By Cecilia Ijuo
Abuja – Sen. Hope Uzodinma, has commended President Muhammadu Buhari over the closure of Nigeria’s border with Benin Republic and other neighbouring countries to check rice smuggling.
Uzodinma, who spoke in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, said it was evident of the president’s determination to get Nigeria working again.
He described the move as a right step in the right direction.
Uzodinna, the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governorship Candidate in the February 2019 election in Imo said “it can only take a man who has the interest of his country and the political will to work his talk’’.
Uzodinma, who was once Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, said that his committee in the course of its oversight functions then, discovered the humongous amount of money the country was losing to rice smuggling and other illicit activities.
“When I was the Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, I recommended the closure of the borders because of the quantum of illicit transactions taking place at the detriment of the country.
“The security implication of the activities at the borders was also a serious concern to us then, because they are very porous.
“Those areas are landlocked with so many track roads and so many things happening there that have not helped our economy.
“So, if the Federal Government in its wisdom decided to close the borders to check all those, I support it.
“This is because beyond checking smuggling of rice, it will check kidnappers and other criminal elements from thronging the country to commit all manner of atrocities.
“So for me, the land borders should be closed until we can find a lasting solution. For now imports can come in through our seaports,’’ he said.
On recent ministerial appointments, Uzodinma said the president in his wisdom chose those that would work with him, consistent with provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He added that from his assessment, the president appointed credible people as ministers, adding that they should be given the benefit of doubt.
Reacting to concerns by some Nigerians that some of the ministers may not perform optimally due to several reasons, Uzodinma said it was hasty for anyone to draw conclusion.
Speaking specifically on concerns of age raised about the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, the governorship candidate said “you do not condemn or disqualify what you have not seen.
“Let us allow him to work and if he is not performing up to expectations then we will know what to say.
“The minister is a Nigerian and there is nowhere in the Constitution that says that age is a barrier for the appointment of a minister.
“I do not think that is fair about the new Minister of Agriculture. He should be given the opportunity to contribute his quota to the development of the nation.
“There must be something Mr President saw in him before appointing him. So, let nobody condemn anybody. He is a Nigerian and he is entitled to also serve,’’ he said.
He expressed optimism that Nanono and the other ministers would perform optimally by working in line with the next level agenda of the president.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Federal Government had on Aug. 21, ordered a partial closure of the borders to check smuggling activities around Benin, Niger and Chad Republics.
Some of the smuggling routes around the country include Seme-Lagos in Lagos State, Jibiya in Katsina, Idiroko in Ogun, Illela-Koni in Sokoto State, Kabo, Saki, and Sikanda in Oyo State.