…As FG says Border Drill not targeted at any region***
Like the Lord’s return date which has remained unknowable, President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday declared in Daura that the actual date for the reopening of the nation’s land borders may be only known to him, because so far, he has not given any date to anyone.
Buhari also highlighted that the closure would remain until the situation improved, meaning that all those dates offered by some officials of the Border drills may be mere guesswork! This is coming, even as the Federal Government says the ongoing border drill is neither targeted at any region nor designed to cripple businesses in any part of the country as being insinuated by some conspiracy theorists.
Malam Garba Shehu, the President’s spokesperson who disclosed this in a statement in Abuja on Monday, said Buhari revealed this, while receiving a delegation of Katsina State Elders Forum in his country home in Daura, Katsina State, noting that the country’s domestic fuel consumption had dropped by more than 30 per cent since the closure.
Buhari said his administration’s directive on the border closure was meant to curb smuggling, especially rice, and that so far, the closures had saved the country huge sums on import bills.
He said his administration was betting on same measures to rekindle the country’s agricultural rebirth; and lauded actions taken by the President of Niger Republic, Muhammadou Youssoufou, especially the dismissal of some officials; and a ban on use of the country as a dumping ground for Nigeria-bound smuggled goods.
Buhari further noted that the measures taken by Niger were helpful and supportive to Nigeria’s goals and acknowledged the hardship of border communities, following the ban on sale of fuel at stations 20km to the border, a restriction that also saw to the closure of all fuel stations in his native home, Daura.
“Farmers must be protected, dishonesty is deep rooted in the country. Otherwise the border closure would not have been warranted,” he said.
He said the restriction was a temporary measure as the Nigerian Customs Service needed to ascertain outlets involved in real sale of products and those being used for smuggling.
Buhari told the delegation that he intended forging ahead with poverty alleviation schemes and the agricultural and livestock reforms started by the administration in the first term, since the election was behind him and a government now in place.
He explained that the reforms, especially those relating to the settlement of livestock farmers would take time to accomplish.
He said that his deliberate choice of tested farmers as his past and current ministers of agriculture was informed by the need to carry his vision through.
Earlier in his remark, the representative of the Chairman of the Elders Forum, Alhaji Aliyu Saulawa, commended the achievements of the President and Gov. Aminu Masari of Katsina State in curbing the menace of bandits, kidnappers and cattle rustlers.
He, however, drew a long list of requests which included a special intervention fund to assist victims of attacks, completion of the 10 megawatts wind power project in the state, setting up of a North-West Development Commission and setting up of Ruga farm settlements.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has indicated that the ongoing border drill is neither targeted at any region nor designed to cripple businesses in any part of the country as being insinuated by some conspiracy theorists.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed stated this on Monday when he led a federal government ministerial delegation on inspection and assessment of the drill at the Magama Jibia border post in Katsina state.
The Ministers of State Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajia Maryam Katagum were in the delegation on the inspection of the Nigeria’s North-West border with Niger Republic.
Mohammed said contrary to the view of the conspiracy theorists, the partial border closure was ongoing in four geo-political zones of the country – South-South (Sector 1), South-West (Sector 2), North-Central (Sector 3) and North-West (Sector 4)-
He explained that the main reason for embarking on the drill was to protect the country against transnational security concerns such as smuggling, proliferation of small arms and light weapons; irregular migration as well as terrorism and armed banditry, among others.
Mohammed said the challenges at the borders vary from one sector to the other.
He said while the challenge in Seme border (sector 2), inspected by the delegation on Nov. 25 was mainly rice smuggling, that of Jibia (sector 4) included fuel smuggling, illegal migration and importation of arms and ammunition.
The minister said, since the exercise commenced over three months back, local businesses across the country have continued to thrive, as farmers and rice millers in particular are having turnover on Investments.
He said that the border drill had, so far curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into the country in addition to other prohibited items; Increased the monthly import revenue by over 15 per cent.
The minister said the border drill had also led to significant seizures with estimated monetary value of over N3.5 billion; reduced local fuel consumption by 30 per cent as well as reduced the importation of arms, ammunition and drugs.
Mohammed said that out of the four sectors affected by the drill, the North West including the Jibia border post has recorded the highest success in terms of reduction of illegal migration.
“We have a lot of good news to report, regarding the benefits of the drill from this post.
“The drill has drastically curtailed the inflow of arms and ammunition; bandits and terrorists are finding it hard to procure arms and ammunition.
“As a result, we have recorded a reduction in cases of cattle rustling, kidnapping, armed banditry which were predominant in the North-west region, these acts have now been significantly reduced.
“The arms and ammunition being used by violent extremists and criminal elements no longer make their way into the country through the land borders.
“Of course, this will also have a negative effect on the insurgency,” he said.
The minister said that smuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria had been greatly reduced, especially with the closure of filling stations along the border, adding that there were hundreds of filling stations along the border and 50 per cent of them were owned by foreigners, set up purposely for smuggling. No fewer than 40 of the closed filling stations were seeing along the only road in Magama village with just about 2000 population.
“Before the drill, the borders contributed nothing to the revenue. Customs was recording about N4.5 billion daily.
“Since the closure, the figure has increased to between N5 billion and N8 billion daily,” he said, stressing that the border drill, code-named ‘exercise swift response’, was launched in August, as part of the measures to secure Nigeria’s land and Maritime borders.
He said the exercise, which included the Nigerian Customs service, the Nigerian immigration service, the armed forces of Nigeria as well as the Nigeria police force and other security and Intelligence agencies, is being coordinated by the office of the National Security Adviser
“The exercise wouldn’t have been contemplated if our neighbours had complied with the various memoranda of understanding as well as the ECOWAS Transit protocols, including ECOWAS trade liberalization scheme (ETLS),” he said.
Mohammed assured that Nigeria would continue to engage with the neighbouring countries to ensure that all the concerns that led to exercise swift response are fully addressed
He enjoined stakeholders, including the media, to ensure that the desired objectives of this drill, that is, to advance a secured, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria, are fully accomplished.