By Stephen Ubanna
Barely twenty hours after the postponement of the February 16, 2019, Presidential election, to February 23, 2019, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Hamid Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, has given the nod to the Land Border Customs Commands to re-open the Borders for business.
The reopening of the Borders , according to Mohammd Babandede , Comptroller General, Nigeria Immigration Service, NIC, was at the instance of Abdulrahman Dambazau, a retired Army Lt .General and former Chief of Army Staff, CAS, and now minister of Interior since the basis for the closure has been removed. The initial plan of the minister to reopen the land Borders if the Presidential election had been held as scheduled on Saturday, February 16, 2019, was on Sunday, February 17, 2019.
From Seme-Krake, Idiroko, Shaki, Iseyin Jibiya to other land Border areas across the country the story was the same. it was reopened again for business within hours on Saturday, February 16, 2019 for business. It would however be closed again, according to ministry of Interior source on Friday, February 22 and March 8, 2019, to forestall Cross -Border movements until the elections was over.
The bad news was that the importation of foreign rice and vehicles through the land borders are still prohibited. Recall that the importation of foreign rice and vehicles through the land border was banned by President Muhammadu Buhari on January1, 2017, on the advice of the National Economic Council, NEC, to save the country from being turned into a dumping ground by foreigners.
Note that some Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, particular Republic of Benin and Togo, have liberal economic policies that allows the importation of foreign rice, processed Vegetable Oil, vehicles, second hand clothing, shoes and bags, into their country which are smuggled into the Nigeria through unapproved routes in the north, south west and the south- south geo-political regions.
When The Value News visited Seme-Krake Joint Border and Idiroko, Land on Sunday, February 17, 2019, it was business as usual . A driver at Mile 2, who shuttles between Lagos and Togo, who could not his joy at the reopening of the Borders said it would help him to make money from his Cross -Border transport business to pay his debts. He noted that within the hours the Seme-Krake and Idiroko Borders were closed for vehicular traffic, he had lost thousands of naira.
Traders who had thought that the re-opening of the land Borders after 24-hour closure was an excuse to test the will of the Customs anti-smuggling officers on patrol at Seme-Krake Joint Border were disappointed. They would never forget their experience in a hurry as they lost their smuggled foreign rice to Muhammed Uba Garba’s men on the road.
Garba, the Customs Comptroller had reportedly confirmed that some Cross-Border traders had mistaken the re-opening of the Borders after the closure on Friday for the election as an indication that the government has given the nod for importation of foreign rice, vehicles and other prohibited items into the country through the land Border. He insists that the importation of ”foreign rice, vehicles and other prohibited items through the Borders are still banned”.
Appealing to Nigerian to traders and travellers to put that at the back of their mind, he disclosed that the Command patrol officers will not hesitate to seize any prohibited item that contravenes the country’s fiscal policy. According to him, the clarification has become necessary to void people being taking unawres inlosing their goods to government.
While the Seme-Krake Command Customs boss could be said to be in total control of his area of jurisdiction which has only one official route to enter the Lagos market, this could not be said of his counterpart , Michael Agbara, of Ogun Command , who is still struggling on how to control the several illegal routes in the state.
Going by the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, records, there are about 84 unofficial routes in Ogun state excluding the official Idiroko -Sango Ota road. The presence of Comptroller Mohammed Aliyu of Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A and Deputy Comptroller Abdullahi Kirawa, who Coordinates the Headquarters’ Strike Force patrol teams on the road may have brought some relief to Agbara to sit up and be making Contraband seizures.
In spite of the fact that Comptroller Garba and his officers are in effective control of Seme, owode and Badagry axis, to checkmate dare-devil smugglers and bandits, Dom Asogwa, Resident Comptroller , NIS, Seme Command, would not want his officers to take the back Seat. Asogwa confirmed that since the directive to reopen the Land Borders was given by Babandede, the NIS, Comptroller General, on the orders of the minister, Immigration officers at Seme-Krake have resumed work and have been attending to Immigrants to Immigrants from the ECOWAS, and Central African sub-region including other foreigners.
The Immigration Comptroller confirmed that travellers who were caught up by the initial ministerial closure order on Friday, February 15, 2019, have been cleared and are happy with the services received from the Nigerian and their Beninioise counterparts to facilitate their movement
The major problem of the NIS Command, according a source was poor funding. The source would want Dambazau, the minister of Interior to increase the budgetary allocations to the Commands to be able to meet their immediate needs and provision of working tools to do their work. .
Despite the financial constraint faced by the NIS Seme-Krake Command, Asogwa, the
The job of the resident NIS and Border Patrol officials may
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