose in unfortunate retaliatory attacks putting the nation at grave risk.
Unfortunately, many Policemen have been killed. The surviving ones have largely abandoned their beats, so have Customs and immigration men. Smugglers now have a field day, moving rice and other commodities across the border freely. Some traders say they move from Cotonou to Lagos without sighting a single security man.
Rice at the other end of the Nigerian border towns now go for fifteen thousand naira per bag. Try towns like Saki, Igbeti etc in Oyo State, Ifonyin Tedo and Abeokuta in Ogun State, etc. Rice has fallen in price drastically and the borders have opened themselves because no security personnel would want to risk life and limb by manning border posts.
Another spin-off is that dangerous weapons could as well be smuggled in to destabilize the country. No thanks to the highhanded tactics of the government.
Meanwhile, smugglers seemed determined to flood Nigeria with rice ahead of Christmas in less than two months. Ghanaians that depended on trade with Nigeria, now heave a sigh of relief. But those sweating in the cold are ordinary Nigerians who may have to contend with insecurity and deep anger in the country.