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Nigeria’s Border Closure: The Pains, Gains, Challenges

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Nigeria shares international boundaries with the Republic of Benin to the west, Cameroon and Chad to the east and Niger, to the north.
Apart from these official borders, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) says more than 1,400 illegal border routes exist in the country as smugglers routes, creating security challenges.
The former comptroller-general of the service, Mr David Parradang, says that although the country has only 84 approved land border control posts, there are also more than 1,400 illegal borders in the country.
But Nigerian authorities note that the porous borders have resulted in crisis in economic sector that has been affecting the development of the country.
So, in August, Nigerian authorities announced and enforced the closure of its border with the Republic of Benin.
The operation under the codename “Ex-Swift Response” was a collaborative security operation involving the Nigeria Immigration Service and Nigeria Customs Service together with Nigeria Police Force and the Armed Forces.
President Muhammadu Buhari attributes the partial closure of Nigeria’s border with Benin Republic to the massive smuggling activities, especially of rice, taking place on that corridor.
He expresses great concern over the smuggling of rice, noting that it threatens the self-sufficiency already attained due to his administration’s agricultural policies.
Similarly, the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, retired Col. Hameed Ali, says that the closure of Nigeria’s borders was undertaken to strengthen the nation’s security and protect its economic interests.
Ali also observes that closure would stem the influx of smuggled goods, especially rice and tomatoes into the country, insisting that the closure has significantly increased revenue from import duties.
However, while the government claims to have acted in the best interests of the economy and Nigerians, some Nigerians and citizens of neighbouring countries most affected by the closure, continue to express worry about it, calling for an immediate reopening of the borders.
Some economists believe that the decision to close the nation’s land borders could be painful to the concerned neighbouring countries, considering the relationship with them.
According to them, one of the immediate gains of the closure could be a stop to the dumping of goods from European markets in Nigeria.
They are of the opinion that the action would go a long way in protecting our local manufacturers and producers.
They describe it as policy that would address and redefine relations with our neighbours in a win-win situation.
But critics insist that border closure is an economic aberration as most countries don’t usually close their borders for trade-related reasons.
According to them, the closure has the potential to disrupt the economic lifelines of many traders who depend on legitimate cross-border trade.
Irrespective of this, Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, says that the decision to close border is part of the measures to preserve foreign policy in the national interest.
“Last time, I was critical of Nigeria’s refusal to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) and recently I have been in support of the decision to close the border.
“Nigeria is 70 per cent of the population of West Africa and if we have an industrial policy that is aimed at protecting the productive sector of Nigeria, it is a fair competition.
“We cannot allow our neighbours to open their doors to this unfair competition and through the back door undermine our industry.
“It is not about smuggling petroleum or rice; but in 2017, the Republic of Benin was the world’s second largest importer of tramadol, an opioid pain medication that is being abused, to U.S.
“So closing the borders, I hope is not a permanent solution but what I hope is that is an opportunity to sit down and agree on rules and then open up the borders.
“It is extremely important to have a Foreign Policy that is ready to take very firm decision to protect the national interest against dangerous trade activities,” Sanusi observes.
Sharing similar sentiments, Ghana’s former President, John Mahama has lauded the creation of a joint-security taskforce on the borders of Nigeria but warns that the continued delay is harming the economies of the West African region.
Mahama believes that the greatest volume of trade in West Africa takes place in the Lagos – Abidjan corridor.
“I believe that an ECOWAS meeting of the Heads of States should discuss the issues and it could lead to the resolution of the problem.
“So, closing your border is the simplest thing to do; any country can say I’m closing my border to imports from my neighbours, but it doesn’t help to build the kind of integration we are trying to build in West Africa,” he said.
He also expresses the fear that by the time the borders are re-opened, some businesses that rely on each other’s export may have collapsed.
Economists note that one of the immediate consequences of Nigeria’s action is the backlash it will have on Nigerian traders in Ghana.
They allege that more than 400 shops owned by Nigerians have been closed for flimsy excuses that were, hitherto, overlooked.
Nigeria Union in Diaspora also alleges that Nigerian traders in Accra are being harassed and victimised.
In spite of this, authorities in Nigeria, having observed the encouraging changes in the economy, recently foreclosed re-opening of the nation’s borders.
For instance, the Federal Government says 95 per cent of arms and ammunition inflow to Boko Haram insurgent group, kidnappers, killer herdsmen and bandits has gone down considerably.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, says border closure against importation of foreign goods and illegal immigrants will remain, observing that 296 illegal immigrants have been arrested.
According to him, the decision to close the borders is taken to secure the country which has been confronted by numerous trans-borders economic and security challenges.
“These challenges range from banditry, kidnapping, smuggling, illegal migrants and proliferation of light weapons, among others.
“The preference for foreign goods, especially food items such as rice, has continuously impoverished our farmers and adversely affected domestic government policies supporting the agricultural sector to enhance food security.
“It is, however, disturbing that some neighbouring countries circumvent the ECOWAS protocol on transit.
“ECOWAS protocol on transit demands that when a transit container berths at a seaport, the receiving country is mandated to escort same without tampering with the seal to the border of the destination country.
“Experience has shown that our neighbours do not comply with this protocol. Rather, they break the seals of containers at their ports and trans-load goods destined for Nigeria,” he said.
The minister, who expresses satisfaction with success so far recorded by the joint task force, observed that the singular decision has reduced importation of foreign goods, increased revenue generation and enhanced security.
“On the economy, the partial closure of the borders has curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into the country, in addition to other prohibited items.
“Our series of interactions and engagements with 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 local rice has increased and farmers are expanding their farms as well as engaging more hands.
“Border closure has also impacted positively on revenue generation which in turn will be used to build more infrastructures and develop critical sectors of the nation’s economy.
“The border closure has also curbed diversion of petroleum products from Nigeria to neighbouring countries,” he said.
Mohammed says further that 95 per cent of illicit drugs and weapons that are being used for acts of terrorism and kidnapping in Nigeria is through porous borders.
“Our conclusion is that the arms and ammunition these terrorists and criminal elements are using no longer gain access into the country.
“The drugs which affect the health and wellbeing of Nigerians have equally been reduced,” the minister said.
He assures the public that government, through diplomatic channels, would continue to engage the nation’s neighbours to agree to comply with the ECOWAS Protocol on Transit.
According to the minister, goods that are on the prohibition list to Nigeria, such as rice, used clothing, poultry products and vegetable oil, should not be exported to the country.
He also notes that the closure has provided a unique platform for the various participating agencies to jointly operate together, thereby strengthening inter-agency collaboration and reducing animosity.
He insists that the purpose of border closure is to promote a secure, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.
Mohammed, therefore, calls on all Nigerians to be patriotic by patronising local rice to help the country to attain self-sufficiency in local rice production and boost the economy.
Enehikhuere writes for News Agency of Nigeria

 

By: Julius Enehikhuere

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LG Boss Ready To Pay Workers’ Salary Arrears

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The Chairman of Ahoada West Local Government Area, Evang. Hope Ikiriko, has vowed to pay salary arrears of all the council staff whose salaries were stopped after verification of their employment and postings are authenticated by the Local Government Service Commission.
This came as a reaction to the strike threat by the National Union of  Local Government Employees (NULGE) in Rivers State for the stoppage of salaries of about 110 workers of the council on the ground of alleged  ghost workers.
Ikiriko, who disclosed this while reacting to the issue in an interaction with journalists in Port Harcourt recently, noted that the council discovered some discrepancies in the employment of some of these workers during staff audit.
“The council decided to embark on the staff verification because when I came on board as the council chairman, I discovered that the number of staff that came to work was between 20 to 50 persons.
“In the council payroll, we had about 1, 600 workers who are paid salaries every month, and how can we continue to pay salaries to this number of staff, and we had to set up a committee to verify those who are genuine workers of the council.
“This process revealed a lot of things, where some people claiming to be staff were not dully employed, infact they do not have authentic papers or document to back up their claims.
“Some of them on their own took over the position of their dead relatives, while some did not even know the procedure of employment and transfer, especially those of them that claim to come on transfer from other local government area” Ikiriko vowed.

 

By: Corlins Walter

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FRSC To Clampdown On Traffic Offenders In Rivers

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The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has threatened to clampdown on all those that disregard road traffic rules, particularly those that make phone calls while driving  and one-way drive.
FRSC says that making phone calls while driving is a very serious offence, and that those that will be caught from now will be arrested and made to go for Psychological Examination.
The Rivers State Sector Commander of FRSC, Salisu Umaru, who made this known in a media interaction in Port Harcourt Monday, noted that the command was not happy with the way some people disobeyed  traffic signs and laws.
According to him, the sector is embarking on the ‘ember’ months enlightenment and enforcement campaign where all the machineries of FRSC will be fully mobilised to work.
“I don’t like the way some people drive in Rivers state. You see people driving one-way, not obeying traffic signs and laws, making phone calls while driving.
“ We want to stop these things in Rivers state. We will arrest and send offenders on psychology examination to ascertain why they do such things.
“ Psychological examination is not the same thing as Psychiatric examination. We are to do preventive enforcement on all Nigerian roads, whether federal or state.
“FRSC is not all about enforcement, but we do corrections.There are times we caution offenders without booking them, and that is official for us”, Umaru said. On why the FRSC made serious checks on vehicle plate numbers, the sector boss explained that the purpose was purely for security, to check criminal activities on vehicle procurement, and also those that used them for crime.
The FRSC sector boss also said that his corps were coming up with some help areas where people that have one problem or the other on the road could be attended to, with ambulance stationed there.
He said that the state government has been notified of the intentions, which according to him, was geared towards safety of lives on the road.

 

By: Corlins Walter

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NIMASA, BPSR Partner On Maritime Transformation

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The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) are currently in talks on how to implement transformational initiatives in the maritime sector.
Speaking in Abuja during a visit to the Bureau, NIMASA’s Director General, Dr Bashir Jamoh, emphasised the importance of efficient and effective public service to Nigeria’s economic prosperity, adding that the agency is committed to collaborate with the ongoing initiative.
Jamoh, who was represented by the agency’s Director, Reform Coordination and Strategic Management, Dr Kabir Murnai, said the partnership would be focused on reform initiatives and development research.
According to him, a sustainable relationship between the two Federal Government agencies was essential for capacity development.
He stated: “We are here to see how we can connect with BPSR in order to clearly understand and key into government’s specific priorities, while still pursuing the respective mandates and goals of NIMASA.
“We desire advisory and technical support services for change management teams, to engender an environment of learning within NIMASA”.
Similarly, Director of BPSR, Mr Dasuki Ibrahim Arabi, pledged the Bureau’s commitment to the collaborative agreement for the mutual benefit of the two agencies.

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