Border Closure: Neighboring countries consistently violate  ECOWAS protocol-Minister

Solomon Chung, Seme 

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The Nigerian government has said that neighboring countries sharing land borders with Nigeria have consistently violated ECOWAS protocols and some other Memoranda of Understanding which propelled the border closure policy by the government.

Minister of Information and Culture Mr Lai Mohammed disclosed this on Monday at Seme border when he led a team of 4 Cabinet Ministers on a inspection tour of the border to get first-hand information about the border closure.

The Minister  however said that it was disturbing that some neighbouring countries circumvent the ECOWAS protocol on transit.

“The ECOWAS protocol on transit demands that when a transit container berths at a seaport, the receiving country is 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.”  

According to the Minister, overtime, Nigeria has been confronted with numerous trans-border economic and security challenges.

“These challenges range from banditry, kidnapping, smuggling, illegal migrants and proliferation of light weapons amongst others.

Meanwhile, the preference for foreign goods, especially food items like rice has continuously impoverished our farmers and adversely affected domestic government policies supporting the agricultural sector to enhance food security.”

The Nigerian government believes that the partial closure has so far curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into the country, in addition to other prohibited items.

Mohammed said  the series of interactions and engagements with Rice Miller Association of Nigeria since the commencement of the 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. “

SECURITY 

In the area of security, the Minister  revealed that the ongoing exercise has recorded a number of seizures and arrests that would have had grave security consequences.

The estimated values of the apprehended items is about ₦3,235,126,420.00

“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, the partial closure has drastically reduced such acts.

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.”

POLITICAL ISSUES 

The Minister said, government, through diplomatic channels will continue to engage the affected neighbouring countries  to agree to comply with the ECOWAS Protocol on Transit.

“Goods that are on the prohibition list to Nigeria, such as rice, used clothing, poultry products and vegetable oil should not be exported to the country.”