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FG bans land importation of goods

  • Security operatives seize N1.4bn items, arrest 317 smugglers
  • Customs: We’ve saved 10m litres of PMS from being smuggled out

The Federal Government has banned all importation of goods, whether contraband or not, through land borders until further notice.

Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), at a joint news conference with his counterpart from Nigeria Immigration Service, Mr. Mohammed Babandede, in Abuja yesterday, said for now, only goods passing through the controlled borders such as air and sea would gain entry into the country.

According to him, the partial land border closure affects all goods, adding that anyone who hitherto imported and exported legitimate goods can do same via seaports and other manned outlets for now.

He foreclosed any plans to reopen the borders anytime soon.

He said there is no time limit to end the partial closure of the nation’s borders.

Ali added that the exercise would be sustained until the neighbouring countries duly comply with the ECOWAS protocols on transit of goods.

The NCS boss said that diplomatic engagement was ongoing to ensure the cooperation of the neighbouring countries.

He said that following this development, Niger Republic had just announced the ban on all forms of exportation of rice into Nigeria.

The Customs boss stated that the ongoing border closure code-named ‘Exercise Swift Response’ by combined Nigeria’s security agents has led to seizure of goods worth N1.4 billion.

Aside the goods seized, Ali said the operation has also led to the deportation of some Pakistanis and South Koreans, while 146 illegal immigrants were arrested.

Speaking yesterday in Abuja, the Customs boss explained that 317 smugglers have been arrested; adding that 21,071 bags of 50kg parboiled rice have been impounded.

Other items seized are; 190 vehicles, 891 drums of petrol, 2,665 jerry cans of vegetable oil, 66,000 litre tanker of vegetable oil, 133 motorcycles, 131 bags of NPK fertilizers used for making explosives, among others.

Ali said that the closure of the nation’s borders had saved 10.2 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), from being smuggled out.

Using the N145 per litre pump price, the value of the products saved by security operatives stood at N1.479 billion.

“From the record available to me, the consumption of PMS in the country has reduced by 10.2 million litres since the border operation began.

“This means that this amount of fuel was being smuggled to the neighbouring countries before the exercise began.

“We are deploying every technology available to secure our borders, and in line with this, the president has graciously approved e-customs for the service,” he said.

He added that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved an e-customs project, which involves using drones and geo-spatial technology to further fortify the borders.

According to him, e-customs means all customs tools will be driven by technology to manage the borders.

“Our men will remain at the borders for as long as it will take the neighbouring countries to adhere to ECOWAS protocols on transit.”

On why the security agencies are not respecting free movement protocol of ECOWAS into consideration in the border closure issue, Ali said: “When we talk of security, human rights take the back seat. We want to secure our nation. Nigeria must survive before you talk of rights and doing business.”

He noted that all the agencies involved in ‘Exercise Swift Response’ as coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) have been duly briefed on the target of the operation, especially in the area of using minimum force.

Also speaking at the event, the Comptroller-General, Nigeria Immigrations Service (NIS), Muhammed Babandede, said the border drill also involves human mobility.

“There are rules of this operation. ECOWAS protocol says you must arrive or depart via a recognized port with the right travel documents. You must travel where there is Customs and Immigrations.

“We will launch our e-border initiative next year. We also have forward operational bases and will patrol them round the clock. We have 12 of such.

“Mr. President approved amnesty for over-stayed migrants to register from now till 19th January, 2020. Foreigners have latched on this opening. Sixty per cent of those coming forward have irregular papers. After this window is closed, anyone caught with will be deported,” he explained.

The joint border security exercise, code-named “Exercise Swift Response”, began on August 20.

It was set up to ensure a better security of the country’s territorial integrity, particularly the land and maritime borders, against trans-border security concerns.

The exercise is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) in the four geo-political zones of North-West, North-Central, South-West and South-South.