“If we have an industrial policy that is aimed at protecting the productive sector of Nigeria against unfair competition, we cannot allow our neighbours to open their door to this unfair competition and through the backdoor undermine our industry, this is extremely important,” the Emir said.
He added that the decision was meant to stop neighbouring countries from violating the ECOWAS protocol, given that Nigeria was fast becoming a dumping ground.
The border closure, he concluded, will not only address the problem of smuggling petroleum products and rice but also prevent a situation where Nigeria is turned into a dumpsite for dangerous drugs.
The Federal Government has revealed that over 50 percent of filling stations located along the Magama Jibia/Niger border owned by foreigners are set up solely for the purpose of smuggling petroleum products.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed disclosed this after he led a powerful delegation on an assessment tour to inspect the activities of the joint border patrol at sector 4 of the border drill in Katsina state.
Mr Mohammed added that since the closure of the filling station, the smuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria has greatly been reduced.
“There are hundreds of filling stations along the border; we counted many as we drove to the border this morning. They were set up purposely for smuggling.
“They don’t sell the fuel consignment they receive to the public, 50 percent of them are owned by foreigners.
“Now that they are closed, we have recorded over 30% in domestic fuel consumption,” he maintained.
He explained that the four sectors where the drill is currently ongoing have recorded highest successes in terms of illegal migration, cattle rustling, kidnapping, banditry, and arms smuggling.
“We have recorded over 30 percent increase in revenue since the drill.
“Gentlemen, before the drill, the borders contributed nothing to the revenue, nothing.
“Customs was recording about N4.5 billion daily, but since the closure, the figure has increased to between N5 and N8 billion daily.
“The North-West sector, of the four sectors affected by the drill, has recorded the highest success in terms of reduction of illegal migration, thanks to the drill.”
The minister also added that the exercise is not targeted at any region in the country, neither is it designed to cripple businesses in any part of the country.
He maintained that since the exercise commenced over a few months ago, local businesses across the country have continued to thrive, as farmers and rice millers, in particular, are now having huge turnover.
Mr Mohammed added that Nigeria will continue to engage with neighbouring countries to ensure that all the concerns that led to exercise swift response are fully addressed.
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that he plans to curb smuggling activities through Nigeria’s borders in a bid to rekindle the agriculture sector.
President Buhari told a delegation of Katsina State Elders Forum who paid him a visit at his country home in Daura, that the new directive will save the country billions of naira on import bills.
A statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, added that just like the successes recorded from the border drill on rice and petroleum products, the interest of farmers must be protected.
He told the delegation that he intends forging ahead with poverty alleviation schemes and the agricultural and livestock reforms which his administration started during the first term.
”Farmers must be protected. Dishonesty is deep-rooted in the country. Otherwise, the border closer would not have been warranted,” he said.
President Buhari commended the actions taken by the President of Niger Republic, Muhammadou Youssoufou, including the dismissal of officials and a ban on use of the country as a dumping ground for Nigeria-bound smuggled goods, adding that the measures taken by the President of Niger were helpful and supportive.
He acknowledged the hardship of border communities following the ban on sale of fuel at stations 20 kilometres to the border, a restriction that also saw to the closure of all fuel stations in his native home, Daura.
Earlier in his remark, the representative of the Chairman of the Elders Forum, Alhaji Aliyu Saulawa, drew a long list of requests which included a special intervention fund to assist victims of attacks, completion of the 10 megawatts wind power project in the state, setting up of a North-West Development Commission and setting up of Ruga farm settlements, which he said were urgently needed.
President Buhari promised to look at the requests, adding that his constituency is the whole country, and he is determined to be fair to all.
Nigeria’s recent border closure drill has been linked to the recent rise in headline inflation which is currently at 11.61 per cent as of October 2019.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, briefed State House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, that recent figures from the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) were noticed since September.
She explained that the increase in food inflation witnessed in September and October is linked to the increase in prices of food, propelled by the border closure.
“Headline inflation declined for several months before we noticed an uptake in the last two months and now headline inflation is at 11.61 percent as at the end of October.
“The slight increase between September and October is due to increases in food inflation ascribed to increase in prices of cereals, rice, and fish.
“Part of the reason is the border closure; the closure is very short and temporary and the increase is just by 2 basis points,” she explained.
Mrs. Ahmed pointed out that discussions with neighbouring countries on the border closure have advanced and the Federal Government is expecting every party to respect the protocols they are all committed to.
She stressed that the government is making sure that the economy does not suffer once the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) comes into effect.
“The border closure is temporary; we have really advanced on the discussion between ourselves and our neighbours and we expect that the outcomes of those discussions and agreement are that each party will respect the protocols that we all committed to and then the borders will be open again.
“What we are doing is important for our economy as we signed on to the AfCFTA, we have to make sure that we put in place, checks to make sure that our economy is not overrun as a result of the coming into effect of the AfCFTA and that’s why we have this border closure to return to the discipline of respecting the protocols that we are all committed to.”
Mr. Emefiele in an exclusive interview with Channels Television said that the attribution of the rise to border closure cannot be totally ruled out, but the benefits are more.
“Inflation goes up from 11.22 to 11.61 between September and October, and mainly it’s because of the border closure.
“I am not going to entirely disagree that yes, because of border closure that has resulted in some supply shortages because of goods that are being dumped into the country.
“Who are those benefitting, in as much as I don’t like the fact that prices went up momentarily from September and October, the beneficiaries are Nigerians and companies where we have seen a situation where people have jobs, farmers who produce poultry and those benefitting from import of cars legitimately.”
The CBN Governor expressed his displeasure at the inflationary pressure but was quick to assure that the trend will witness an immediate turnaround.
“In as much as I do not like the fact that the inflationary pressures are coming up right now, I’m also saying that it will moderate and very quickly, maximum of another 3 to 4 months aggressively downwards.”
The Senate on Wednesday mandated its committee on Customs to summon the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) Hameed Ali over the suspension of the supply of petroleum products to border towns.
The Upper Chamber issued this directive after considering a motion moved by Senator Odebiyi Akinremi, APC Ogun West, who asked that the senate revisit the suspension order placed by the customs service on the supply of petroleum products to border communities.
Senator Akinremi said the directive by the Customs Service is causing a huge scarcity of petroleum products in the border towns as well raising the cost of fuel astronomically.
The Senate therefore mandated its Committee on Customs to summon the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs, with a view of working out a viable economic framework/policy that could further mitigate the sufferings of the people, and communities across the border areas.
They also resolved to call on the CG to urgently explore the use of modern technological devices in the tracking, management, and scheduling of petroleum trucks that undertake business along the border towns.
According to the lawmakers, a comprehensive audit of all petroleum stations and suppliers across the border communities is needed.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday asked the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to lift the ban on the distribution of petroleum products to fuel stations at towns and communities within 20 kilometres of border area in Nigeria.
The House in a motion moved by Representative Sada Soli said the ban is causing untold hardship on people living in these border communities, including Nigerians.
According to Soli, the order by the customs boss contravenes the provisions of the Customs and Excise Act.
Other lawmakers who seconded Soli’s motion agreed that the border closure is already biting hard on these communities, and denying them petroleum products. They added that this will only worsen the situation.
The NCS in a bid to tackle illegal smuggling had placed a ban on the sale of petroleum products within 20 kilometres of any border area in Nigeria.
Comptroller-General of the Customs Service, Colonel Hameed Ali (retd.) last week directed that no petroleum products should be supplied to any filling station within 20 kilometres to the border.
The Federal Government on Monday gave conditions that ECOWAS countries have to meet for Nigeria to reopen its borders.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, gave the conditions related to the movement of goods and persons during the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Temporary Partial Closure of Land Borders in Abuja on Monday.
The conditions include respect for the rules of origins with regard to the movement of goods and shutting down warehouses along the border.
“We absolutely insist on the dismantling of all the warehouses along our common borders,” Onyeama told journalists in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
“No longer will we accept anybody coming into the country through land borders with anything other than recognised”.
The conditions which come months after Nigeria shut its borders with Benin and Niger, citing massive smuggling activities, especially of rice, taking place on that corridor, will be presented to the countries in two weeks, according to the Minister.
Apart from demanding the dismantling of warehouses, the Federal Government is also going tough on the repackaging of imported goods to pass them as local ones (from ECOWAS countries).
Onyeama said, “On the transportation of goods within ECOWAS and across borders, we will now insist on proper recognised packaging of those goods.
“No longer will we have goods, you know, of all shapes and sizes just going through the borders. We are going to have accepted conditions for the packaging of goods that will be transported by road across our borders.”
The accepted conditions include respecting the rules of origin. This, according to the Minister, will help prevent dumping of goods in Nigeria.
“(For) Goods predominantly produced in ECOWAS member states, the rules of origin must be satisfied. So, we have to avoid any possibility of dumping,” he said.
“If goods are produced in ECOWAS member states, those goods must be majorly produced in those states. If they are coming from outside ECOWAS, the value addition made by an ECOWAS country must be over 50 percent.”
The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has expressed concerns over the announcement extending the time for border closure, saying the government has not provided a palliative for legitimate local businesses.
The Federal Government extended the duration of the ongoing ‘Exercise Swift Response’ across the nation’s borders till January 31, 2020, an exercise that started in August 2019.
In a statement by its Director-General, Mr. Timothy Olawale stressed that the policy was focused more on income generation and the federal government should take a broader look at the fundamentals of its decision to close the borders.
“While we acknowledge the trade imbalance between Nigeria and its neighbours and the security challenges facing the country currently, the citizen’s welfare and business prosperity should not be sacrificed for the inefficiency of our border policing.
“Despite the many merits that come with the border-closure, we are concerned that the policy comes without any palliative for legitimate local businesses, which negate the attempts at alleviating poverty and reduce unemployment. The continuous closure also possesses the capacity to render many Nigerians jobless and hungry.”
Mr. Olawale reiterated the need to address the fundamental challenge of smuggling and insecurity while noting that businesses should not be sacrificed because of the inefficiencies of the Customs Service to protect the borders.
“The policy was more consistent with income generation and not in agreement with the harsh effect it has on households, businesses and investors’ confidence in general. Since the advent of this policy, prices of goods, especially food items had increased tremendously, further making the average Nigerian vulnerable as 70% of poor households budget is spent on food.
“Government must take a broader look at the fundamentals of its assumptions that led to the decision to close the borders. The government should not stifle legitimate businesses because of the inefficiency of the Customs Service to keep the borders safe.
“If the borders are safe and the Government enforces the bilateral and multilateral agreements it had signed with other countries, there won’t need to close the borders. Efforts should be stepped up to equip the Customs to live up to its responsibilities of protecting the borders and nip smuggling in the bud.”
He further stated that “at a time like this when unemployment rate is on the increase (23.1%), underemployment at 16.6% and expected to reach 33.5% by 2020, inflation rate now on upward trend, Government’s fiscal and monetary policies should focus on sustainable enterprise, job creation and rapid economic development premised on wide-range consultation with critical stakeholders.”
Dimka noted that the exercise has recorded “overwhelming success,” considering its benefits to the nation’s economy and security.
He, however, said the Customs have observed that a few strategic objectives have yet to be achieved, necessitating the extension.
The memo read:
I am directed to inform you that it is observed that despite the overwhelming success of the operation, particularly the security and economic benefits to the nation, a few strategic objectives are yet to be achieved.
Against this background, Mr President has approved an extension of the exercise to January 31, 2020.
Consequently, you are requested to convey the development to all personnel for their awareness and guidance.
Meanwhile, allowances for personnel sustenance and fuelling of vehicles for the period of extension will be paid as soon as possible.
This is for your information and necessary action, please.
The exercise is being conducted by the Customs in collaboration with operatives of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and other security agencies.
In an interview with Channels Television in August, the Comptroller-General of NIS, Mr Muhammad Babandede, had said, “There is no border closure but there was a border drill and there was an announcement from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).”
The Director-General of the Department for State Services (DSS), Mr. Magaji Bichi has said that the closure of Nigeria’s borders has helped to reduce the inflow of smuggled firearm and enabled security agencies to keep track of the movement of people who pose a threat to the security of the country.
Mr. Bichi said this at the graduation ceremony of the Executive Intelligence Management Course of the National Institute for Security Studies in Abuja.
He appealed to the Federal Government to sustain the closure until normalcy is returned.
“The recent closure of our borders attest to what we intend to achieve despite the criticism, the closure of our borders so far, have succeeded in checkmating not only smuggling of goods that are illegally brought into the country, even firearms and then checkmating the movement of people that are likely to undermine the security of this country.”
The DSS boss urged the graduating participants to use their knowledge in their respective duty posts to help the government handle the nation’s security challenges effectively.
Nigeria’s four major borders in the North-West, North-Central, South- West, and South-South geopolitical zones were closed on August 21 in a bid to free the country from criminal activities including smuggling and enhance the economy, a move that has generated mixed reactions.
According to the National Security Adviser (NSA), Retired Major General Babagana Monguno, the border closure will remain until the objectives behind the closure are achieved.
The operation has recorded success with over 100 illegal migrants and 117 suspected smugglers arrested. Also, 8360 bags of 50kg foreign rice have been impounded with other banned items seized.
Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, revealed that the demand for local rice rose drastically and about 500,000 bags of local rice have been sold by millers within one week of the border closure.
A move the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd) said is part of the N1.4 billion saved and is yielding the desired results as the nation’s consumption of petroleum products has dropped by 10.2 million litres.
About 500,000 bags of local rice was sold by millers within one week of the border closure, the Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, has revealed.
Emefiele made the revelation on Monday while briefing reporters after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja.
He said that the Chairman of the Rice Processors Association complained to him that rice millers and processors in the country had 25,000 metric tonnes of unsold local rice in their warehouses and urged that something should be done to help keep their businesses alive.
The CBN governor who noted that he received the complaint before the nation’s borders were closed stated that the same person called one week after the closure that all the rice in their warehouses had been sold.
“Recently, the Chairman of the Rice Processors Association called me and said that all the rice millers and processors are carrying 25,000 metric tonnes of milled rice in their warehouses that they have been unsold because of the smuggling and dumping of rice through the Republic of Benin and other border posts we have across the country, and he would want us to do something about it,” he told reporters.
Emefiele added, “I am aware also that after some meetings held, in addition to those engagements we held with the President, the border was closed subsequently.
“A week after the borders were closed, the same Rice Millers Association called to say that all the rice in their warehouses has all been sold.
“Indeed, a lot of people have been depositing money into their account and they are telling them to hold on until the rice has been processed.”
The 25,000 metric tonnes of rice translates to 500,000 bags of (50kg) rice as 1,000 kilogrammes make one metric tonne.
The CBN governor also revealed that between 2015 and 2019, the number of companies setting up integrated and small mills rose astronomically and loan facilities have been given to help encourage the production of local rice.
He said, “Between 2015 and 2019, we have seen a rise in the number of companies setting up integrated and small mills; the CBN and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and rural development has been at the centre of not just encouraging the production of rice in Nigeria, but also funding these farmers by giving them loans to acquire seedlings, fertilizers and some herbicides for rice production.
“The benefit of the border closure in Nigeria is that it has helped to create jobs for our people, bring our integrated rice millers back into businesses and they are making money; our rural communities are bubbling because farmers are selling.”
Condition For Re-Opening
Similarly, Emefiele noted that some members of the Poultry Association of Nigeria, who also complained of difficulties selling their eggs and processed chicken confirmed that since the closure, demand has been on the rise.
He stressed that proper engagements between the Federal Government and neighbouring countries are key to ending the spate of smuggling and a consequential reopening of the borders.
The CBN governor added, “We are not saying that the border should be closed in perpetuity, but that before it can be reopened, there must be concrete engagements with countries that are involved in using their ports as landing ports for bringing in goods that are smuggled into Nigeria.
“That engagement must be held, so we agree on the basis of what products they can land in their country and if it is meant for their local consumption, it’s understandable.
“But the fact that they are now smuggled into Nigeria, we all agree should not happen because it undermines our economic policies and desire to ensure that industries are alive and jobs are created in Nigeria.”