Despite criticism of its border closure policy, the Federal government has listed its gains as higher import revenue, lower domestic fuel consumption and increased rice production by local farmers.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba; the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno and Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Muhammed Babandede where at Seme border to assess the impact of the contentious policy.
Mohammed noted that since the closure, the monthly import revenue has increased by 15 percent, while local consumption of fuel has dropped by 30 percent owing to reduced smuggling of the products to neighbouring countries
Alhaji Mohammed also said the closure has so far curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into the country in addition to other prohibited items.
”There has been an enhanced production and milling of Nigerian rice. Patronage has also increased and farmers are expanding their farms, as well as engaging more hands,” he said.
He said 296 illegal immigrants have been arrested.
”It is important to note that 95 percent of illicit drugs and weapons that are being used for acts of terrorism and kidnapping today come in through our porous borders. However, since this partial closure, these acts have been drastically reduced. Our conclusion is that the arms and ammunition these terrorists and criminal elements were using no longer gain access into the country. In addition, the importation of drugs which affect the well-being of Nigerians have equally been reduced,” he said.
He said Benin and Niger are not doing enough to ameliorate the challenges that led to the border closure, adding that the magnitude of seizures and the number of illegal immigrants recorded in the last two weeks alone confirm this assertion.
”As we speak, we have ships loaded with rice waiting to discharge in Benin and the target market is Nigeria for Christmas, ” he said.
He said the border closure would not have occurred if Nigeria’s neighbours had complied with the various Memoranda of Understanding, MoU, as well as the ECOWAS transit protocols including the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme.
He, however, added that Exercise ‘Swift Response’, the joint border security exercise which was launched on August 20, has provided a unique platform for the various participating agencies to jointly operate, thereby strengthening inter-agency collaboration and reducing animosity.