By Muyiwa Lucas
TODAY marks one-year anniversary of the closure of Nigeria’s land borders to neighbouring African countries. The Federal Government said the closure was aimed at tackling proliferation of arms, smuggling and other illicit trans-border activities.
The government over the period insisted that closing the borders, under the codename: “Ex Swift Response” has been more of a blessing to the country. Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed said that the closed border has drastically reduced incidents of cattle rustling, kidnapping, armed banditry and other forms of insecurity in the North-West.
“The drill has drastically curtailed the inflow of arms and ammunition. Bandits and terrorists are finding it hard to procure arms and ammunition, hence we have recorded a reduction in cases of cattle rustling, kidnapping and armed banditry, which were predominant in the North-West Region,” Mohammed said, while leading a Federal Government’s delegation on a visit to Sector Four (North-West) of the Border Drill, last December.
He added that the smuggling of petroleum products, which had also been prominent through the borders in the North-West, had been curtailed due to the closure of filling stations along the border. “There are hundreds of filling stations along the border. We counted many as we drove to the border this morning. They were set up purposely for smuggling. They don’t sell the fuel consignment they receive to the public, 50 per cent of them are owned by foreigners. Now that they are closed, we have recorded over 30 per cent reduction in domestic fuel consumption,” Mohammedsaid.
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The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has also claimed huge success from the border closure, announcing daily revenue of N7 billion as against previous N4.5 billion daily revenue. NCS Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) has equally expressed satisfaction with the exercise.
“When we closed the border, my fear was that our revenue was going to drop. To be honest, our revenue kept increasing. There was a day in September that we collected N9.2 billion in one day. It has never happened before. This is after the closure of the border and since then, we have maintained an average of about N4.7 billion to N5.8 billion on a daily basis, which is far more than we used to collect.
“What we have discovered is that most of those cargoes that used to go to Benin (Republic) and are then smuggled into Nigeria now come to us. Now that we have closed the border, they are forced to bring their goods to either Apapa or Tin Can Island and we have to collect duty on them. If that (border closure) would continue, to us, it is a welcome situation. Our revenue has not reduced. As a matter of fact, it is increasing as a result of the closure of the border. About 10.2million litres of fuel have been cut down from what we assume, we have been consuming,” Ali said.
Yet, commendations have continued to trail the closure. For instance, the President of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Mr. Lucky Amiwero, is of the opinion that while the border closure is against international treaties and protocols Nigeria entered into willingly, but the action has so far proved to be the most potent approach to tackling the several years of massive smuggling of goods from Nigeria’s neighbouring countries into Nigeria and smuggling of Nigerian fuel to those countries.
Amiwero, who noted that smuggling has been a major challenge to the Nigerian economy, submits that: “if this operation is sustained till at least the end of the year, the Nigerian economy will feel the impact in a very positive way while the West African countries which over the years depended on allowing their countries to be smuggling routes in and out Nigeria will be forced to re-strategise on ways to ensure the survival of their economies,” he said.