We have received reports of how former President, Goodluck Jonathan signed a highly controversial multi-billion Naira rice import quota deal just a few hours to the expiration of his tenure.
According to Premium Times, a house memo dated May 27, 2015 showed that Jonathan signed the approval of another memo forwarded to him by Namadi Sambo, the then vice president a day earlier.
In the memo, Sambo had sought a subsidy approval for select rice importers to bring in a total of 782,000 metric tonnes under what was termed ‘2015 Rice Quota Allocations’.
Jonathan had signed the deal on his last day in office but the allocation was subsequently rejected and cancelled by the incoming president, Muhammadu Buhari.
The beneficiaries of the rice subsidy had been colluding with smugglers to subvert the national rice development policy and dodge the payment of 40 percent tariff to government.
It was reported that effort had earlier been made in April 13, 2015 when the Ministry of Agriculture released a list of 22 beneficiary companies for the rice quota but the list was withdrawn a few days later by the ministry.
Akinwunmi Adesina, he then minister of agriculture had in a memo titled ‘Approved List of Companies Allocated Rice Import Quota for April 2015 – March 2016 Period’ and sent to the Ministry of Finance mentioned that his ministry had identified a domestic rice supply gap of 1.3 million metric tonnes for the year 2015 and so issued import quota allocations to 22 approved companies to import 961,000 metric tonnes of rice.
However, Sonny Echono, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture cancelled the quota list on the ground that information reaching him showed that Nigerian rice farmers were unable to sell their paddy to local rice millers due to a flooding of the market with imported rice.
A new quota was released and contained new beneficiaries such as Arewa Livestock Farms, African Farms, Olea Nigeria Ltd, Dependable Foods & Confectionary, Blue Line Investments Nigeria Ltd, Quarra Rice, Hammond Wright Nigeria Ltd and Blaine & Wilkes Nigeria Ltd but all of them were thrown out in the quota supervised by the vice president. The Sambo quota made changes by cutting the beneficiaries from 22 to 20 but the customs serviced refused to honour it.
Evelyn Beredugoh, a policy analyst said some people parade themselves as investors even when they had no business in the rice chain.
“For you to qualify for import quota you must have a rice farm or rice mill the size of which determines the size of your allocations. Some people call themselves investors even when they have no verifiable business down the rice value chain.
“Some of the investors quote local capacities that are only a figment of their imagination. Because there is no serious verification exercise, these phantom figures are added up as national rice production capacity. The higher the local capacity, the lower the national supply gap.
“In the end, you find that the actual supply gap might be higher than the 1.5 million metric tonnes quoted in 2014. The real beneficiaries remain the smugglers while the real investors face hard times in boosting local production which is the only objective of the rice policy.
Source: Premium Times.