NIGERIA – The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Federal Operations Unit, Zone A has seized 7,250 bags of rice confirmed by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to be poisonous.

The acting Unit Controller, Hussein Ejibunu told reporters  that following the confirmation of laboratory tests by NAFDAC, the rice which is equivalent of 12 trailers, is not fit for consumption.

“Sequel to a laboratory test analysis on some of the seized foreign parboiled rice by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), one of the test parameters indicated some contents of lead (a soft heavy toxic malleable metallic element) in the tested rice; making it unfit for human consumption,” he said.

The anti-smuggling chief disclosed that the affected rice is part of an impounded consignment imported from India and informed that only one thousand bags of the rice named SIMBA, were declared poisonous by the examining authority.

He bade traders and consumers alike to shun foreign rice, not only because their quality is suspicious but because the government is determined to pursue the growth of local rice believed to be more nutritious and safer.

“Thus, we advise consumers to desist from patronizing the federal government banned foreign parboiled rice. We as citizens have a collective responsibility to safeguard our economy and health for the benefit of all,” he said.

Ejibunu noted that 12 suspects had been arrested in connection with some of the seizures and for committing various customs offences.

The Customs boss added that the unit also raised N111million (US$266,070.11) as Demand Notices following documentary checks on some initially cleared cargoes from the port.

He urged Nigerians to acquaint themselves with the import prohibition list for compliance and to cooperate with the Service to safeguard the nation’s economy.

“We wish to thank our esteemed compliant importers/traders, as we assure them of our commitment to facilitate their genuine businesses.

“While we urge the recalcitrant traders to turn a new leaf by embracing legitimate trade, or face the consequences of their actions; because as a Unit, we are better mobilized by the Service, organized and determined with a very high morale to do our job without fear or favour,” he said.

Despite the ban by the Federal Government, foreign rice has continued to cross the borders into the Nigerian market with thousands of bags frequently being discovered and seized in warehouses across the country.

According to Nigeria’s Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nigeria imports or smuggles about  two million metric tons of rice annually.

Industry analysts believe the continued smuggling in of foreign rice is being spurred by the inability to meet local demand, and the porous nature of the Nigerian borders, some of which are not effectively manned by security agencies.

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