Aminat Isah, Abuja
The Federal Government has listed higher import revenue generation, lower domestic fuel consumption and increased rice production by local farmers among the gains of the country is benefitting from the closure of the country’s land borders in four geo-political zones of the country.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the gains when he visited the Seme Border on Monday, in company of Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning Clement Agba, National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno and the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service Muhammed Babandede.
He said since the closure, the monthly import revenue has increased by 15%, instead of dropping as expected in many quarters, while the local consumption of fuel has dropped by 30%, apparently due to
reduced smuggling of the products to neighbouring countries
Alhaji Mohammed also said the closure has so far curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into the country, in addition to other prohibited items.
”There has been an enhanced production and milling of Nigerian rice. Patronage of Nigerian rice has also increased and farmers are
expanding their farms as well as engaging more hands,” he said.
The Minister put the value of items seized since the closure at over
N3,500,000,000, listing such items as including 38,743 of 50kg bags of
parboiled foreign rice, 514 vehicles, 1,012 drums filled with PMS,
5,400 Jerrycans of vegetable oil, 346 motorcycles, 10,553 Jerrycans of PMS and 136 bags of NPK fertilizer used for making explosives.
He also said 296 illegal immigrants have been arrested.
”It is important to note that 95 percent of illicit drugs and weapons
that are being used for acts of terrorism and kidnapping in Nigeria
today come in through our porous borders. However, since this partial
closure, these acts have been drastically reduced. Our conclusion is that the arms and ammunition these terrorists and criminal elements were using no longer gain access into the country. In addition, the importation of the drugs which affect the well-being of Nigerians have equally been reduced,” Alhaji Mohammed said
He said Benin and Niger are not yet doing enough to ameliorate the
challenges that led to the border closure, adding that the magnitude
of seizures and the number of illegal immigrants recorded in the last two weeks alone confirm the assertion.
”As we speak, we have ships loaded with rice waiting to discharge (in
Benin) and the target market is Nigeria (for Christmas). We have
(MV Africana Jacana with 40,000 metric tons of rice, MV Zilos with
20,000 mts and MV Sam Jarguar with 45,000 MTS and others,” the
He said the border closure would not have occurred if Nigeria’s
neighbours had complied with the various MOUs as well as the ECOWAS transit protocols, including the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS).
”Discussions on doing legitimate trade between Nigeria on one hand
and Benin and Niger on the other, started in 2005. The discussions
have led to MOUs in 2005, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, all
designed to facilitating free movement of goods manufactured in their respective countries and work out the modalities through the Ministers of Trade of both countries for the realization of this objectives.
”It worth noting that there has never been legitimate transit trade
between Nigeria and the two countries (Benin and Niger) For clarity, the ECOWAS protocol on transit demands that when a transit container berths at a seaport, the receiving country is mandated to escort same without tampering with the seal to the border of the destination country. Unfortunately, experience has shown that our neighbours do not comply with this protocol.
”Rather, they break the seals of containers at their ports and
trans-load goods destined for Nigeria from the original container to trucks. In most cases five containers loaded onto one truck and duty paid as one truck. This improper trans-loading of transit goods makes it impossible to properly examine such goods, resulting in importation of illicit goods, including arms and ammunition, without being detected. Because goods are not examined, mis-classification and resultant loss of revenue become the ultimate consequence of this illegitimate transit trade,” Alhaji Mohammed said.
He said Exercise Swift Response, the joint border security exercise
which was launched 20 Aug. 2019, has provided a unique platform for
the various participating agencies to jointly operate, thereby
strengthening inter-agency collaboration and reducing animosity.
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