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Buhari Speaks On Government’s Plan To Reopen The Closed Borders Across The Country Soon But Failed To Give A Timeline

By Stephen Ubanna

For much of last month and now, there had been rumour  making the rounds that President Muhammadu Buhari  had bowed to pressure from the Authority of Heads of States and Government  of Economic Comic of West African States member countries, the Leadership of the National Assembly and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN,  who had unsold  ELS goods in their warehouses   to reopen the  borders  for normal trade with the countries to resume.

The rumour became pronounced  with  January 20, 2021, alleged to have  been set for the reopening of the nation’s closed borders  with the neighbouring West African countries of Benin Republic, Niger, and the Central African country of Cameroon. President Muhammadu Buhari may have  allowed the rumour mongers to exhaust  their arsenal before opening up  on the government’s next plan on the border closure.

The Katsina state born Nigerian President , may have taken advantage of a recent meeting with the governors of the 36 states of the Federation at the  Presidential Villa to speak out. The governors were said to have been led to the meeting by Kayode Fayemi, a former minister of Solid minerals and now governor of Ekiti state, south west Nigeria  andChairman of the Nigerian’s Governor’s Forum, NGF. The governors who were seated on a round table at the Villa   were  said  to have listened  with rapt attention , making contribution where necessary.

Customs Seized Contraband Of Foreign Rice

Given an insider information why the government took the bold initiative to close the borders with the the three  neighbouring  countries, the Nigerian President  had said  that it was basically ‘’to control  the smuggling of  weapons and drugs including  Contraband and other items  into the country’’. He believes that ‘’  the message  has sunk  in  with the neighbouring countries’’ who are now  ready to work with Nigeria to contain the smugglers. 

He had told the governors to be on red alert as the  sub-region  is no longer safe, with the collapse  of the regime  of the former Libyan leader, late Muammar Gaddafi, and the cross-border movement of weapons and Criminals’’.

President Kabore: Headed ECOWAS Committee To Study Nigeria’s Border Closure and Make Full Report

The Nigerian President  who could not hide his feelings had given an  insight  of the efforts that had been made by President Muhammadou Issofou, of Niger , led leadership of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Government  to look into the Nigeria border closure. The ECOWAS highest decision making body had set up the President Roch Marc Kabore  of Burkina Faso Committee. The Committee, according to him, had a mandate ‘’to  study and make a full report on the country’s border closure with the neighbouring  countries’’.

He noted that the decision to set up the Committee was taken  at an extraordinary  session  of ECOWAS Leaders in Addis Ababa, Capital of Ethiopian, and headquarters of the African Union, AU. The Committee was said to have submitted its report which, insidrs said  favoured the reopening of the Nigeria closed borders with the neigbouring countries but yet to be considered by the ECOWAS , Authority of Heads of States and government.

Recall, that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a Professor of Law, who spoke during a  webinar,organised  by the African Report, on Thursday, November 26, 2020, had given an insight of ‘’government’s plan towards reopening of the border’’ .

Osinbajo who may have taken  advantage   of one of the questions asked  on the continued closure of the nation’s land borders despite preparations  for the implementation  of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCTA, was forced to speak out

. ‘’The government is working with the neighboring countries on the terms of reopening the borders’’, he had said. As a prelude  to the reopening the  closed borders he had cited  the joint border patrols  to control smuggling along the borders, stressing that’’ soon  the closed borders will be opened’’.  He may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he said that the government would not continue to close the borders across the country with the neighbouring countries as it is committed to AfCTA’’.

Emefiele: CBN Governor, Behind Nigeria’s Border Closure

Many believe that the continued closure of the Nigeria’s borders with the neighbouring countries could be traced to Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, who  they said have the ears of the Nigerian President.

Emefiele, had reportedly  said that for the Nigeria closed borders to be opened, ‘’there  must first be ‘’concrete  engagements  with the  countries that are involved  in using their ports  for bringing in foods meant for local Consumption.The CBN governor had said that  the food items that had landed  in their countries  are transshipped or smuggled  into Nigeria , thus undermining the country’s economic policy.

He may have won the heart of the President when he said that  since the borders across the country with the neighbouring countries were closed  in August18,  2019,  the local  rice millers no longer  have problem of unsold stock in their warehouse. He further stated that  there have been increased patronage of  locally produced poultry products and improved job creation in the country.

Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, who is an arch supporter of  the border closure because of the service  improved revenue collection, and seizure of multi-billion naira Contraband in different parts  of the country over the last two years,  had told those that cares to listen that ‘’ reopening  the closed borders across the country  depend  on the actions  of the neighbouring countries’’ , stating  that  ‘’as long as  the countries and Nigeria were not in accord  on what goods should be imported  or exported in their countries, the  borders would remain closed.  Bad news for the countries.

He had alluded to the fact that the Asian country of China where Nigerian business men rush  to  go and buy  almost everything for sales in the country had   closed its borders   with neighbouring countries for 40 years to emerge as a world economic power. He  may have seen that Buhari had cue into  the border closure  that he had said We must  grow Nigeria , eat Nigeria’’.

Trapped Trucks Laden With Cargoes At Seme/Krake Joint Border

He maintains  that the border closure with the neighbouring countries is a ‘’win-win for Nigeria’’, citing the Abakaliki and Kebbi  rice farmers , who had risen up to the challenge. This may have informed  why he has ignored Babaga Munguno, a retired Major General and National Security Adviser, order, which was said to be  at the instance of the Nigerian  President  to release the over N314 million dutiable goods, which the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, under the close watch of Tony Iju nwabunike, had said had a market value of over  N130 billion,  trapped at the Seme/Krake joint border between Nigeria and Benin Republic since August 18, 2019 .

The letter allegedly authorising the release of the trucks laden goods   was said to have been signed by, E. I. A. Ndagi, an Army Major General, in the office of the NSA, on November 13, 2020, and addressed to the Customs Comptroller General.

Although, the Nigerian President has weight the apetite of Nigerians of the government’s plan to reopen the closed borders across the country with the neighbouring countries, soon,  he may need to go a little bit further by giving a timeline for the reopening of the borders instead of still keeping  the Nigerians  in the dark.

Stephen Ubanna

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