By Rukayat Moisemhe
Lagos – The Nigeria Customs Service on Tuesday said that the government would continue to engage neighbouring countries on the need to comply with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocols on transit trade.
Its Comptroller general, retired Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali, said this at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Stakeholders’ Forum on Border Closure, in Lagos.
Ali, who was represented by the Zonal Coordinator, Zone ‘A’ Lagos, Mrs K.C. Ekekezie, said that he had engaged the customs administration of neighbouring countries.
“Their attention was drawn to the need for compliance to the ECOWAS protocols on transit of goods and persons,” he said.
Ali said that from experience, neighbouring countries were observed to have flouted the protocols.
According to him, the protocol 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, from experience, we discover that they break the seals of the containers on transit to Nigeria at their ports.
“They then transload the goods on open trucks which belong to their country, which would in turn make entry into Nigeria and transload same onto Nigerian trucks.
“Also, efforts which include providing escort vehicle to them yielded no positive change,” he said.
On the gains of the border closure, the Comptroller-General stated that it had so far curbed the smuggling of foreign rice and other prohibited items into the country.
Also, he disclosed that the NCS revenue generation which before the border closure ranged between N4 billion and N5 billion daily had increased to N6 billion daily.
He explained that the revenue will be used to build more infrastructure and develop critical sector of the economy.
The Customs Boss also revealed that the border drill had also curbed the diversion of petroleum products from Nigeria to neighbouring countries.
“Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) records shows a 30 per cent drop in fuel consumption which means we had been subsidising fuel for neighbouring countries.
“In the area of security, the ongoing exercise has recorded a great number of seizures and arrests that would have had grave security consequences,” he said.
Also on the gains on the border closure, Ali said that the exercise has provided a unique platform for various agencies to operate jointly.
This, he explained had strengthened inter-agency collaborations and reduced animosity among government security agencies.
“A united and strong security architecture is indeed necessary for the security of the nation,” he said.
He urged Nigerians to be patriotic by patronizing Nigeria-made goods and agro products to help the country reach self sufficiency.
Ali also appealed to the business community to see the ongoing border drill as an opportunity to create a conducive environment for genuine local and international businesses to thrive for national security and development.
LCCI President, Mrs Toki Mabogunje in her opening remarks, stated that the border closure policy had both positive and negative implications for the economy.
Mabogunje was represented by Vice President, LCCI, Mr Gabriel Idahosa.
“On the positives, we have seen appreciable increase in domestic rice and poultry product production and fuel smuggling to neighbouring countries has also reduced.
“On the flipside, the closure of the land borders has triggered inflationary pressure, unplanned losses for manufacturers, particularly those who export to neighbouring countries by road.
“Cross border trade has been stifled as traders from neighbouring countries can no longer access Nigerian market by road.
“The border closure has also paralysed commercial activities in border communities and the trade sector is currently feeling the backlash of this policy, ” she said.