The Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (Retd.) has canvassed the need for total closure of Nigeria’s number one border outpost with Benin Republic, Cotonou border.
Ali who made the suggestion during the 2017 Annual General Meeting of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria in Lagos recalled that the closure of the border was done in 2013 during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo when the spate of cross-border crimes such as smuggling, armed robbery and human trafficking, became unbearable.
He said it might be necessary to close the border because the NCS was finding it increasingly challenging to man the area due to the wiles of smugglers and the impact their activities was having on the economy and the growth of local industries.
Earlier, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, had expressed the same sentiment when he warned that government might be forced to take very drastic measures due to the porous nature of the border and the volume of rice and other consumables being smuggled through the place into the country.
According to him, the situation has rubbished efforts of the present administration in diversifying the economy through agriculture.
“If that border will be a threat to the survival of Nigeria, we may decide to take a very drastic action,” Ogbeh had reportedly stated.
Stakeholders have however argued that the closure of the border will only heighten smuggling as it will lead to compromise on the part of government officials manning the place.
The President, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agent, Olayiwola Shittu, noted that it would not be wise to shut the border completely as this would only embolden the smugglers to engage in all forms of desperate measures to ferry goods to Nigeria.
He said that after banning the importation of rice and motor vehicles through the land borders, no significant trade was going on there except for general goods.
Olayiwola maintained that the type of smuggling going across the border was not as daring as that of the seaports, citing the three seizures of arms and ammunition at the Lagos seaports.
“There has never been any known case of smuggling of arms and ammunition through the border but arms and ammunition have been brought in through the seaports. That makes the border less risky than the seaports.
“The concentration should rather be on the ports than on the border because it appears smugglers who use the ports are more daring than those who come through the borders.”
He said apart from the border with Nigeria and Benin Republic, Nigeria’s borders around the North were equally prone to smuggling and it would not be a good strategy to shut all the borders just to keep smugglers out.
He said instead of shutting the border completely, government could increase the penalty for smuggling.
Shittu also urged the government to lift the ban on vehicle importation across the land borders as the ban had rendered many of youths in the area jobless.