President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday hosted President Patrice Talon of Republic of Benin at State House, Abuja during which the two leaders agreed on the imperative of a joint committee to combat smuggling.
Also to be consulted in the workings of the committee is Niger Republic, which is believed to be a transit point in the concentric circle of smuggling of commodities, particularly rice, into Nigeria.
“We have succeeded in cutting the importation of rice into the country by about 90 per cent,” the President told his guest, adding that smuggled parboiled rice still finds its way into the country, thus vitiating the efforts of government, and discouraging farmers.
“When I got into office in 2015, the first thing I did was to visit all our neighbours; Niger Republic, Chad, Cameroon, and Benin Republic. It made both economic and security sense, because if you are in good terms with your neighbours, you ultimately spend less on both physical and food security,” he said.
He said activities of smugglers are hindering Nigeria’s quest for self-sufficiency, particularly in rice production.
A more sinister side to the smuggling menace, the President said, is the influx of small arms and ammunition into the country, thus increasing the spectre of insecurity.
The two leaders agreed that modalities of the joint committee to combat smuggling are to be worked out as soon as possible.
The Nigerian President also welcomed the idea of a rail network to link Nigeria, Benin Republic, Niger Republic, and some other countries, saying “it is valuable economically,” and would be subjected to further comprehensive study.
In his remarks, President Patrice Talon said smuggling affects Nigeria and Benin Republic negatively, and also constitutes a threat to the bilateral relationship between the two countries.
“We are aware of how rice smuggling is affecting the development of local capacity in rice farming in Nigeria. It is affecting trade between us negatively, and Nigeria is an important partner for a country like Benin.
“But we have no powers to block goods meant for other countries, and our country is not the final destination for the smuggled rice. We need to develop a common will to face the problem,” he said.
He said the proposed rail network between the two countries would boost economic development.
Airlines should have efficient feedback mechanism – DG, CPC
The director general of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Mr. Babatunde Irukera, has said that the domestic carriers have no appropriate mechanism for passengers to call in and have complaints resolved.
Irukera who made the observation at the 22nd annual seminar of the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC), held in Lagos recently said “consumer issues are primarily soft infrastructure issues” and that consumers will still be displeased if there are poor response mechanisms even in the best airport.
He said he had a collaborative parley with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the airlines on how to address consumer issues in the aviation sub-sector where the airlines complained about infrastructure challenges as well as regulatory bottlenecks.
“But what was clear to me and what I conveyed to them is, regardless of all these challenges, I think that airlines have to measure their responsiveness and sensitivity indexes with respect to their consumers. One thing is that they don’t even have the appropriate mechanism for people to call in and have complaints resolved.
“So one thing that I thought happened at that meeting was that it was a frank conversation and while I got a lot to understand the deficits that constitute challenges to them, they also got to understand the soft infrastructure issues because ultimately the consumer issues are primarily soft infrastructure issues.
“Even if you have the best airports but there is poor responsiveness, then consumers will still be displeased. And airline industry is one place where you can easily satisfy consumers. Nobody wants to fly when it is unsafe to fly; so if there is a delay for legitimate safety reasons, consumers will actually appreciate that.