…As customs apprehends items valued at N1.4 trillion
Following the partial closure of the Nigerian borders, Niger Republic has banned exportation of rice in any form to Nigeria.
The Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) who disclosed this in a press briefing in Abuja on Monday informed that the National Assembly had supported the executive directive on the border closure and the efforts of security agencies in executing the task.
Ali regretted that it was disturbing that some neighbouring countries circumvent the ECOWAS protocol on transit even as he explained that the ECOWAS protocol on transit demanded that when a transit container berthed at a seaport, the receiving country was mandated to escort same without tampering with the seal to the border of the destination country.
“Unfortunately, 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 added.
He however assured that the government, through diplomatic channels would continue to engage Nigeria’s neighbours to agree to comply with the ECOWAS Protocol on transit adding that goods that were on the prohibition list to Nigeria, such as rice, used clothing, poultry products and vegetable oil should not be exported to the country.
In the area of security, the Customs boss recalled that Nigeria had been confronted with numerous trans-borders economic and security challenges ranging from banditry, kidnapping, smuggling, illegal migrants and proliferation of light weapons amongst others.
He argued that the preference for foreign goods, especially food items like rice had continuously impoverished local farmers and adversely affected domestic government policies supporting the agricultural sector to enhance food security.
The CG observed that the ongoing exercise had recorded a number of seizures and arrests that would have had grave security consequences stating that 317 suspected smugglers and 146 illegal migrants have been arrested so far.
He continued, “Also, some items seized include; 21,071-50kg bags of parboiled foreign rice; 190 vehicles; 891 drums filled with PMS; 2665 Jerri cans of vegetable oil; 66,000 litre tanker of vegetable oil; 133 motorcycles; 70 Jerri cans of PMS and 131 bags of NPK fertilizer used for making explosives. The estimated monetary value of the apprehended items is about N1, 429,562,315.00.
“It is important to note that 95 percent of illicit drugs and weapons that are being used for acts of terrorism and kidnapping in Nigeria today come in through our porous borders. However, since this partial closure, the acts have been drastically reduced. Our conclusion is that, the arms and ammunition these terrorists and criminal elements were using no longer gains access into the country. In addition, the drugs which affect the health and the wellbeing of Nigerians have equally been reduced.”
He further added that the partial closure had so far curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into the country, in addition to other prohibited items.
According to him, “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 Nigerian rice has increased and farmers are expanding their farms as well as engaging more hands. Furthermore, the border closure has impacted positively on revenue generation of the Federal Government which in turn will be used to build more infrastructures and develop critical sectors of the nation’s economy. The border exercise has also curbed diversion of petroleum products from Nigeria to neighbouring countries.”
On interagency collaboration, he pointed out that the exercise had provided a unique platform for the various participating agencies to jointly operate together thereby strengthening inter-agency collaboration and reducing animosity stating that “it is also necessary to place on record that this is the first exercise in recent times, that military, paramilitary as well as intelligence and security agencies have come together to conduct such an exercise which is akin to a national security exercise.”
While calling on Nigerian local rice consumers to be patriotic by patronizing Nigerian rice, as this would further help the country in reaching self-sufficiency in local rice production and boost local economy, the customs boss equally appealed to the business community to see the exercise as opportunity to further create a conducive environment for local businesses to thrive in the interest of national security and development.
It will be recalled that as part of measures to secure Nigeria’s land and maritime borders, the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), in collaboration with the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) as well as the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and other security and intelligence agencies commenced a joint border security exercise, codenamed ‘EX-SWIFT RESPONSE’ in 4 geopolitical zones of the country, namely; South South, South West, North Central and North West on the 20th August 2019.
The exercise is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and is aimed at better securing Nigerian borders in order to strengthen local economy and address other trans-border security concerns.
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