Nigeria rolls out conditions for reopening  borders with neighbours

Hameed Ali, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Comptroller General, claims the boundaries of Nigeria will stay closed until the nation and its neighbors agree on the current ECOWAS movement protocol.

Mr Ali said this on Wednesday at the Maigatari / Niger frontier, Jigawa’s Maigatari Local Government Area, while addressing journalists ‘ questions.

“But there is no specific time for opening the borders. However, if they agree with us tomorrow on the existing laws, then we sign and update the existing protocol of transit, that’s all.

“And we are looking forward to meeting with them and there are moves to sit with them to make them understand why we are doing what we are doing and what we want to achieve by doing what we are doing,” Mr Ali said.

When questioned about the implications of border closure, he said “if you check our website, you will see the seizures and interception we’ve made”.

He said Nigeria was able to totally block contraband imports by closing the borders.

“We are able to completely block the influxes of illicit goods, and most important, stopped the exportation of petroleum product which is the biggest problem we have,” Mr Ali said.

According to him, the import of foreign rice has stopped through the measure and the local variety market has increased.

“We’ve also stopped the influx of rice and our rice is now selling.

“Even those selling garri that have been abandoned because there was cheap rice are making brisk business.

“This is because people are now buying garri as food. So, I think the economy is now picking up and we are grateful for that,” he said.

Mr Ali said when asked about small traders who can not take products to neighboring nations “There must be collateral damage in this kind of situation. Somebody must miss one or two things.”

He said the percentage of small traders concerned was small compared to the operation’s recorded benefits.

Mr Ali said the neighbors of Nigeria had no reason to allow vehicles, cooking oil and other contraband products to pass into Nigeria through their boundaries.

“For instance, Niger has no reason to allow rice, cooking oil and other illicit goods to pass through its borders to come to Nigeria.

“So, if it is their national interest to collect revenue it is our national interest to close our borders until we sit down and discuss,” Mr Ali said.

He advised that any officer caught conniving would have to blame himself for the importation into the nation of contraband goods.

“Some of these things happened in connivance with some of our men. We are trying our best to see that we produce what we consume, particularly rice.

“But the police are being bastardised in connivance with some of my officers. We’re aware of that.

“So, if we catch you, you know where to go, no compromise and you will have yourself to blame.

The customs boss who was inspecting the continuing Border Drill Operation at the border said: “This is the first time the entire military and paramilitary come together to ensure security and wellbeing of Nigerians, as well as stop human trafficking.

Mr Ali was with the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) Comptroller General, Mohammed Babandede, and the operation’s head, Emmanuel Aliyu Ndagi.

Nigeria has closed its doors for about a month with its instant neighbors, Benin Republic to the South and Niger to the North.

The most affected is probably the Seme border, which borders Lagos with the Republic of Benin and through which a huge percentage of legally and illegally foreign goods arrives in Nigeria.

Some of the Seme border-imported products include automobiles, food and electronics.

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