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One of my major economic successes is making Nigerian rice competitive – Buhari


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PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, on Friday, said one of his major economic successes since he came to power in May 2015 was making locally-produced rice ‘competitive in the market.’

Buhari said this during an interview aired on the National Television Authority (NTA), stating that the land border closure between Niger and the Benin Republic encouraged Nigerians to go back to farms.

“We closed the borders and stopped the importation of food and gave a stern warning that, ‘let us eat what we produce’ and made sure that imported food can only come through the ports so that imported rice could not compete with local rice.

“So that encouraged a lot of people to go back to the farms. There are people who left air-conditioned offices to go back to the farms and that was positive for Nigeria,” he said.

Nigeria had launched a land border closure in August 2019 to tackle smuggling of rice and other goods, after banning the importation of rice from Benin and all its neighbours in 2016.

The move was intended not only to raise revenue but also to encourage local production of rice.

Buhari also said the decision he took was a major economic success for his administration because it made locally- produced rice available and competitive.

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“Now, our own rice is fresh and is available and it is competitive in the market. I think this is one of our major successes,” he said.

Rice is considered a staple food in the country. However, according to a 2021 report by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), the border closure resulted in new smuggling routes for illegal rice dealers.

Also, the market price for imported rice increased by 60 per cent while locally produced rice has increased by almost 100 per cent.

On the state of infrastructure in the country, Buhari said he was committed to fulfilling his cardinal campaign by providing roads, rail and power.

“That is why I made up my mind that one of my priorities is to make sure that the roads and the rails are rehabilitated. And tell me which country develops without infrastructure, roads, rail and power.

“We have to get this correct, and those who are going about this country know that this administration has tried in terms of rehabilitating roads, in terms of rehabilitating the railway, in terms of increasing power relatively to resources at the time. We have not done badly, for those who want to criticise us should criticise us objectively,’ he said.

When asked if he was satisfied with the state of the economy, Buhari said he was not satisfied but was trying hard to persuade foreign investors to have confidence in the country and create jobs for Nigerians.

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“No, I am not, that’s why I am trying even harder to make the people become accountable and to make sure we persuade foreign countries to allow their multinationals to develop more confidence in Nigeria to come and invest.

“That will give us employment, goods and services and the chains rights from the farms will be great and that means lots of employment. And this is our problem-a large population, young population and unemployed population,” he said.

Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.

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