PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has extended Nigeria’s ongoing border closure programme until January 31 next year as part of the government’s plans to limit the influx of cheap imports through neighbouring ports like Cotonou in the Republic of Benin.
Of late, Nigeria has sought to limit the volume of her imports by stepping up the production of goods such as cement and rice in a bid to save foreign exchange. However, the programme is being thwarted by a loophole in the Economic Community of West Africa States (Ecowas) protocol that allows for the free movement of goods and services across the sub-region.
Rice and cement exporters like China, Thailand, Pakistan, etc have been shipping goods to Cotonou ports, from where they are being shipped into Nigeria duty-free. With local producers unable to compete with these cheap imports, Nigeria decided to shut her borders, which has led to economic hardship in neighbouring nations.
Nigeria has been under pressure from other Ecowas nations to open her borders as a result but the government has decided to extend the programme known as Exercise Swift Response.
m until January 31 2020. Victor Dimka, the comptroller of Customs in charge of enforcement, has written to all border teams directed them to note the new development and comply accordingly.
His circular read:“I am directed to inform you that it is observed that despite the overwhelming success of the operation, particularly the security and economic benefits to the nation, a few strategic objectives are to be achieved. Against this background, Mr President has approved the extension of the exercise to January 31, 2020.
“Consequently, you are requested to convey the development to all personnel for their awareness and guidance. Meanwhile, allowance for personnel sustenance and fuelling of vehicles for the period of extension will be paid as soon as possible.
On August 20, the comptroller-general of the Nigeria Customs Service, Hameed Ali, announced the commencement of Exercise Swift Response to sanitise the land borders against smuggling. It has led to consignments of goods such as rice piling up at border crossings.