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‘Customs’ threats aggravate rice industry woes’

Biz-Rice-Market-KKTHE threat by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to close down The Intercontinental Lagos has been described as a sledgehammer approach to the ongoing dispute between the Service and large rice investors in the country.

The Public Relations Officer of the NCS. Wale Adeniyi had threatened a shut down of the hotel following the non-payment of retrospective duties by the hotel’s parent company, Milan Group.

Reacting to the threat, stakeholders say they are perplexed over NCS’ highhanded action which is blatantly against the rule since the investors have lodged cases in courts, and hence the justifiable claim that the action of NCS is outright subjudice, illegal and unauthorised

“The sealing-off of a global hospitality chain like The Intercontinental Lagos for no apparent legal non-compliance is likely to cause massive adverse effect on Nigeria’s image, apart from the acute embarrassment and inconvenience to its guests.
 
“In a highly debatable move, NCS is demanding retrospective duties from the rice investors for imports pertaining to 2014, while the investors have claimed that the quota allocations did not comply with stipulated regulations, issued late only by December and were also biased against bonafide investors,” according to the investors.
 
It would be recalled that following the confusion that trailed 2014 quotas, quotas for 2015 were also issued, cancelled and later re-issued.

According to the stakeholders: “The implementation of the policy received a lot of criticism from the rice industry, as presidential directives were not complied with in the process.
 
“Those affected have invested billions of naira in the rice value chain and have been catalysts in Nigeria’s recent initiatives to be self-sufficient in rice production.

The immediate past Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina had said in August 2014: “Our rice today in terms of total value added to our local economy in terms of gross value across all the states is N750 billion since we started in 2012.
 
“There is the real fear that the NCS action will slow down the momentum that is building in the area of food security at a time when the economy is struggling from the impact of lower oil prices and foreign exchange woes.
 
“Apart from the Intercontinental, NCS also threatens closure of several unrelated industries promoted by the rice investors, including factories that partner global multinationals and are driving industrial growth and employment.
 
“With no clarity on import quotas for 2015 as well, Nigeria may once again open itself to being fed by smugglers through the borders, ironically denying NCS its rightful revenue.
 
“The industry hopes the new administration will direct a progressive forward-looking approach to ensure continued rice production operations by the affected investors.”



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