Border Closure: Nigerian government seizes items worth N3.5 billion – Minister

The Nigerian government said it has seized items valued at N3.5 billion naira and arrested 296 illegal immigrants since it closed the country’s borders early this year.

It listed the seized items as 38,743 units of 50kg bags of foreign parboiled rice, 514 vehicles, 1,012 drums filled with petrol, 5,400 jerry cans of vegetable oil, 346 motorcycles, 10,553 jerry cans of petrol and 136 bags of NPK fertilizer used for making explosives.

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this on Monday when he led a delegation to visit the Seme Border with Benin Republic.

He also said since the closure, monthly import revenue has increased by 15 per cent, instead of dropping as expected in many quarters, while local consumption of fuel has dropped by 30 per cent.

Other officials in the delegation were Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba; National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; and the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Muhammed Babandede.

According to a release by the ministry, the minister also said 296 illegal immigrants have been arrested.

”It is important to note that 95 per cent of illicit drugs and weapons that are being used for acts of terrorism and kidnapping in Nigeria today come in through our porous borders. However, since this partial closure, these acts have been drastically reduced.

“Our conclusion is that the arms and ammunition these terrorists and criminal elements were using no longer gain access into the country.

In addition, the importation of the drugs which affect the well-being of Nigerians have equally been reduced,” Mr Mohammed said.

He also said the closure of the borders has curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into Nigeria, in addition to other prohibited items.

”There has been an enhanced production and milling of Nigerian rice. Patronage of Nigerian rice has also increased and farmers are expanding their farms as well as engaging more hands,” he said.

Neighbouring countries not complying with protocol

The minister said the decision to close the borders was fueled by the inability of Nigerian neighbours to comply with various MOUs and the ECOWAS transit protocol.

He said there has never been a legitimate transit trade between Nigeria and two of its neighbours, Benin and the Niger Republic.

He said the ECOWAS protocol on transit 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, experience has shown that our neighbours do not comply with this protocol.

”Rather, they break the seals of containers at their ports and trans-load goods destined for Nigeria from the original container to trucks.

In most cases, five containers loaded onto one truck and duty paid as one truck. This improper trans-loading of transit goods makes it impossible to properly examine such goods, resulting in the importation of illicit goods, including arms and ammunition, without being detected,” he said.