We Have Saved N1.4bn, Arrested Over 460 Smugglers, Migrants Since Border Closure – Customs CG

A file photo of Customs operatives.

 

 

The Nigeria Customs Service says Nigeria has saved N1.4 billion naira since the partial closure of the nation’s borders.

Comptroller General of Customs, Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd), announced this while addressing a news conference on Monday in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

According to him, a total of 317 suspected smugglers and 146 illegal migrants were also arrested during the period.

The Customs boss insisted that the partial border closure was yielding the desired results as the nation’s consumption of petroleum products has dropped by 10.2 million litres.

READ ALSO: FG, Labour Leaders Meet Over Implementation Of N30,000 Minimum Wage

Thousands were said to have been left stranded as reports of the closure of the nation’s borders emerged in late August.

In its reaction, the Nigerian government denied closure of the borders but explained that it was carrying out a joint operation at various locations involving Customs operatives and that of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) among others.

The Comptroller-General of NIS, Mr Muhammad Babandede, in an earlier interview with Channels Television, 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).”

On August 28, President Muhammadu Buhari met with his counterpart from Benin Republic Patrice Talon, in Japan where he confirmed that there was a partial closure of Nigeria’s borders with his country.

He attributed the development to the massive smuggling activities that have taken place on that corridor.

The President said Nigeria has saved huge sums of money which would otherwise have been expended on importing rice using the nation’s scarce foreign reserves.

The development was welcomed by the Senate which commended President Buhari for his decision to temporarily close all land borders to address smuggling and its impact on the Nigerian economy.

Members of the lawmaker, during a plenary in September, urged the Customs and other security agencies to intensify efforts at tackling smuggling across the borders.

Some senators had, however, called on the government to be more mindful of the effects of border closure on Nigerians, especially as it relates to the price of food.

US Judge Deals Blow To Trump’s Border Wall Plans

A helicopter overflies the US-Mexico border in Playas de Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on November 21, 2018.  Guillermo Arias / AFP

 

A US federal judge dealt a blow on Friday to President Donald Trump’s signature wall project, issuing a temporary injunction against using Defense Department funds to pay for barriers on the border with Mexico.

Trump declared an emergency in a bid to bypass Congress and obtain money for border wall construction after a standoff overpaying for the project led to the longest government shutdown in US history.

About 20 states, including Democratic strongholds New York and California, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), environmental groups and border communities are involved in suits that claim the emergency declaration violates the constitution.

Trump administration officials “are enjoined from taking any action to construct a border barrier in the areas defendants have identified as Yuma Sector Project 1 and El Paso Sector Project 1 using funds reprogrammed by DoD,” Judge Haywood Gilliam ordered, referring to the Department of Defense.

Trump said he was asking for an “expedited appeal.”

“Another activist Obama appointed judge has just ruled against us on a section of the Southern Wall that is already under construction. This is a ruling against Border Security and in favour of crime, drugs and human trafficking,” he said in a tweet.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan approved the diversion of funds from the department’s counter-narcotics budget to build barriers along with parts of the border — a move that was in turn funded by the diversion of $1 billion from army personnel funds, according to Gilliam’s order.

The judge wrote he granted the preliminary injunction because the plaintiffs are likely to show that Trump administration officials “exceeded their statutory authority and that irreparable harm will result from those actions.”

 ‘Unlawful power grabs’ 

“Congress’s ‘absolute’ control over federal expenditures — even when that control may frustrate the desires of the Executive Branch regarding initiatives it views as important — is not a bug in our constitutional system,” Gilliam wrote.

“It is a feature of that system, and an essential one.”

The case — which was brought by plaintiffs including the Sierra Club environmental group — names Trump as well as Shanahan, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as defendants.

“We applaud the court’s decision to protect our Constitution, communities, and the environment today,” Sierra Club managing attorney Gloria Smith said in a statement.

“We’ve seen the damage that the ever-expanding border wall has inflicted on communities and the environment for decades. Walls divide neighbourhoods, worsen dangerous flooding, destroy lands and wildlife, and waste resources that should instead be used on the infrastructure these communities truly need,” Smith said.

“Yet again, the American people have had to look to our courts for a check on President Trump’s unlawful power grabs.”

Trump made the construction of a wall to stem illegal immigration from Latin America central to his successful 2016 campaign for the presidency.

But despite saying Mexico would pay for the barrier, he has had to ask Congress for money to make the project happen, and the tug-of-war over funding for the barrier caused a record 35-day federal government shutdown beginning on December 22, 2018.

AFP

US House To Vote On Blocking Trump Emergency

US President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC on February 12, 2019. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

US House lawmakers on Tuesday are expected to pass a Democratic measure annulling President Donald Trump’s declared emergency on the southern border, an effort that appeared to earn growing support among Senate Republicans.

Trump’s February 15 emergency declaration gives him access to billions of dollars to construct his wall on the Mexican border, beyond the nearly $1.4 billion that Congress allocated for construction of border barriers.

But the House of Representatives, run since January by Democrats, has the support necessary to terminate the emergency, dealing a stern rebuke to a president controversially seeking to expand his executive powers.

Should the measure clear Congress and reach his desk, Trump would be cornered into issuing the first veto of his presidency, an embarrassing development because the measure seeks to directly rein in the president’s authority.

The House vote, expected Tuesday afternoon, will serve to “defend our democracy,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday.

Trump’s top Democratic rival in Congress warned that his emergency order was tantamount to an unconstitutional attempt to seize executive authority by taking lawmaker’s power to control how federal funds are spent.

“The president’s power grab usurps that responsibility and fundamentally violates the balance of power envisioned by our founders,” said Pelosi, who has noted that the measure already has 226 supporters in the 435-member body.

After clearing the House, the measure would receive a vote in the US Senate. Republicans control the chamber, 53-47, but several senators in Trump’s party returned to Washington after a one-week break to express deep reservations about Trump’s end run around Congress to obtain wall funding.

Trump sought to head them off early Monday, saying he hoped Republicans “don’t get led down the path of weak and ineffective Border Security.”

“Be strong and smart,” Trump tweeted. “Don’t fall into the Democrats ‘trap’ of Open Borders and Crime!”

 ‘Creating another’ problem 

Trump and the White House have pressed on with plans to repurpose more than $6 billion from other sources, mostly already-allocated funds in the Defense Department budget.

He has repeatedly declared that rampant illegal immigration is fuelling a border crisis, leading to higher crime and strains on public services.

Two key groups — dozens of Republican former lawmakers, and a bipartisan group of former national security officers including secretaries of defense and CIA directors — spoke out strongly against the emergency declaration.

In open letters Monday, they warned of an abuse of the framework of the US Constitution.

“Under no plausible assessment of the evidence is there a national emergency today that entitles the president to tap into funds appropriated for other purposes to build a wall at the southern border,” said the 58 national security officials, who include former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and John Kerry, and George W. Bush’s undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns.

As pressure in Washington mounted, some Republican lawmakers appeared to buckle.

GOP Senator Thom Tillis said in a column that while Trump is “rightfully frustrated with Congress’s inaction” on border security, the president made a mistake declaring an emergency and Tillis will support the Democrats’ resolution of disapproval.

“I have grave concerns when our institution looks the other way at the expense of weakening Congress’s power,” he wrote in The Washington Post.

Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have also signalled their likelihood to support the resolution.

“The emergency course is not one I favor,” Senator Mitt Romney told reporters.

“I don’t think you solve one problem by creating another one, which is taking money out of military construction — and there’s a separation of powers (issues) as well,” added Senator Marco Rubio.

“I don’t like it, and my vote will reflect that.”

If all Senate Democrats support the resolution, only four Republicans would be needed for it to pass the Senate.

Trump has said he is “100 percent” certain to issue a veto, deepening a political showdown on Capitol Hill and setting up a series of legal battles.

Republicans have said Democrats likely do not have the votes — two-thirds majorities required in both chambers — to override a Trump veto.

AFP

Venezuela Soldiers Kill Two In Clash On Brazil Border

 

Venezuelan soldiers shot and killed two people and wounded 15 others on Friday when they tried to prevent the troops from sealing an unofficial crossing point on the Brazilian border, a human rights group said.

“An indigenous woman and her husband were killed and at least 15 other members of the Pemon indigenous community were injured,” said the group, Kape Kape.

The clash occurred in southeastern Bolivar state close to the border with Brazil, which President Nicolas Maduro ordered closed on Thursday.

READ ALSO: Judges Protest Against Threat To Justice In Romania

Venezuela’s Pemon indigenous community use unofficial border pathways to cross into Brazil to buy food.

“We crossed the border from Venezuela to Brazil via other paths because the national guards closed the border,” said Genesis Valencia, a 26-year-old Pemon woman.

“That’s why we had to come through other paths. We came to buy things here in Brazil because there’s nothing in Venezuela…no food, no medicine…people, kids, are dying of hunger.”

Maduro, who has blocked the delivery of stockpiled humanitarian aid in a tense standoff with his rival Juan Guaido — recognized as an interim leader by more than 50 countries — on Thursday ordered the border with Brazil “completely and absolutely” closed until further notice.

AFP

Trump Ready To Sign Border Deal, Averting Shutdown – Reports

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting to “discuss fighting human trafficking on the southern border”/ Reuters

 

President Donald Trump is ready to sign a border security funding deal, despite failing to get anywhere close to the money he sought for a US-Mexico border wall, US media reported Wednesday.

CNN and NBC television quoted sources close to the president saying that Trump has resigned himself to the deal crafted by his Republican Party and the Democrats in Congress.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders would not confirm or deny the reports but said Wednesday that “there are positive pieces” in the deal.

“We want to see the final piece of legislation,” she told reporters.

READ ALSO: Trump Undergoes Annual Medical Exam

Trump had demanded $5.7 billion for a dramatic extension of fences and walls along the Mexican border, claiming that the United States faces an “invasion” of criminals and illegal immigrants.

Democrats refused, accusing him of exaggerating the situation for political gain.

Trump retaliated in December by cutting funding to swaths of government in a five-week shutdown. He had threatened to trigger a new shutdown this Friday if his demands were not met.

The deal worked out in Congress this week will provide less than $1.4 billion for wall construction.

On Tuesday, Trump said he was not happy with the deal but “I don’t think you’re going to see a shutdown.”

Trump says he can still add to that from other sources not requiring congressional approval, although he has been vague about how this would work.

AFP

Ethiopia, Eritrea Reopen Another Border Crossing

Ethiopia Map

 

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on Monday reopened a border crossing between their countries as part of an ongoing reconciliation between the former foes.

The two leaders re-opened the border crossing between Humera in Ethiopia and Oum Hajer in Eritrea on the western edge of both nations, according to the state-owned Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation.

In September, an initial two land crossings between the countries were ceremonially reopened for the first time in 20 years, after Abiy settled a long-standing border dispute by agreeing to adhere to a United Nations ruling.

However, the major crossings between Bure-Debay Sima in the east and Zalambessa-Serha in the west were closed again last month without explanation, according to local media reports.

Nevertheless, relations between the neighbours have continued to improve rapidly with Monday’s reopening of the Humera-Oum Hajer border post the latest sign of normalisation allowing the free movement of people and goods.

Borders were sealed in 1998 as the neighbouring Horn of Africa nations cut diplomatic ties at the outbreak of a short but bloody two-year frontier battle.

An ensuing cold war stymied development and trade, and undermined regional security, but in a surprise move last year, Abiy began peace overtures, which were welcomed by Eritrea.

AFP

Pompeo To Meet New Mexican Counterpart Over Border Issues

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during an event for PEPFAR(President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) at the US Department of State November 27, 2018, in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet his counterpart from Mexico’s new government Sunday for talks over a possible deal that would see asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their claims are processed, officials said on Tuesday.

The government of President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will be sworn in Saturday, with Marcelo Ebrard as the new foreign minister.

Ebrard already met Pompeo and US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen in Houston earlier this month.

Since then, Obrador officials have reportedly reached an agreement with the US for asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their applications are processed in the United States.

President Donald Trump has confirmed the outlines of the agreement, without specifying if it has been formally concluded.

“Those conversations continue. We won’t have a final decision until the new government takes over, which will happen on Saturday,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo and Ebrard would meet in Washington on Sunday.

On Monday, Ebrard is due to meet with Nielsen and other administration officials, Sanders said.

A caravan of thousands of migrants, made up largely of Hondurans who fled Central America in mid-October, has in recent days started to arrive at the US frontier.

Around 500 men, women and children tried on Sunday to illegally cross the border between Tijuana and San Diego.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that the Trump administration gained support from the incoming Mexican administration for a plan to require asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their applications to be processed.

But after that report was met by stiff criticism in Mexico, incoming administration officials said that the agreement was not yet final.

AFP

Trump Renews Threat To Close US Border With Mexico

A helicopter overflies the US-Mexico border in Playas de Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on November 21, 2018. Credit: AFP

 

US President Donald Trump on Thursday renewed a threat to close the US-Mexico border if the situation there gets out of control and warned it would hurt Mexico’s trade with the United States.

“If we find that it gets to a level where we are going to lose control or where people are going to start getting hurt, we will close entry into the country for a period of time until we can get it under control,” he told reporters.

“The whole border. I mean the whole border. Mexico will not be able to sell their cars into the United States where they make so many cars,” he said.

AFP

Troops To Remain At Border ‘As Long As Necessary’ – Trump

A US Customs and Border Protection officer, stands guard on the US side of the US-Mexico border fence as seen from Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, on November 16, 2018. ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP

 

President Donald Trump on Saturday defended his controversial deployment of thousands of troops to the US-Mexico border, confirming they would remain in place “as long as necessary.”

“We have a tremendous military force on the southern border, we have large numbers of people trying to get into our country,” he told reporters at the White House ahead of a visit to California.

“They built great fencing, they built a very powerful fence,” he added.

Some 5,900 active-duty troops are now stationed along the border, a contentious deployment in support of civilian forces that Trump ordered ahead of the recent midterm elections.

Opponents have criticized the cost and usefulness of the operation, dismissing it as a political stunt.

An additional 2,100 or so National Guardsmen have been deployed to support operations at the border, bringing the total military presence to about 8,000.

AFP

Pentagon To Send ‘Several Hundred’ Troops To US-Mexico Border

File photo of Migrants

 

The Pentagon is expected to deploy “several hundred” troops to the US-Mexico border, a US official told AFP on Thursday, after President Donald Trump said the military would be used to tackle a “national emergency” on the border.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said the troops would be used mainly to provide logistical support including tents, vehicles, and equipment.

Trump earlier on Thursday tweeted that “Democrat inspired” laws make it difficult to stop people at the border.

“I am bringing out the military for this National Emergency. They will be stopped!” he said.

About 2,100 National Guardsmen are already deployed to the border, following a Trump order in April.

Those troops are mainly serving in a support role to help free up border patrol officers.

CNN first reported the development, saying Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was expected to send 800 or more troops.

It was not immediately clear if the new deployment would be comprised of active-duty troops or additional Guardsmen.

The move comes as thousands of Central American migrants are crossing Mexico toward the United States in a caravan, drawing near-daily criticism from Trump.

Early  Thursday, they set off from the town of Mapastepec in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, moving on to the next step in their long march north.

They were headed to the town of Pijijiapan, some on trucks but most making the seven-hour trek on foot. Four days after crossing into Mexico, the caravan is still more than 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) from the US border.

“It’s hard, and we know this country is dangerous too, but back in Honduras it’s even more dangerous, they kill for nothing,” said Josena Anibal Mejia, 27, as he walked with his daughter.

The United Nations estimates that 7,000 people have joined the caravan since it set out from San Pedro Sula, Honduras October 13.

AFP

Trump Threatens To Close US-Mexico Border Over Migrants

In this file photo taken on April 23, 2018 workers replace an old section of the wall between the US and Mexico in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, close to Ciudad Juarez in Mexico’s Chihuahua State. Herika MARTINEZ / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump on Thursday threatened to close the United States’ border with Mexico if it failed to stem the flow of migrants from Central America.

“I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught – and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!” he tweeted.

AFP

Jordan Reopens Main Border Post With Syria After 3 Years

This handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on October 15, 2018, shows the main border crossing between Jordan and war-torn Syria reopened on October 15 after a three year closure, an AFP photographer reported. The black metal border gate was opened from the Jordanian side of the crossing at 8:00 am (0500 GMT), AFP / SANA

Jordan on Monday reopened its main border crossing with war-torn Syria, a key Middle East trade route, after a three-year closure, AFP reporters said.

The black metal border gate was opened from the Jordanian side of the crossing at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) as more than a dozen police and customs officials stood nearby.

Cars bearing Jordanian license plates queued to enter Syria as travelers expressed their joy at being able to cross the border.

Syrian businessman Hisham Falyoun, who lives in Jordan with his wife and children, was the first person to cross the border in his black Mercedes jeep.

“I am extremely happy, I can’t express my feelings. This crossing should have been reopened earlier as it is a very vital line for all Arab countries not only Jordan and Syria,” he said.

“I wanted to be the first person to cross to show everyone that Syria is safe, Syria is back,” said Falyoun, who was hoping to surprise his parents in Damascus.

Other travelers were likewise elated to make the crossing.

“Today is a celebration for us and I wanted to be among the first to cross the border,” said Syrian businessman Mohammed Hisham as he waited for his turn to enter Syria from Jordan where he now lives.

Jordanian taxi driver Imad Sariheen called the reopening of Jaber a source of “great happiness for all of us” which will help ease “economic hardships” caused by the closure of the crossing.

“Our conditions have worsened over the past years. Our work was halted because of the closure of the border between Jordan and Syria,” he added.

The border crossing, known as Jaber on the Jordanian side and Nassib on the Syrian side, was a key trade route before Amman closed it after the post was overrun by rebels in April 2015.

The reopening comes after Syrian government troops retook their side of the crossing in July under a deal with rebel fighters brokered by Moscow.

 Vital trade artery

Before it was shut the crossing was a major link not only for direct trade between the neighboring countries but also for longer-distance transit, which was a significant source of revenue.

Its closure strained the economy of Jordan — a desert kingdom with little resources which is heavily reliant on imports and foreign aid.

Nabil Romman, a Jordanian trade official, told AFP in 2015 that “70 percent of what we eat, of everything we import and export, passed through Syria”.

Cross-border trade between Jordan and Syria in 2010 — a year before the war broke out — stood at $615 million (530 million euros).

Damascus hopes that resumption of activity across the border post will help revitalize its own economy which has been devastated by the war.

After seven years of civil war, Syria’s government has recaptured large swathes of territory from rebels with backing from Russia, but it still only controls around half the 19 crossing points with neighbors Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey.

Jordanian government spokeswoman Jumana Ghneimat said Sunday that the decision to reopen the border was taken after “Jordanian and Syrian technical teams agreed on the final measures”.

Syria’s Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar also confirmed on Sunday that Jaber would start working again.

According to an agreement between Jordan and Syria have seen by AFP, the traffic of passenger and goods at the border crossing will resume daily from 0500 GMT to 1300 GMT.

Syria also requested that Jordan send an expert to help with border checks at Nassib where there are no X-ray machines, according to the terms of the agreement.

The accord stipulated that travelers entering Jordan from Syria “must obtain prior to their trip a security permit” from Jordanian authorities.

And those who plan to use Jordan as a transit stop en route to a third country must show proof of their residency permit in Syria as well as an entry visa to the country they plan to visit.

Abdullah, a Syrian in his 20s who studies in Jordan, told AFP he had been waiting at Jaber since dawn for his turn to go across to Syria.

“I brought my Jordanian friend with me. I had promised him we would visit my country together once the border reopens,” Abdullah said.

AFP