The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Sen Heineken Lokpobiri, has warned that the government will not grant waivers on fish importation.
Lokpobiri gave the warning on the sidelines of the just concluded 10th Annual Conference of the Fisheries Committee for West and Central Gulf Guinea, (FCWC), in Abuja,
The Minister explained that rather, the government allocates quota to fish importers through the seaport in order to regulate importation of the commodity adding that the federal government is intensifying efforts to reduce annual fish import bill
He further warned that anybody that imports fish without a quota or license would be prosecuted and if found guilty will pay a fine of $250, 000
The conference was the second Nigeria hosted, and she was made to head the FCWC for successful hosting of the 10th edition. The first hosting by the country was in December 2012.
According to the Minister, Nigeria stands to benefit a lot being for becoming head of the organisation, in terms of boosting human capacity through training, adding value to the fisheries industry, financial support, amongst others.
The conference was held to address various challenges affecting fisheries among member states and also to explore opportunities that would boost production and consumption of fish products.
He said: “To reduce the annual fish import bill, we give quota and we are not giving any waivers and would not give anybody waivers. Anybody who imports fish without a quota or obtaining a license is guilty of the crime and where he is found guilty will pay a fine of $250, 000.
“Fish imported with our quota comes through the seaport and subjected to good quality control, and while you are importing you do your backward integration thereby adding more value to local fish production.
“We still have a deficit of 2.1 million metric tonnes of our national demand for fish which is 3.2 million metric tonnes, and to make Nigerians understand 10, 000 tonnes is 334, 000 containers, and you can imagine how many containers it will be if we have a deficit of 2.1m mt.
“If this vessels approved by President Muhammadu Buhari are acquired it will make our coastline safer because illegal fishing activities and security threat will be reduced on the country’s coastline and territorial waters. this will also boost our fish production.”
On the smuggling of frozen fish and poultry products along the Nigeria-Benin Republic border he said, “We are having issues with Benin Republic where most of those frozen fish and poultry products that they use formalin to preserve are smuggled.
“There is a presidential committee headed by the Vice President, which I am also a member. The committee is trying to see how we can explore diplomatic means to resolve this problem.
“Former President Obasanjo forcefully closed the border between Nigeria and Benin Republic, and that led to an agreement between the Nigerian Government and Benin Republic. In that agreement there are clauses. So we are following what is contained in that agreement.”
He also called on member countries to fashion out ways of partnering in order to address the challenge posed by smuggling.
Meanwhile, he promised that government will continue to assist smallholder fish farmers with all they need as more will be done for them in 2018 to boost local fish production for employment and wealth creation that would close the 2.1m metric tonnes deficit.