Statistics has it that approximately one half of the world population is to a great extent dependent on rice and that 95% of the world’s rice crop is consumed by humans. Nigeria is not left out of these statistics and judging from the population of the country you will know that a lot of rice is consumed annually. There are different ways in which the crop is cooked and enjoyed across the country.
Be that as it may, there is great fear concerning this crop well beloved by all. Many people have questioned the fact of whether or not it is safe to continue eating rice taking into consideration the recent developments.
The new administration has done so much to make sure that the amount of rice imported into the country is reduced drastically. This is to encourage local farmers who cultivate rice in the country and also improve the orientation people have about locally manufactured products. This move was geared towards promoting agriculture and enhancing the rice products of the country so that it can be used as a means of foreign exchange, contributing it’s quota to the country’s GDP.
This has led some rice importers to devise other means to get these contraband rice into the country such as packing the bags in car bonnets or under the car seats or in other parts of the vehicle just to avoid the custom officers impounding the bags of rice and taking them into custody. These means of transporting the rice renders the rice very unhealthy for consumption and could lead to different health complications.
This really gives cause for concern and the question now is how do these traders escape the watch of custom officers and still bring the rice into the country. According to an investigation carried out by Sunday Vanguard it showed that these people have no intention of doing things the right way as the apparent reason they give is to avoid custom officers impounding their goods and taking them into custody. They explained that the carry out this act to escape the various customs checkpoints situated at Agbara, Elijah, Aradagun, Mowo and Iyafin roundabout before one gets to Seme. Inbetween the Seme border and Iyana-Iba on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, you will find various bays where these bags of rice transported through these unsafe means particularly from the Republic of Benin into Nigeria are re-packaged by these smugglers also known as ‘Firewalls’. Some of the bays are also found at Igbo-Elerin Bus Stop, Iyana-Era, Alaba Rago and under the bridge opposite Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AOCOED). It is a very usual occurrence to find smugglers carrying out small bags of rice from the bonnets, under the seats and other parts of cars that are not the booths or car seats. These are packaged in those small quantities to make it easier to hide and transport. So when they have passed the checkpoint, they now unload and repack the bags of rice into normal big bags and they do this so well that the buyers do not notice anything out of the ordinary.
One of the drivers who assist in this act said that the reason they transport bags of rice in this manner is so they won’t be harassed by the custom officials who impound their goods. He pointed out that some of the places they hide these goods are under the car seats or in the bonnets but never in the booths or car seats. He also pointed out that he is not aware of the health implications of this method of transporting the goods as since he is not a doctor, it is obvious that he cannot ascertain the health issues involved and that all he cares about is to make sure that they goods are safely transported from one place to another by any means possible without any interference from the custom officials.
A woman involved in the same business pointed out that things were getting more difficult as the days go by. A interesting fact she brought to light was that people like her who buy goods in small quantities are not the real smugglers rather those who bribe the custom officials and are allowed to have a seamless transportation of their wares. She explained that it was not fair that the “Firewalls” are allowed to transport the same goods in very large quantities hassle free all because they can afford to bribe them while they who are just trying to make ends meet and keep body and soul together are the ones that get to suffer. That being the case they had to craft out a means to outsmart the officials and transport their goods to sell.
Another lady added that the custom officials just got greedy as before they would accept small money from them and allow them to pass but recently they have insisted on certain sums of money that they cannot afford, seeing that they transport just small amount of wares. She added that they make only 800 naira to 1200 naira on each bag and if they were to meet up with their demands, they would loose not just their profit but their capital as well.
The sad part is that those who can afford to meet up with these demands are allowed to come and go as they please. They even have officials acting as escorts to ensure that they have a smooth journey. It is not strange to see some of the officials sitting in the vehicle with the driver, while some put on their full attire others wear their vests and caps. Some have even moved on to not just acting as escort or security but also smuggling their own wares. When they buy these goods at cheap prices, the drivers are always happy and ready to transport the goods for them for free so that they can be in the head vehicle with them and handle any sort of interference they may encounter on the way and that way the goods of other clients who have enlisted their services to transport their contraband goods will be protected. It is a win win situation and when these officials sell these goods to the retailers they make a lot of money as they did not bear the cost of transportation. This was so bad that at at time, military police from Ojo barracks apprehended some of their officials perpetuating these acts at Agbara. So sad that the same people that are supposed to maintain law and order are the same ones bringing disorder and chaos. Professor Akin Osibogun, a former Chief Medical Director (CMD) of Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), made it clear that transporting bags of rice in the car bonnet and under the car seats is very unhealthy and could lead to severe health complications. Seeing that various other substances containing various bacteria or chemical substances such as detergent, bleach amongst others could have poured on these surfaces and then bags of rice are packed in the same place?. It is not just unhygienic it is hazardous to health. Speaking on how unsuspecting people who bought the bags of rice could protect themselves, he said that the remedy is to properly wash the grains of rice with clean water before cooking. Do not be in a hurry but ensure that the rice you want to cook is properly washed and even after that ensure that it is boiled properly because a lot of the harmful bacteria can not survive in that temperature.
Nevertheless, action has to be taken by the appropriate authorities to ensure that the smuggling in of contraband goods especially through the car bonnet or under the seats is stopped.