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BORDER CLOSURE: Nigerian govt unmoved, says Benin, Niger yet to comply with conditions for reopening

Nigerian govt wants US, UK to keep close watch on ‘desperate’ opposition

The Nigerian Government on Monday said the Republics of Benin and Niger have failed to comply with the conditions attached to the possible reopening of it’s land borders going by the magnitude of seizures by security agents in the last two weeks.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this on Monday when he led a government delegation to the Seme border.

According to him, from the magnitude of seizures made and the number of illegal immigrants apprehended in the last two weeks, it was obvious that “nothing is being done yet by both countries – Benin and Niger – to address the challenges.”

It would be recalled that the Federal Government had on November 4 given five conditions to its neighbours for the reopening of the borders after they were closed in August.

Speaking further, Mohammad said that since the border closure, “local consumption of fuel had dropped by 30 per cent apparently due to the reduction in smuggling of petroleum products to neighbouring countries.

“The partial closure 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 the Rice Miller Association of Nigeria since the commencement of this exercise, has shown that the border closure has enhanced more production and milling of Nigerian rice.

“Patronage of Nigerian rice has increased and farmers are expanding their farms as well as engaging more hands. Furthermore, the border closure has impacted positively on revenue generation of the Federal Government which in turn will be used to build more infrastructure and develop critical sectors of the nation’s economy.

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“The border exercise has also curbed diversion of petroleum products from Nigeria to neighbouring countries”, he explained.

Mohammed, who put the estimated value of all the seized items at about N3.5bn billion, said further: “As we speak, we have ships loaded with rice waiting to be discharged (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.

“In addition, Benin (Republic) has concluded arrangements to get rice to the tune of $30m. This is a country with just 12 million people, it is clear that this rice will end up in Nigeria.

“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, 296 illegal immigrants have been arrested. Also, some items seized include; 38,743-50kg 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. The estimated value of the apprehended items is about N3.5 billion.

“Over time, Nigeria has been confronted with numerous trans-border economic and security challenges. These challenges range from banditry, kidnapping, smuggling, illegal migrants to proliferation of light weapons, amongst others.

“Meanwhile, the preference for foreign goods, especially food items like rice, has continuously impoverished our farmers and adversely affected domestic government policies supporting the agricultural sector to enhance food security.

“It is, however, disturbing that some neighbouring countries circumvent the ECOWAS protocol on transit. 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.”

“It is important to note 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 our porous borders. However, since this partial closure, the 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 drugs which affect the health and the wellbeing of Nigerians have equally been reduced.”

The government also explained that it would continue to use diplomatic channels to continue engaging its neighbours to agree to comply with the ECOWAS protocol on transit.

“Goods that are on the prohibition list to Nigeria, such as rice, used clothing, poultry products and vegetable oil should not be exported to the country. As a result of this closure, Niger Republic has already circulated an order banning exportation of rice in any form to Nigeria.

“In addition, the National Assembly has supported the executive directive on the border closure and the efforts of security agencies in executing the task”, the minister said.

The Federal Government Team included the Foreign Affairs Minister, Godfrey Onyema, Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; Minister of State (Finance, Budget and National Planning), Clement Agba; National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, and the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammed Babandede.

BORDER CLOSURE: Nigerian govt unmoved, says Benin, Niger yet to comply with conditions for reopening

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