Benin Republic unrepentant on terms of border closure, says Lai Mohammed

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The federal government has accused the Republic of Benin of being recalcitrant in its importation of prohibited goods for ultimate dumping into Nigeria’s market in spite of the partial border closure order.

Lai Mohammed, the minister of information and culture, made the accusation when he featured on a live programme on TV Continental.

“Regrettably, the signs out there are not positive in the sense that in the last few weeks, the number of seizures that have been made do not show that our neighbours are in a hurry to comply with Nigeria,” NAN quoted him to have said.

“As we speak today, there are three ships heading toward the Benin Republic laden with about 105,000 metric tons of rice.

“This is a country of about 12 million people. That rice is meant for ultimate consumption of Nigerians.

“In addition, Benin Republic just negotiated with Japan to receive rice worth 30 million dollars.

“It is clear that the ultimate destination of the rice will be Nigeria and that is why we are appealing to our neighbours.”

Mohammed said the border drill will be in place for as long as necessary explaining that Nigeria could no longer continue to play the big brother at the expense of its economy and national security.

“The facts at our disposal reveal that 10,000 vehicles are imported every month into the Cotonou seaport,” he explained.

“For a population of about 12 million people to be importing 120,000 vehicles in a year means that the vehicles are going to Nigeria with sufficient market.

“As I have said, there is no gain without pain, there will be discomfort at the beginning ultimately we believe it is going to be to the ultimate interest of Nigeria,” he said.

“We have been on this dialogue since 2015 and the truth of the matter is that there has never been any legitimate transit trade between us and the two countries

“This is hurting our economy, affecting our security and no country will fold its arms when the overall interest of its people is being jeopardised.”

The minister said the government decided to prohibit the sale of fuel in filling stations less than 20km away from the borders because of the high level of smuggling of the product to neighbouring countries.

He estimated that 160 filling stations were affected by the directive because they primarily engage in smuggling.

“These are stations that when you drive into them in the day time, they will not be dispensing fuel until late in the night when they will smuggle the product across the border,” he said.

The minister said that government was aware of the effects of the border drill on the citizens, particularly the spike in the price of rice, but the people must bear the temporary pains to reap the benefits.

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