Nigeria’s land borders are to remain closed until the country is able to agree with its neighbours on existing ECOWAS protocol on movement, the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hammed Ali (rtd) has said.
Ali stated this on Wednesday at Maigatari/Niger border, Maigatari Local Government Area of Jigawa State while fielding questions from newsmen.
“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,” Ali said.
On the consequences of closing the borders, the Customs boss said that “If you check our website, you will see the seizures and interception we’ve made”, adding that by closing the borders, Nigeria was able to completely block the importation of contraband.
“We are able to completely block the influxes of illicit goods, and most importantly, stopped the exportation of petroleum product which is the biggest problem we have,” Ali said.
According to him, through the measure, the importation of foreign rice has stopped and the market for local varieties has risen.
“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.
Responding to concerns that pretty traders are not able to take goods to neighbouring countries, Ali explained that “there must be collateral damage in this kind of situation. Somebody must miss one or two things.”
According to him, the number of petty traders affected was insignificant compared to gains recorded through the operation.
He also insisted that Nigeria’s neighbours had no reason allowing cars, cooking oil and other contraband items to pass through their borders into Nigeria.
“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,” Ali said.
The CG also warned that any officer caught conniving to pave way for the importation of contraband items into the country would have himself to blame.
“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”, he said.
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