It is no longer news that almost all the government warehouses across different commands of the Nigeria Customs Service are filled with perishable foodstuffs, especially bags of foreign parboiled rice. What now makes the news is that some of these commodities are rotting away while so many Nigerians are dying in abject poverty.
At the beginning of the year 2022, the World Bank predicted that the number of Nigerians living in abject poverty would rise to 95.1 million in 2022 from 89 million recorded in 2020. This figure represents a 6.1 million increase in a space of two years. The Nigerian Economic Summit Group has also predicted that 102 million Nigerians may likely be pushed below the poverty line before the end of the year 2022.
The Federal Government had earlier said that no fewer than 11 million Nigerians would be pushed below that poverty line this year as a result of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the high number of Nigerians living in abject poverty, the Nigeria Customs’ warehouses are filled with different contraband perishables, including bags of foreign parboiled rice, vegetable oil and clothing amongst others. Some are no longer fit for human consumption.
Recently, the acting Customs Area Controller in charge of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, NCS, Hussein Ejibunu, while giving the first-year report of the unit, told journalists that between January and June 2022, the unit had seized 45,928 bags of foreign parboiled rice of 50kg each which was equivalent to 77 trailer-loads, among others.
If the rice seizure figures represent what was made by a single command in six months, by the time numbers recorded at other commands such as the TinCan Island, Apapa, Western Marine and others from different zones across the country are collated, that figure may well grow in exponential proportions.
The Chief Executive Officer, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr. Muda Yusuf, advised the government to see how they could use perishable seized goods for economic interventions. He advised that a time frame should be given for these commodities to be disposed of, adding that the Customs was not doing enough in the area of ensuring quick disposal of these goods.
Also speaking, a member of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, Stanley Ezenga, blamed the Federal Government for the unnecessary protocol involved in processing these seized food items. He added that the goods should be given out to the needy.
“We have IDPs all over the country and the farmers have been prevented from going to farms by the bandits. This means there is hunger in the land. Instead of keeping those things to waste, there are people that need them, so they should be distributed to make space for other things,” he said.