…As Fashola says Cashless toll plazas coming, to protect Government revenue***
The Nigeria Customs Service on Wednesday held a meeting with rice farmers in Kaduna State on the importance of the closure of Nigeria’s borders to national food security.
The Customs Public Relation Officer, Joseph Atta, said that the interaction was meant to garner support for border closure, an operation, principally meant to protect local farmers.
He told the farmers that the Federal Government was compelled to take the action after neighbouring countries failed to respect an agreement to block smuggling of goods into Nigeria.
Atta recalled that Nigeria even bought patrol vehicles to support its neighbours in protecting their end of the border, but nothing much was done to stop the smugglers.
He said that the border closure was not only necessary in ensuring national food security, but also the security of lives and properties of Nigerians.
“The issues of light weapons, kidnapping and banditry, make Nigeria less secure and are affecting the nation’s economy especially the Agric sector,” he noted, highlighting government’s mindset to promote agriculture and stopping dependence on smuggling by taking deliberate steps, while wishing the investments to translate into appropriate growth.
The NSC spokesman however said that in spite of the genuine desire of government, neighbouring countries with the connivance of some unpatriotic Nigerians have continued to allow foreign items to be smuggled into the country, thereby causing massive losses to local farmers.
He stressed that the continuous patronage of smuggled rice only led to loss for local farmers and reduction in anticipated job growth.
“When drugs are allowed into the country it lead to lots of challenges; smugglers are taking advantage of the border to create havoc.
“We have a decisive government taking decisions to ensure that the nation security is secured,
“All the security agencies are now working together in unity to ensure that the country’s borders are secured,” he said.
Atta spoke further: “Our country cannot continue to take decisions that will continue to empower other people while our country suffers.”
According to him, border closure and surveillance have led to the arrest of 146 illegal immigrants, seizure of 18,759 bags of 50kg foreign rice, 131 bags of MPK fertilizer, cartridges.
Others include 4765 jericans of vegetable oil and bales of used clothing and shoes, as well as two trucks filled with petroleum products.
In his comments, the state Secretary of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Mr. Ishaya Audu expressed their total support for the government action and advised Nigerians to always patronize local foods for healthier growth.
He appreciated the federal government for providing many opportunities for Nigerians especially in the area of agriculture, particularly rice production.
“It has created a lot of jobs for the youth, and graduate are also into farming due to federal support,” the RIFAN secretary said.
The State Director of National Orientation Agency (NOA), Zubairu Galadima-Suba described the partial border closure as necessary to the efforts of boosting food security particularly, rice in the country.
He said the policy would eliminate the importation of toxic rice and encourage Nigerians to consume local rice which is good for their health.
Galadima-Soba explained that the objective of the policy was principally to empower indigenous farmers, and urged the public to support it.
In another development, the Minister of Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola says Federal Government has concluded designs for the return of toll plazas on Federal roads.
Fashola disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The minister said that, though the government dismantled toll plazas in the past, there was no law abolishing tolls.
“Let me just clarify this impression about toll gates; there is no reason why we cannot toll; there is no reason.
“There was a policy of government to abolish tolls; to dismantle toll plazas but there is no law that prohibits tolls in Nigeria today.
“We expect to return toll plazas; we have concluded their designs; of what they will look like; what material they will be built with; what new considerations must go into them.
“What we are looking at now and trying to conclude is how the back-end runs and that is important because we want to limit significantly if not totally eliminate cash at the plazas while ensuring that electronic devices that are being used do not impede rapid movement.
“We are also now faced with the need to acquire more land to establish the width of the toll plazas because I believe that we are looking at a 10-lane plaza so that there can be more outlets and then they merge; so we need to acquire more land.’’
He however, said that the expectation that collection of tolls would produce the replacement cost of the road was not accurate.
Fashola said that the traffic toll count that the ministry had done on major highways did not suggest that there was enough vehicular traffic across all routes.
According to him, the two or three heavy routes are Lagos-Ibadan; Abuja-Kano, Abuja-Lokoja.
“In Lagos-Ibadan, the heaviest traffic you will find is between Lagos and Sagamu; about 40, 000 vehicles; after Sagamu heading to Ibadan, it drops to about 20,000.
“So, most of it has gone eastwards going towards Ondo, Ore and by the time you get to Benin, the number significantly drops; it ratchets up again at the confluence where they are heading towards the Niger; so you can see that it is not a static 50,000 all the way.
“Same thing with Abuja-Kano-Zaria; after Kaduna, the traffic significantly drops; it is about 40,000 there too; after Kaduna, it begin to drop by the time you get to Zaria.
“If you have driven on that road before, by the time you are driving between Zaria and Kaduna, you will notice how thin the recurring number of vehicles you meet is and as you begin to head closer between Kaduna and Abuja, the number of vehicles begins to increase.
“I think it is important to have that at the back of our minds; not all roads have that traffic count,’’ he said.
The minister said that government’s move toward the tolls return was not accidental as it was being deliberate and methodical with what it was doing.