Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: LCCI Criticises FG Over Proposed Importation of Rice Mills

Lagos — The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, yesterday, criticized the Federal Government over its proposed plan to import rice mills into the country.

The chamber stated that the act was in contravention of the Federal Government's promise to creating enabling environment for the private sector to strive.

The President of LCCI, Mr. Goodie Ibru, who disclosed this, said the recent report that the Federal Government would import 100 rice mills from China for distribution to states was not in good taste.

According to him, "the current policy thrust in economic management, which has been severally canvassed by the members of the economic team, is that government would concentrate on the provision of enabling environment and institutions to support the growth of private enterprises.

"This fundamental principle is also clearly elaborated in the Vision 20 2020 document as an economic management philosophy that would guide the choice and direction of economic policy. The decision to import rice mills is a negation of this principle. We believe such acquisition should be done by the private sector with the support of government."

The LCCI cited the story of the NNPC, the refineries, NITEL, steel complexes, fertilizer plants, petrochemical plants, Nigeria Airways, the railways, and paper mills where government involvement had not helped in moving the economy forward.

According to the LCCI, "these enterprises were managed (and some are still managed) by politicians and bureaucrats and the cost to the economy was horrendous. Similar scenarios played out in many states. This is not a model of government intervention that the economy deserves and this has been proven by empirical evidence. It has not worked in most economies as it is typically marred by mismanagement and corruption."

The President of LCCI declared that direct government intervention was desirable in infrastructures, security, environment, public schools and hospitals as well as other areas in which there are evident cases of market failure.

He said: "The proposed acquisition of rice mills raises a number of specific concerns: how will the rice mills be distributed? How will they be managed? How will they operate alongside the existing rice processing mills owned by small scale operators without creating the challenge of unfair competition?"

The LCCI, therefore, called on the Minister for Agriculture Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, and his team that are passionate about transforming the agricultural sector through the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, ATA, to always engage operators in the sector if the minister's vision and programmes must align with the needs of the agricultural community since they are the operators that would ultimately translate the vision to reality.

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