Experts Advocate Legal and Viable Options To Incessant Closure Of Nigerian’s International Borders

By Stephen Ubanna

Between 1984 and now, there have  been incessant closure of  Nigeria’s International borders  with neighbouring countries of Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon, by past and present governments.

 Ahmed Mansur, President, Manufacturers  Association of Nigeria, MAN, had said that  the  reason for the closure of the borders with the three neighbouring African countries,  to forestall  the smuggling of  Foreign par boiled rice, Small and Light arms into the country no  longer holds water, insisting that  the ruling  All Progressive Congress Party  , APC, government, must open the borders for normal trade to resume with the countries.

The trio, Musa Godwin Omale, a Deputy Comptroller with the Nigerian Customs Srvice, NCS, Funsho Olronfemi and Femi Ola Aiyegbajeje, both  Academicians  in their article ‘Legal and viable  options to incessant  closure  of Nigeria’s International   borders’’,  had argued that there are legal frameworks for Combating  smuggling in Nigeria which is  enshrined in the Customs and Excise Management Act,CEMA,Cap45, 2004, noting that  it is’’ the duty of the Officers and Men of the Service to enforce the Law’’. They did a good job on the article because of their legal background.

The trio who had alluded  to a recent report of the Bureau  of Statstics  on the rate of smuggling, noted that ’’it is an informal  trade with no official accurate records’’. They cited the items mostly smuggled into the country  which include : Foreign rice, vehicles, textile materials, second hand clothing, second hand tyres, second hand bags, and Petroleum Products. Other items smuggled into the country , from the neighbouring  countries, particular, Benin Republic,   were  tomatoes, cocoa,  illicit drugs and  Human trafficking.

The report of the Bureau of Statistics that there had been  recorded  increases    in all the subsets of the Consumer price Index, CPI,  showing   that food prices  had continued to bite due to the border closure. This may  have informed why the trio  had argued that there was no basis for the border closure any longer.

The trio may have given an insight to the fact that there is no end in sight  to the smuggling activities in the co other countriesry as there are over 1,000 illegal  routes  and 79  other official routes across the country. For those who think that the issue of border closure is only peculiar to Nigeria, they may have to do a rethink, the trio with their legal knowledge insists that other countries in the region have experienced such poblems in the past. th.

3. Detained Vehicles At Seme Command

It is on record that the borders between the two West African countries of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, was closed  in 2012 after 10 Ghanaians were killed in attacks   by the Cote d’ Ivore armed soldiers   and police .  Note also  that the Trump Administration in the North American country of the United States had made attempts to construct a border wall with Mexico on January 26, 2017, which may have strained the relationships between the two  countries, they alluded.

The trio had also alluded  to the Asian country of China  which closed its borders with neighbouring countries  for 25 years  as a deliberate plan to  facilitate its move to become an industrialised nation which was eventually achieved.  Although , the situation may be different from the closure of the Nigerian borders with he neighbouring countries, but it it may not have been a  complete failure.

Omale a senior Customs officer and his two legal Colleagues, who are Academicians   had argued in their well researched article that ‘’ it is to stop the  smuggling  of manufactured  goods that  were not produced in  in the Economic Community of West African States  Trade Liberalisatiion Scheme, ECOWAS  ETLS, arrangement, that had  facilitated the border closure. There are about 2, 400  Nigerian Companies, participating in the ETLS  and several other Companies from the economic  bloc   manufacturing 6,900 items   for the market. But 60 -70% of the items are produced by Companies operating in Nigeria.

 With Nigeria signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement  as the 53 member nation and  Benin as the 54 member nation , may have encouraged the trio to call on the Buhari Administration to have a  another look  on the border  closure for normal trade to resume between the countries.

Making reference to the report of the various Nigerian Customs Service, NCS,   ant-smuggling Commands, across the country,  the Authors of the Legal and Viable  options for incessant closure of Nigeria’s International  Borders   had corroborated Customs  claim that ‘’it had been easier  to apprehend  smuggled goods  by the Customs anti-smuggling  officers  and other Law Enforcement agents since the border closure.

Foreign Rice Seizure By Customs Anti-smuggling Personnel

 In 2019 alone, it was reported that 317 smugglers  were arrested, 21,071 bags of 50Kg bags of Foreign rice , 90 vehicles, 891 drums  of Premium Motor Spirit, popular, petrol , 2,665  Jerrycans of 25 litres  each of vegetable oil  and several bags of NPK Fertilizer used for making explosives were seized by Customs personnel.

The trio had concluded in their article   that despite  ”some advantages  in the areas of increased revenue  generation , numerous seizures of Contraband and encouraging local production of rice  but the  appraisal of  the legal, economic, political  and security implications, shows that  the border closure  across the country  with the neighbouring  countries by the Buhari government ’’may not  have  been the best option’’.

This may have informed why the trio had suggested that there  should be far more reaching Commitments on the part of the government, regional stakeholders, and equally far reaching measures among Concerned agencies  to show more Commitment in their job.

Perhaps to avoid  a repeat of the government resorting to  closing the borders  across the countries with the neighbouring  countries in the he future, the Authors of the Legal and  Viable  options to incessant  closure of Nigeria’s International Borders had recommended ‘’ effective border control,  border management , border monitoring and border protection  as veritable alternatives to the  incessant border closures’’. The  trio were said to also advocate  a proper CBM, in line with the thinking of the World Bank .      

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