Border closure cripples date, tiger nut businesses –Investigation
…Customs officials can’t differentiate species
…Seize commodities on market days
From Ismaila Muhammad, Jigawa; Muawuya Bala Idris, Katsina & Salisu Baso in Kano
As the Federal Government has set up a joint security task force to fight against influx of foreign goods into the country to tackle smuggling of weapons and hard drugs, the Nigeria Customs Services, as one of the pioneer members of the task force has strictly moved its operation to the importation of dates and tiger nuts which caused the price of the commodities to skyrocket.
The Triumph observed that the situation has developed acute shortage of the items and led to their skyrocketed prices, which might not be unconnected with the serious patrol of the Customs personnel following the ban on the importation of the foreign goods such as rice, cooking oil and other essential commodities for some years ago by the Federal Government.
According our source, the issue of the border closure is initiated by the government of the federation, which set up a joint committee of security formations comprising military, para-military and DSS to checkmate the illegal activities of importation of goods into the nation through its borders, which the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is in forefront of the act.
When The Triumph contacted the chairman of Kano State Dates and Tiger Nuts Association, Alhaji Auwalu Dambatta on the matter, he linked the current shortage of the items and their price increase to the closure of the border, noting that the commodities are imported into the country from African countries such as Niger Republic and Algeria among others.
The chairman warned and entertained the fear that the commodities may soon be completely in extinction in the nation’s markets; if the border remained closed.
He therefore advised the Federal Government to collaborate with their association towards training farmers in the country on the production of dates and tiger nuts, noting that the nation is blessed with fertile land suitable for the abundant production of the commodities.
He stated that the nation has availability of different species of dates, which if nursed locally; they would be of great economic benefits to the nation. Dambatta suggested to the Federal Government that if adequate attention, to include provision of funds, should be paid to the farmers, and that related stakeholders be allowed to join hands together in the production of the items, the gesture would augur well for the nation as it would also go along way in reducing or stopping the importation of the items, thereby boosting the country’s Growth Domestic Product.
The Triumph investigation in Jigawa State, where laudable efforts were made, especially during the administration of the former governor of the state, Alhaji Saminu Ibrahim Turaki, towards enhancing production of specific agricultural commodities, such as gum Arabic, sugar cane and others, showed that such commodities, to include dates and tiger nuts, if harnessed well, could be a veritable avenue for the growth of an economy.
A check at the Nigeria Date Palm Research Institute, which is the extension of Nigerian Palm Oil Research Institute (NIPOR), located in Dutse, the capital of Jigawa State, its officer in charge, Alhaji Abdulhamid Hamza Muhammad, corroborated the above, disclosing that date palm production could contribute to the economic development of
the country and generate more jobs for thousands of people, if they (farmers) realize its potentials, because it needs patience due to the longevity nature of the business.
He said that the date palm seed could grow very well in the North-west and
North-east, while the North-central has a marginal production area,
pointing out that the country is blessed with human resources and good soil that could produce more than adequate what the nation needs, if its farming would be embraced by the farmers.
Alhaji Muhammad explained that the nation has a very good climate suitable for the production of economic trees, which experts called
‘fighter of poverty,’ lamenting that due to lack of priority given to
agricultural production, the economy is not growing as it is supposed to be.
He said despite the fact that there are adequate seedlings in the North-west, but South-east is trying to hijack their processing, packaging and marketing.
“With the new species and improved varieties, date palm can grow within the range of three to four years and start producing nuts within this period,
unlike the old species which takes 10 years before it commences
production,” he said.
According to NIPOR officer, with research, more high breed seed can be invented so as to enhance the nation’s economy and boost its Growth Domestic Product (GDP), stressing that the tree produces nuts twice in a year, adding that even though it is a drought resistant tree, at tender stage, date palm needs watering, protection against animals, needs no weeds and also needs manual fertilizer for it to grow quickly.
He said with government, traditional leaders and stakeholders’ cooperation, their institute could produce enough date palm for domestic needs and even for export, so that it could earn the country additional foreign exchange, in case the nation bans its importation,
“Fore instance, let say Jigawa and Kano States can earmark 10,000,
hectares of land, specifically for the date palm farming, therefore 500,000
youths can be engaged or employed to work in those farms.
“They will generate millions of Naira, because, a single high breed tree of the product, at each season, can generate hundreds of thousands of Naira, and let me assure you that with sufficient funds from government for our
institute to further its research on the various varieties of date palm, we
can produce more than enough to meet the nation’s domestic and export needs,” Alhaji Muhammad assured.
Muhammad, who disclosed that the value chain of the date palm was
enormous, pointed out that Nigerians are only able to produce 17 to
18 per cent, but the rest 83 per cent was being imported from North
African countries, to include Niger Republic, Algeria and even Saudi Arabia and other African Arab nations.
However, in Katsina, our correspondent reports that the state Tiger nut Farmers Association, has identified arrest of its members and seizure of locally produced tiger nut, as part of reasons for scarcity and rising price of the commodity in the country.
The association said, Katsina, as a major producer of the commodity, its over 3,000 members are forced out of the business due to the activities of the Customs officers.
The chairman of the association in the state, Alhaji Rabe Lawal Kofar Sauri, who spoke with The Triumph in an exclusive interview, said large quantity of tiger nut is being seized daily by the Customs officials “because they cannot differentiate between foreign and local ones.”
Kofar Sauri said the situation resulted for the inability of the tiger-nut farmers to produce enough quantity of the commodity for local consumption.
“Our locally produced tiger nuts are seized during market days, a situation that forced our members out of business,” Kofar Sauri explained.
He said the association has contacted the Controller of Customs in-charge of Katsina for his understanding and cooperation, but yet the situation has not changed.
He said the state has a vast land covering about 12 local government areas for tiger nut farming.
“The vast land we have is enough to produce needed tiger nut for local consumption and generate employment to our people,” he further affirmed.
He said currently tiger nut is produced in Mai’adua, Daura, Zango, Baure, Sandamu, Mashi and Dutsi local areas.
Other areas the commodity is produced in the state include Ingawa, Mani, Bindawa, Katsina, Kaita, Rimi and Batagarawa.
He lamented another problem facing tiger nut farming as failure by government to assist the association, adding that government has not provided a bag of fertilizer to the association since its creation about 30 years ago.
He said members of the association purchase fertilizers from open market which adds cost to their farming activities.
He added: “Government has not shown any interest to boost tiger-nut farming; we finance our activities through contribution from members.”
In his comment, the Managing Director of Katsina State Agricultural Rural Development Authority (KTARDA), Alhaji Ibrahim Shehu Musawa described tiger-nut as potential crop that provides nutrition to people.
Musawa agreed that tiger-nut farmers have not been given a rightful place by government, but saying: “We are working to assist tiger-nut farmers to boost production of the commodity.”
Commenting on the matters on behalf of the national Public Relation Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Public Relation Officer of Kano/Jigawa Command, Malam Isa Danbaba, said the action was part of the measures taken by the government of the nation to improve its security.
He also said through the measures the government intends to encourage Nigerian farmers towards improving in local production.
According to him, the action has since started yielding positive results, but saying therefore that the commodities are still recognized as foreign goods. He said: “The dates and tiger nuts are not left behind as foreign goods as they are being imported into Nigeria from other countries.”
He further said the present dates and nuts circulating in the nation’s markets were the remaining of the old stocks which came in before the closure of the border, saying: “Therefore people must experience shortage of the fruits.”
He pointed out that the commodities are imported into the country because our farmers are not producing them.
“Therefore, the Customs, in collaboration with the tasks force, are responsible to do everything possible to tackle the importation of the foreign goods,” he affirmed.
He assured of continued efforts towards preventing importation of goods at all levels, commending the Joint Task Force Committee and the Customs officers for their dedication to service delivery towards achieving the desired goals.
Malam Danbaba said the issue of the seizure of dates and tiger nuts in the country was a Federal Government initiative under the Office of the National Security Adviser towards checkmating border crimes as well as securing the economy, security and health of the people in the country.
He explained further that the operations under a Presidential Task Force tagged: ‘Ex-Swift Response’ is a joint one comprising of the NCS, the military, the police, DSS, Immigration and other security agencies.
He stressed that the basis of the seizure of dates and tiger nuts is because of the ban of importation due to the border closure of the nation for almost two years ago.