•NCS Comptroller-General, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd.)
By Sunny Nwankwo, Aba
ABA – The Nigeria Customs Services (NCS) on Thursday, in Aba, the commercial nerve of Abia State debunked rumours making rounds that the joint border security exercise codenamed “Exercise Swift Response” was targeted at importers and exporters of various goods from the Southeast using the land borders.
This is even as the NCS maintained that the exercise was meant not only to secure Nigeria but an economic policy to also improve the economy of the country.
The Public Relations Officer NCS; Deputy Comptroller of NCS, Joseph Attah, disclosed this when the Strategic Communication Sub-Committee held a stakeholders’ meeting with importers and exporters of goods in Aba over the closure of the country’s land borders with neighbouring countries who have decided to use Nigeria as a dumping ground.
Attah said that the sensitisation became necessary because the Federal Government believes that Nigerians deserve to know and deserved to be sensitised, stressing that what is done is done in the interest of all Nigerians and Nigeria as a nation.
In his words: “This question has come repeatedly. When you go to the North, the people there will ask you, are you sure that the intensity with which you carry out this here is what you do in the West? When you go to the West, they’ll ask you if what you’re doing there is what you’re doing in the East. And here we are in the East, we are getting the same question.
“That’s what makes Nigeria thick. The fact that we’re able to go beyond our diversity and at the end of the day when Nigerians are confronted with the truth, they accept it, embrace and support the Government to achieve what is being done in their interest.
“Let us declare here, what’s being done is about National Security and Economy. Over a period of time, trans-border crimes and criminalities have kind of affected our safety in our roads, our homes and have affected our ability to yield dividends from our investments.
“For some strange reasons, our neighbours believe that they must take advantage of our size, our population and have turned us into a dumping ground.
“While we blame them, for some strange reasons too, Nigerians somehow believe that anything that comes from outside is better than what is locally produced even when the quality is in doubt.
“Take rice, for instance, most of these rice (brands) have overstayed in their producing countries. And it is either they’re expired or about to be expired.
“Our neighbours will just go there, buy them at cheap prices and then dump it on us and then we eat and get confronted with all kinds of diseases.
“We have our local rice producers, despite the massive investment and support by the Federal Government, their situations have not changed, simply because their brothers and sisters do not want to patronise them, but prefer the expired or about to be expired ones to their own.
“This shutdown of the borders has brought a paradigm shift in the level of patronage. Ask every Nigerian farmer today, they’re smiling to the banks. They’re getting increased patronage.
“Nigerians are eating fresher rice that’s devoid of chemicals, that’s nutritious and the farmers are expanding their farms, engaging more hands which create more job opportunities. So, the whole essence of this border closure is to boost our security and stimulate local growth.”
Attah went on to bring the positive impacts of the border closure home to the stakeholders and explained that, it is a great opportunity for a city like Aba that is well-known as centre for quality locally made goods to blossom again.
“Aba is a city that’s known for creative individuals. It is also known for high quality locally made products. Why would somebody think that product made in Aba is not original?
“So, on the contrary, what’s happening is to the advantage of those who believe in industry, creativity and productivity. It’s not tribal-based, it’s not religious-based, but it’s in the interest of the nation,” he said.
The customs boss stressed that the Federal Government has also made the necessary conditions that must be met for the borders to be opened very clear to all Nigeria’s neighbours and is awaiting their compliance to them.
“The Federal Government has made clear that all our neighbours must recommit to strict implementation of the ECOWAS protocol on transit of goods, which means that goods that are on transit to our country must be escorted and must not be tampered with.
“Also warehouses built along the borderlines have to be destroyed and any person coming into this country must pass through approved entry point with proper documentation.
“And of course, nobody should hide under the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) to bring goods from third party states; that’s countries that are not under the ECOWAS region.
“So, it demands compliance and until they’re complied with, and the Federal Government gives go ahead for the reopening, the borders will remain shut.
“Before now we’ve been playing the big brother role that our junior brothers have been taking advantage of.
“We’ve come to a point where the Federal Government has come to say that we cannot continue to play this role that is frost with all sorts of security and economic consequences.”
Speaking on some of the achievements recorded so far since the closure of the borders, NCS spokesman disclosed that over 230 illegal migrants have been arrested, 34, 321 bags of rice seized, 8, 982 PMS seized, 367 Jerry cans of AGO confiscated, 399 vehicles among others including illicit drugs that were equally seized.
According to him, while the land borders are still closed following the 2020 extension order by the Presidency, importers and exporters are free to use the sea and airports to carry on with their businesses.
Some of the participants including Mr. Ken Anyanwu, the National Secretary Association of Leather/Allied Industrialists of Nigeria (ALAIN) thanked the NCS for the seminar and added that contrary to speculations, the border closure will help the SME grow their businesses and as well, give more job opportunities to jobless youths. (The Nation)