Retired Col. Hameed Ali, the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, said Wednesday that Nigeria’s borders will remain closed until the country and its neighbours agree on existing ECOWAS protocol on movement.
Mr Ali stated this at Maigatari/Niger border while fielding questions from newsmen.
“But there is no specific time for opening the borders. However, if they agree with us tomorrow on the existing laws, then we sign and update the existing protocol of transit, that’s all.
“And we are looking forward to meeting with them and there are moves to sit with them to make them understand why we are doing what we are doing and what we want to achieve by doing what we are doing,” Mr Ali said.
When asked about the consequences of closing the borders, he said “if you check our website, you will see the seizures and interception we’ve made.”
He said by closing the borders, Nigeria was able to completely block the importation of contraband items.
“We are able to completely block the influxes of illicit goods, and most important, stopped the exportation of petroleum product which is the biggest problem we have,” he said.
According to him, through the measure, the importation of foreign rice has stopped and the market for local varieties has risen.
“We’ve also stopped the influx of rice and our rice is now selling.
“Even those selling garri that have been abandoned because there was cheap rice are making brisk business.
“This is because people are now buying garri as food. So, I think the economy is now picking up and we are grateful for that,” he said.
When asked about petty traders who are unable to bring goods to the neighbouring countries, Mr Ali said “There must be collateral damage in this kind of situation. Somebody must miss one or two things.”
He said the number of petty traders affected was insignificant compared to gains recorded through the operation.
Mr Ali said Nigeria’s neighbours had no reason allowing cars, cooking oil and other contraband items to pass through their borders into Nigeria.
“For instance, Niger has no reason to allow rice, cooking oil and other illicit goods to pass through its borders to come to Nigeria.
“So, if it is their national interest to collect revenue it is our national interest to close our borders until we sit down and discuss,” Mr Ali noted.
He warned that any officer caught conniving to pave way for the importation of contraband items into the country would have himself to blame.
“Some of these things happened in connivance with some of our men. We are trying our best to see that we produce what we consume, particularly rice.
“But the police are being bastardised in connivance with some of my officers. We’re aware of that.
“So, if we catch you, you know where to go, no compromise and you will have yourself to blame, he warned.
The customs boss who was at the border to inspect the ongoing Operation Border Drill, said: “This is the first time the entire military and paramilitary come together to ensure security and wellbeing of Nigerians, as well as stop human trafficking.
Mr Ali was with the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service,;Mr Mohammed Babandede, and Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Aliyu Ndagi, Head of the operation.