The National Coordinator, Nigeria Farmers Group and Cooperative Society (NFGCS), Mr Tedheke Retson has advised the Federal Government to enact stringent laws against smuggling before reopening the borders.
Retson told journalists on Monday in Abuja that such decisive step would send strong signals to smugglers that it won’t be business as usual whenever the border is reopened.
“It’s time smugglers were treated as enemies of state because of the dangers they pose to the economy,’’ he said.
According to him, not until such step is taken and urgently, it will be difficult for Nigeria to truly fight smuggling.
“Those who engaged in smuggling had formed strong cabals that could only be broken through stringent punishment.
“In most of the nations in Asia, when you become an economic saboteur, you are considered as an enemy of state.
“The Nigerian Constitution considers a threat to internal security as a capital crime. So, if you become a threat to our growth, to our economy, we should begin to punish people.
“Yes, the borders are still porous, so smuggled goods are still coming in. What must be done first and foremost is to set the pathway towards criminalising smuggling,” he said.
Retson commended the Federal Government for not succumbing to pressures to reopen the borders, advising that they should remain closed until the neighbouring countries agreed to the terms of agreement.
According to him, the current border closure had defined a paradigm shift for the country, which was thitherto a dumping ground for not only rice but textile materials, palm oil, tomatoes paste and other agricultural commodities.
The coordinator stressed that the development had boosted local production and spurred the cooperative and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector to begin to think of ways to meet local demands of rice and other commodities.
He said, “the demand for rice has been over 250,000 bags per month. We are not able to meet 10 per cent of that right now. We hope that gradually we can meet that demand within six months to one year.
“Local content must be developed. Nobody should tell us stories about globalisation. America did not globalise until they were developed. Britain never globalised until they were developed.
“China is not even talking about globalisation. The only reason we can say China is talking about globalisation is because the world is currently made in China.
“Partial closure of the borders has boosted local productivity. More and more Nigerians are now going into rice production. So, we are positioned within the next two three years to be the net producer of rice in Nigeria.
“When we get to that level, Africa now becomes our market place, then we begin to talk about free trade, then we can begin to talk about globalisation.
“The concept of closure of border is to ensure revival of local productivity. We should stop closing border for the sake of rice, we should also close border with regard to textile and palm oil.
“I am aware that Nigeria imports about one million metric tonnes of palm oil every year. How can we import palm oil from Malaysia?
“Republic of Benin cannot be smaller than Lagos as a country and be the sixth largest importer of rice in the world. It does not make sense.”
Retson further called for imposition of high tariffs on imported goods that Nigeria has comparative advantage to produce in order to encourage companies to set up plants in Nigeria and create jobs rather than importing.
“There is no country in the world today that is interested in growth that will look at import as the only sustainable path towards growth when 84 million arable hectares of farmland is located in your country,” he said.
The Federal Government had on August 21, ordered partial closure of border to check smuggling.