Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has said that the decision of the Federal Government to shut the land border between Nigeria and yet unnamed neighbouring country any moment from now is to checkmate the seeming uncontrolled influx of foreign rice and thus protect local producers from unfair competition.

Meanwhile, local rice producers under the aegis of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, RIFAN, have commended the Federal Government over the move, saying it will save the country huge sums of foreign exchange spent on rice importation on daily basis from Thailand and other countries as well as increase productivity of its members across the country.

The Minister said in Abuja, Sunday while speaking with youths in a leadership clinic organised by the Guardians of the Nation International, GOTNI. According to him, the shutting of the borders had become necessary to encourage local production and sustain the economy of the country.

The minister, who refused to name the particular country and border in question, said a neighbouring country was bent on destroying the economy of the country and discouraging local production of rice, hence the need to shut down the border.

“Our other problem is smuggling. As we speak, a neighbour of ours is importing more rice than China is importing. They do not eat parboiled rice, they eat white rice, they use their ports to try and damage our economy. “I am telling you now because in a few days, you will hear that the border has been shut, we are going to shut it to protect you, and protect our economy. You will start seeing all sorts of negative things on the internet.

“Let me tell you why we need to shut the border. I grow rice. In fact I was the first Nigerian to mill rice free of stones. If you plant rice in certain parcels of land, some poisonous materials get into the rice. There are three kinds of water in their natural state; there is fresh water from the river, salt water from the sea, blackish water. “If you go to the Delta in many countries, in South East Asia where they grow the rice, if you plant rice in the same place like four to six years continuously, the quantum of arsenic begins to increase and arsenic causes cancer and that is what they are dumping for us. “Some people say they prefer Thai rice because they are very sophisticated, but they do not know they are eating poison”, the Minister said.

Though the Minister did not mention any country, experts believe that the Republic of Benin suits into the description made by the Minister, which massively imports parboiled rice that is not consumed in the country but shipped into Nigeria through the Seme and Idiroko land borders as well as several other unapproved routes.

He claimed that the Federal Government in two years reduced rice importation by 95 per cent and increased the number of rice farmers from five million to 30 million, adding states like Anambra, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Kano and Jigawa are currently doing well in rice production.

National President of RIFAN, Aminu Goronyo, while commenting on the action of the government, alleged that Nigerians have been consuming chemically preserved rice from most countries, and have, therefore, become carriers of cancer-related diseases, aside from negatively impacting the economy.

He said: “It is a good move by the government for the entire country because huge amount of money has been spent on rice importation from Thailand.”

Meanwhile, President of GOTNI, Dr. Linus Okorie, while speaking at the event, commended the Minister for sharing prosperity experiences with the youths.

Okorie, who is a gubernatorial hopeful in Imo State, noted that the leadership clinic was organised by GOTNI to expose young people to practical leadership principle for life success. According to him, GOTNI is committed to changing the narratives of poor leadership in Nigeria by consciously developing the capacities of generational leaders.