By Kingsley Okoye
Abuja – The Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution to commend the Federal Government for temporal closure of the nation’s land borders to tackle persistent smuggling in the country.
This followed a motion at plenary by Sen. Adamu Aliero, (APC Kebbi) on the impact of border closure on the Nigerian economy.
Moving the motion, Aliero said the temporal closure has resulted in significant reduction on fuel smuggling, thereby saving Nigeria billions of scarce foreign exchange spent by NNPC to import fuel.
He explained that the smuggling of textile and vegetable oil from Malaysia via land borders has equally been grounded to a halt.
Aliero maintained that the closure had led to the revival of local production of vegetable oil and increased employment generation.
According to him, products like rice, processed frozen chicken, tomato paste, frozen fish and sugar that come through Benin to Cameron land borders have also stopped.
He said it is clear that the economy is moving up positively.
Contributing, some senators lend their support to the motion while some others opposed to the closure of the border.
Sen. Abba Moro, (PDP-Benue) said Nigeria is administering a wrong dose of medicine to an ailment, adding that the closure of the land borders is a wrong option.
Moro, a former Minister of interior said: “Nigeria has only 87 legal land border routes.
“We have over 1000 illegal routes and the immigration can’t man it.
“When you close the legitimate routes, the illegitimate routes are used,” he said.
Also, Sen. Emmanuel Bwacha (PDP-Taraba), advocated for a long-term solution within the period of the temporal closure of the land borders.
He said that even though the closure of the border helped in some instances, the policies of government should not bring hardship to the people.
In his contribution, Sen. Gabriel Suswam (PDP-Benue), warned that Nigeria should be mindful of the free trade agreement and the ECOWAS deal it signed, adding that closing the borders might amount to violating the agreement.
“If we want to stem insecurity and halt illegal things from coming into the country, Nigeria must engage countries that border us.
“We must ensure that we patrol the border on the air,” Suswam said.
The Senate Minority Leader, Eyinaya Abaribe, (PDP-Abia), said the motion amounted to a public relations for the federal government, adding that the situation is more than the paper presented.
He said the prices of rice have gone up and students schooling in Benin can’t go because of the closure of the land border since airlines don’t fly to Benin republic direct.
Abaribe, who asked about the job of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Nigeria Custom Service (NCS) and other agencies, noted that they have failed in their responsibilities.
The plenary presided over by Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, urged Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior to increase diplomatic outreach to the governments of Benin, Cameron, Niger and Chad Republic to avoid been used as smuggling base.
It further urged NCS and other security agencies to intensify their roles in curbing smuggling across borders and assured them of senate’s support.
It also reassured friendly nations that the border closure should not be perceived as punitive measure targeted at them.
The senate said the closure of the borders is to save the economy from collapse and protect Nigerians from terrorism and insecurity.(NAN)