The Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service, retried Col. Hameed Ali has confirmed that import and export of goods from land borders in Nigeria remain partially banned until an agreement is made with neighbouring countries on the kind of goods that can enter and exit Nigeria. He made this confirmation on Monday in Abuja during a joint press briefing on joint boarder patrol codenamed EX-SWIFT RESPONSE.
The Muhammad Buhari led administration called for the closure of the Nigeria-Benin borders in August as a way of promoting the growth of the Nigerian economy and ensure that the country attained food self-sufficiency in the rice value chain and also to enable the security agencies scan the goods entering the country to ensure the good health of citizens. The government’s main focus, though, is to curb the smuggling of goods especially rice.
To that effect, a joint patrol codename EX-SWIFT RESPONSE was set up. The joint border patrol is coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) comprising the Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies to address trans-boarder security issues.
Will this decision favour the masses?
The costs of border closure actually outweighs the benefits to the economy as we are heavily dependent on imported goods.There are people who regularly ply the roads linking Nigeria and Benin Republic in their normal course of business. The types of business that take place across the Nigeria-Benin border comprise mainly local manufacturers who serve the markets of the West African sub-region and use land transport to access these markets. Also, there are a number of petty traders who transact in perishable consumer items such as tomatoes, poultry products, rice amongst other things across these borders.
The losses to the petty traders and manufacturers that ply the route is estimated by some to be in the region of billions of naira. Aside from the perishable commodities and potential loss of capital, it’s also likely to lead to a decline in patronage for those in the farming chain of supply.
Closing the border especially as the festive period approaches is likely to cause a hike in the price of rice and as people will seek ways of short circuiting the process potentially leading to a decline in revenue generation. Also, Nigeria is choked off from supplies until the next harvest by local farmers and that means food scarcity is likely till harvest.
So the answer is no, it won’t favour the poor masses whose daily source of livelihood is threatened and who can, in a thriving economy, not afford square meals, more so in the face of an impending economic crisis.
The Federal Government also breached the rights of citizens to movement and international trade but in the government’s defense, Col. Ali channeled troubling rhetoric indicating a lack of respect for rule of law saying;
“When it comes to security, all laws take back a seat. We want to protect our nation, we want to make sure that our people are protected. You must be alive and well for you to begin to ask for your rights. Your rights come when you are well and alive. Go and ask the people in Maiduguri when Boko Haram was harassing their lives, the only question was survival, there is no question of right. This time Nigeria must survive first then before we begin to ask for our rights.”