‘Illegal arms, dangerous drugs no longer come in’
ARRESTED PEOPLE AND SEIZED ITEMS AT BORDERS
•317 suspected smugglers
•146 illegal migrants
•21,071-59kg bags of rice
•891 drums of PMS
•2665 jerry cans of vegetable oil
•66,000 litre of vegetable oil
•70 jerry cans of PMS
•131 bags of NPK fertilizer
NIGERIA won’t open its borders with neigbouring countries yet, the Federal Government said on Monday.
This is an affirmation of the rejection of the calls for reopening by neigbouring countries – especially Benin Republic on the Western border – whose economy is largely dependent on the trade with Nigeria.
Comptroller-General of Customs Col. Hammed Ali (rtd), said on Monday that security of the nation is paramount.
According to him, by closing the border, Nigeria has stopped illegal arms and illicit drugs import.
The Customs boss spoke in Abuja during a news conference on the joint border patrol codenamed ’Ex-Swift response.”
The Ex-Swift response, coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), comprises the police, the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), the Armed Forces and other security agencies to address trans-border security issues.
He insisted that despite the rights for movement of persons of ECOWAS protocols, there must be primacy of security over such rights.
Ali who was asked whether the Federal Government had not breached the rights of the citizenry to movement and international trade, said “when it comes to security, all laws take back a seat.
“We want make sure that our people are protected. You must be alive and well for you to begin to ask for your rights. You rights come when you are well and alive. Go and ask the people in Maiduguri where Boko Haram was harassing their lives. The only question was survival; there is no question of right. This time, Nigeria must survive first before we begin to ask for our rights.”
According to him, the measure is for the security agencies to be able to scan the goods that are entering into the country thoroughly and thus, all goods must only enter through the legitimate air and sea ports where they can undergo thorough scanning and certified fit for consumption.
“We hope that by the time we get to the end of this exercise, we and ours neigbour would have agreed on the type of goods that should enter and exit our country. For now, all goods, whether illicit or non-illicit, are banned from going and coming into Nigeria.
“Let me add that for the avoidance of doubt that we included all goods because all goods can equally come through our seaports. For that reason, we have deemed it necessary for now that importers of such goods should go through our controlled borders where we have scanners to verify the kind of goods and how healthy to our people.”
On security, the Customs boss noted that the closure has recorded a number of seizures and arrests that would have had grave consequences. “So far, 317 suspected smugglers and 146 illegal migrants have been arrested. Also, some items seized include: 21,071-59kg bags of parboiled foreign rice; 190 vehicles; 891 drums filled with PMS; 2665 jerry cans of vegetable oil; 66,000 litre tanker of vegetable oil; 133 motorcycles; 70 jerri cans of PMS and 131 bags of NPK fertilizer used for making explosives. The estimated monetary value of the apprehended items is about N1,429,562,315.00.
The Customs boss noted that 95 per cent of illicit drugs and weapons that are being used for acts of terrorism and kidnapping in Nigeria today come in through the porous borders.
He said the federal government had ensured that the arms and ammunition these terrorists and criminal elements were using no longer gain access into the country.
Ali said drugs which affect the health and well-being of Nigerians have been prevented from entering through the borders.
The Customs boss explained that the North East is exempted from the border closure because the military is combatting the Boko Haram insurgents in the region at the moment.
He said it was in conjunction with the military, that the zone is exempted from the operation owing to its volatility.
Ali urged the public to dismiss any other reason in the social media for the exemption of the zone from the operation as a mere story.
Giving an account of the benefits so far recorded from the borders closure, he said it had curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into the country.
He said the engagements with the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria since the border closure had shown an enhancement of production and milling of Nigerian rice.
He added that the patronage of Nigerian rice had increased and farmers are expanding their farms.
Ali added that border closure had impacted positively on the Federal Government revenue generation which in turn will be used to build more infrastructures and develop critical sectors of the nation’s economy.
According to him, the border closure has also curbed the diversion of petroleum products from Nigeria to neighbouring countries.
The major borders between Nigeria and it neighbours were closed on August 20 without formal notice, leaving thousands of people and vehicles stranded on both sides.
The Federal Government said it partially closed the western border with Benin to curb rice smuggling that is threatening the country’s attempt to boost local production.
Nigeria wants to be self-sufficient in rice and has imposed import controls, which have kept prices high and led to smuggling from Benin into Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari has since 2015 introduced policies aimed at curbing imports to boost local production and conserve foreign exchange reserves.
He told his Beninois counterpart Patrice Talon, that rice smuggling across the western border threatened his policy of self-sufficiency.
Buhari said: “Now that our people in rural areas are going back to their farms, the country has saved huge sums of money, which would otherwise have been expended on importing rice using our scarce foreign reserves.
“We cannot allow smuggling of the product at such alarming proportions to continue.”
The statement added the limited border closure would also allow the security forces to develop a strategy on how to stem smuggling while a future re-opening is carefully considered.