The Federal Government on Monday said seizures made by security agents at the country’s land borders indicated that the republics of Benin and Niger were not addressing issues that led to the border closure.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, stated this when he led a government delegation to the Seme border on Monday, explained that 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.”
Nigeria had in August closed its land borders, saying smuggling of goods from its neighbouring countries was hurting its economy.
On November 4, the Federal Government listed five conditions for reopening of the country’s land borders.
As one of the conditions, the Federal Government said Nigeria would not accept imported goods that were repackaged by neigbouring countries and brought to Nigeria.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, during a meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Temporary Partial Closure of Land Borders in Abuja, also said that the only travel document allowed for anybody coming into the country through the land borders is the passport, stressing that the country would not accept any other documents such as the identity card.
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.
“The border exercise has also curbed diversion of petroleum products from Nigeria to neighbouring countries”, he explained.
Among those in the government team were the foreign affairs minister, 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.
Mohammed also put the estimated value of all the seized items at about N3.5bn billion. He said, “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.