Commentary: Corruption keeps people starving

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Nigeria is the prime example of why so many Americans question the effort and money for U.S. aid to African countries. Too many of the continent’s rulers/leaders show no real concern about feeding their people.

Nigeria is the example of government leadership hiding behind lame excuses for policies that line the pockets of a few, including government officials. The excuse for why Nigeria has slapped a 110 percent tariff on rice imports is because the country claims it must protect its own rice growers for national food security.

There is a high rate of rice smuggling although the customs police/military are stopping a lot of rice, but some is continuing to make it through the porous borders. And naturally for an African country, the border patrols are fairly vicious when intercepting smugglers.

Rice has to make it through the borders to feed the poor population. The common estimate is that Nigerian farmers only grow 30 percent of local demand for rice, which is a staple food.

The tariff was slapped on in early 2013. And the amount of rice grown within Nigeria’s borders isn’t going to change overnight. The shortfall and local production will take years to match. Meanwhile, the population is expected to fill its food requirements with something other than rice—if such a thing is grown within Nigeria’s borders.

In an article written by Godwin Oritse for Vanguard online news, it was reported that 150 shiploads of rice have been diverted away from Nigeria’s main port between January and March. The 600,000 metric tonnes of rice has gone to the ports of Benin Republic, Cameroon, Accra and Togo. My question is why the rice would originally have been routed to Nigeria to start considering the tariff being in place?

The chairman of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) decried the tariff openly by saying, “Our economy is bleeding seriously because of this policy.” There still wasn’t a real concern for the people who need low-cost rice to survive.

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