The federal government yesterday ordered the complete closure of all Nigerian land borders, placing a ban on both legitimate and illegitimate movement of goods in and out of the country.
The comptroller-general of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) who disclosed this said the latest development entails restriction of import and export into Nigeria to the seaports.
He spoke at a media briefing on the progress of the joint border security exercise codenamed ‘Operation Ex-swift Response’ formed on August 20, 2019, in four geopolitical zones of the country.
The complete closure of the borders affected those in the South South, South West, North Central and North West, excluding the South East and the North East borders.
The NCS, Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), in collaboration with the Armed Forces of Nigeria as well as the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies are coordinated by the office of the National Security Adviser to better secure the borders and strengthen the nation’s economy and address other trans-border security concerns.
The customs boss noted that all import and export of goods from the nation’s land borders remain banned until there is an agreement with neighbouring countries on the kind of goods that should enter and exit Nigeria.
According to him, the measure is to enable the security agencies scan the goods entering the country, even as he maintained that all goods must only enter through the legitimate air and sea ports where they can undergo thorough scanning and certified fit for consumption.
He said, “We hope that by the time we get to the end of this exercise, we would have exactly between we and our neighbors agree 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, 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 boarders where we have scanners to verify the kind of goods and how healthy they can be to our people.”
Ali insisted that despite the rights for movement of persons in the enabling ECOWAS protocols, security must take precedence over such rights.
Asked whether the federal government has not breached the rights of the citizenry to movement and international trade, he said that “when it comes to security, all laws take back 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. Your rights come when you are well and alive. Go and ask the people in Maiduguri; when 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.”
The Comptroller-general said Nigeria had been confronted with numerous trans-borders economic and security challenges ranging from banditry, kidnapping, smuggling, illegal immigrants and proliferation of light weapons, among others.
He stressed that the partial closure of the nation’s border has so far curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into the country in addition to other prohibited items.
“Our series of interactions and engagements with Rice Millers Association of Nigeria since the commencement of the exercise has shown that the border closure has enhanced milling of Nigerian rice and the patronage of Nigerian rice has significantly increased, leading to farmers expanding their farms and engaging more hands,” he explained.
He added that this has impacted positively on revenue generation of the federal government which in turn, would be used to build more infrastructure and develop critical sectors of the nation’s economy, in addition to curbing the diversion of petroleum products from Nigeria to neighbouring countries.
Ali continued: “In the area of security, the ongoing exercise has recorded a number of seizures and arrests that would have had grave security consequences. So far, 317 suspected smugglers and 146 illegal migrants have been arrested.
“Also, some items seized include 21,071-50kg bags of parboiled foreign rice, 190 vehicles, 891 drums filled with PMS, 2665 gallons of vegetable oil, 66,000 litre tanker of vegetable oil, 133 motorcycles, 70 Jerricans of PMS and 131 bags of NPK fertiliser. The estimated monetary value of the apprehended seizures and items is about N1,429, 562,315. 00”.
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