Nigeria won’t open its borders with neigbouring countries yet, the Federal Government said on Monday.
This is an affirmation of the rejection of the calls for reopening by neigbouring countries – especially Benin Republic on the Western border – whose economy is largely dependent on the trade with Nigeria.
Comptroller-General of Customs Col. Hammed Ali (rtd), said on Monday that security of the nation is paramount.
According to him, by closing the border, Nigeria has stopped illegal arms and illicit drugs import.
The Customs boss spoke in Abuja during a news conference on the joint border patrol codenamed ’Ex-Swift response.”
The Ex-Swift response, coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), comprises the police, the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), the Armed Forces and other security agencies to address trans-border security issues.
He insisted that despite the rights for movement of persons of ECOWAS protocols, there must be primacy of security over such rights.
Ali who was asked whether the Federal Government had not breached the rights of the citizenry to movement and international trade, said “when it comes to security, all laws take back a seat.
“We want make sure that our people are protected. You must be alive and well for you to begin to ask for your rights. You rights come when you are well and alive. Go and ask the people in Maiduguri where Boko Haram was harassing their lives. The only question was survival; there is no question of right. This time, Nigeria must survive first before we begin to ask for our rights.”
According to him, the measure is for the security agencies to be able to scan the goods that are entering into the country thoroughly and thus, all goods must only enter through the legitimate air and sea ports where they can undergo thorough scanning and certified fit for consumption.
“We hope that by the time we get to the end of this exercise, we and ours neigbour would have agreed on the type of goods that should enter and exit our country. For now, all goods, whether illicit or non-illicit, are banned from going and coming into Nigeria.
“Let me add that for the avoidance of doubt that we included all goods because all goods can equally come through our seaports. For that reason, we have deemed it necessary for now that importers of such goods should go through our controlled borders where we have scanners to verify the kind of goods and how healthy to our people.”
On security, the Customs boss noted that the closure has recorded a number of seizures and arrests that would have had grave consequences. “So far, 317 suspected smugglers and 146 illegal migrants have been arrested. Also, some items seized include: 21,071-59kg bags of parboiled foreign rice; 190 vehicles; 891 drums filled with PMS; 2665 jerry cans of vegetable oil; 66,000 litre tanker of vegetable oil; 133 motorcycles; 70 jerri cans of PMS and 131 bags of NPK fertilizer used for making explosives. The estimated monetary value of the apprehended items is about N1,429,562,315.00.
The Customs boss noted 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 the porous borders.
He said the federal government had ensured that the arms and ammunition these terrorists and criminal elements were using no longer gain access into the country.
Ali said drugs which affect the health and well-being of Nigerians have been prevented from entering through the borders.
The Customs boss explained that the North East is exempted from the border closure because the military is combatting the Boko Haram insurgents in the region at the moment.
He said it was in conjunction with the military, that the zone is exempted from the operation owing to its volatility.
Ali urged the public to dismiss any other reason in the social media for the exemption of the zone from the operation as a mere story.