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Border Closure: Three die as cement truck drivers stranded at Nigerian border for months

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Border Closure: Three dead as cement truck drivers stranded at Nigerian border for months

At least three persons, believed to be drivers of Dangote Cement and Sokoto Cement trucks, have died, after being stranded for months at Nigeria’s border with Niger Republic following the border closure policy.

Nigeria’s borders with neighbouring countries such as Benin and Niger have been partially closed since last August in a step authorities say will safeguard the economy and security.

The sealing of border crossings mainly targets widespread and largely unchecked smuggling of goods such as rice, poultry products, fabrics and vegetable oil into the country. In a reverse direction, petroleum products subsidised for local consumption also followed smuggling routes to neighbouring countries.

But real businesses that move goods across borders are also affected. Apart from losing revenues, the effect also has human costs.

At Illela border, Sokoto State, immigration and customs agents variously said “about 450” trucks separately owned by Dangote Cement and Sokoto Cement are blocked from entering Nigeria.

“The trucks had moved cement to countries as far away as Niger, Mali, Chad and Ghana,” one official said, seeking not to be named because of service rules on press interviews. “They were returning to Nigeria empty when the border closure was announced. Some got close to the (border) gate but we had to ask they should move back.”

“Immediately, we got the announcement, we shut the gate and trucks have been there since that day in August,” the official further said.

Border Closure: Three dead as cement truck drivers stranded at Nigerian border for months

Gate of Nigeria’s border with NIGER Republic, Illela, Sokoto State.

 

PREMIUM TIMES confirmed the trucks have no good loaded on them based on direct observation and responses from the stranded drivers after being granted rare access to the drivers.

“The trucks are empty and they are not bringing anything to the country but they are stranded and the drivers and their boys are suffering,” another official, a Customs officer, said.

Three dead amid torrid conditions

As the trucks are denied entry into Nigeria, the drivers and those described as “truck boys” have had to stay at the border but the conditions have become increasingly unbearable.

One of them explained that the companies insisted they stay at the border to protect the trucks.

“We allow them to walk across the border to buy food and we allow water vendors to sell water to them,” one official, from the immigration service, said.

“This is against human rights; how can people just be kept here?” one Customs officer queried. “But it is government policy, we can’t do anything about it but their employers should try to ensure the government allows the trucks into the country so that the stranded drivers and their boys can go to their various homes.”

One of the drivers, who is from Borno State, said he and his colleagues have not seen their families since August.

Also read:  AKWANGA: Dangote Cement truck crushes ‘Boxer’, ‘Sharon’, killing 11, at ‘Many have Gone’ hill

Since the border was closed in August, three officials, from Customs and Immigration services, and two truck drivers said three persons have died.

The three persons died during the wet season after they were bitten by snakes, PREMIUM TIMES was told.

There is no hospital within several kilometres of the border.

The officials declined to disclose whether the deceased truck drivers were employees of Dangote Cement or Sokoto Cement.

“Abandoned”

The officials at the border, expressing sympathies with the stranded drivers and their boys, believed Dangote Cement and Sokoto Cement were not doing enough towards resolving the logjam.

“They have abandoned their drivers in this condition. How can people be here without any house for several months? The companies know the government and even if it’s for one hour the (border) gate should be opened to allow the trucks to come in and the drivers can be free,” the Customs source said.

Anthony Chiejina, a spokesperson for Dangote cement, told PREMIUM TIMES he had just become aware of the situation at Illela and offered no further comments after requesting time to get confirmation.

Sada Suleiman of Sokoto cement, on the other hand, acknowledged the situation concerning his company’s trucks and drivers.

On the death of drivers, he, however, said, “I am just hearing for the first time” and requested another official, whom he said was better placed to confirm, be asked.

A senior official with the company, who asked not be named because he is not responsible for corporate communications, said, “we are losing a lot, a lot and we are doing our best to resolve the problem.”

He said Sokoto cement had shown the authorities documentation that proves the legality of its transborder trade.

But no headway yet, the official said. He did not categorically deny the awareness of the loss of drivers. “I can’t comment on that, I am not the one to ask,” he said and suggested that Mr Suleiman should be approached again.

Nothing came of repeated calls and messages to Joseph Attah, spokesperson for the Customs, for comment on this report.

There is no certainty yet about when the borders will open.

“The idea is to ensure that the protocol that is involved in transit of goods and trade facilitation is adhered to so that we will all live and complement each other,” Customs boss, Hameed Ali said last September.

The border closure, beginning last August, came less than two months after Nigeria joined other African nations to sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.

 

 

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NNPP: Clergyman Predicts Peace, Stronger Party

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NNPP: Clergyman Predicts Peace, Stronger Party

…As NAGAFF Members seek God’s Intervention over intractable party Crisis

A clergyman, Pastor Joel Uzor, has predicted a new era of peace and the emergence of a stronger New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) following divine intervention, sequel to bouts of selfless prayers by members of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), on Thursday.

The faithful NAGAFF members on Thursday defied the heavy downpour, to sincerely seek the face of God, and pray that the crisis rocking their party will soon end, and the party should get stronger in the future.

Speaking during the prayer session organized by NAGAFF members for the survival of NNPP, Pastor Uzor stressed that enemies of the party will soon give way for genuine members, and this will lead to a stronger and better NNPP.

The clergyman, who presides over the Rock of Evidence Assembly, emphasized the importance of prayer in overcoming the crisis, citing relevant scriptures to support his message.

Dr. Boniface Aniebonam

He prophesied that NNPP would emerge stronger from the crisis, with those bent on destroying the party leaving peacefully without troubling genuine members.

Pastor Uzor described the controversy as a prolonged disagreement between two or more parties, citing examples from the Bible, including the story of Abraham and Lot.

 He also encouraged NAGAFF members to pray fervently for God’s intervention towards not only a peaceful political party. but even a peaceful Nigeria.

Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, Founder of NAGAFF and NNPP, also spoke at the event, describing the association as a prayerful group. He lamented the internal crisis in NNPP, saying it is uncalled for, and emphasized the need for God’s intervention to achieve the desired peace.

The crisis has brought together, concerned members of the business community with the political membership of the party, in going spiritual; and praying for peace and stability in the party.

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NNPP Crisis: Freight Forwarders Defy Rain To Pray For Peace

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NNPP Crisis: Freight Forwarders Defy Rain To Pray For Peace

The grey line between Commerce and Politics further blurred on Thursday as Members of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) defied a heavy rain to offer prayers for peace in the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).

Crisis hit the maritime people’s dominated party, the NNPP, following the alleged attempt by its former Presidential flag, Rabiu Kwankwaso, his alleged expulsion from the party, and the subsequent cacophony of allegations and counter allegations, plunging the freight forwarders’ pride into internal crisis.

The prayer session, led by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the association, Mr Chidiebere Enelaman, was held at the NAGAFF Headquarters in Apapa, Lagos.

Enelama said that the association decided to hold the prayers because of its close ties with the party, its brainchild which was founded in 2002 by NAGAFF’s founder, Dr Boniface Aniebonam.

“Almost all NAGAFF members are members of the NNPP. The party was formed not only to win elections in Nigeria but to propagate issues that would be favourable to the Maritime sector.

“It is sad to watch the ongoing internal wrangling and not intervene.

NNPP CRISIS: NAGAFF Goes Spiritual, Organizes Prayer Session To Entrench Peace

“We believe so much in the power of the Almighty and we believe He will restore peace to the NNPP,” he said.

The chairman said that the prayers were a response to the internal crisis brewing within NNPP, particularly concerning the expulsion of Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso, the party’s 2023 Presidential Candidate, due to alleged anti-party activities.

“NAGAFF as the parent body of the NNPP, under the leadership of Aniebonam, shall continue to appreciate and remember the role played by Kwankwaso in the last presidential elections.

“We hope that God shall intervene in the internal wranglings of the NNPP and also give Kwankwaso the wisdom to retrace his steps in the issues concerning NNPP and his role therein,” he added.

Also speaking, Aniebonam said that prayer remains the key to resolving issues.

He narrated how seeking divine intervention had worked for NNPP in the past during the challenging Kano State governorship election.

Aniebonam noted that the association remained hopeful that God would once again intervene and bring peace to NNPP during the period of internal discord.

“When the odds were against the party in the Kano State governorship election at the tribunal and appeal court, we ran to God for intervention at the Supreme Court and He answered.

“It is our hope and belief that God will answer us again at this trial period of internal crisis. We shall forge ahead to elect a great leader in Nigeria at God’s time.

“As founder and life member of the NNPP board, it is my greatest desire to see peace reign and for the splinter group to retrace its steps.

“I’m a father to all and I sincerely believe that God will hearken to our prayers,” he added.

The prayer session was officiated by Pastor Joel Ozor of the Rock of Evidence Assembly in Ojo, Lagos.

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Ease of Smuggling Ends on Adamawa/ Taraba Axis, As Bashir Efforts Yield Fruits

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Ease of Smuggling Ends on Adamawa/ Taraba Axis, As Bashir Efforts Yield Fruits

The ease of smuggling on the Taraba axis may be temporarily over, as a drive by the Nigeria Customs Service NCS to thwart illicit trading has begun to yield outstanding results.

The new Adamawa/ Taraba Area Command Controller, Garba Bature Bashir confirmed this, highlighting that, only two weeks under his leadership, the Command had recorded five incidents of interception of over N10 million worth of petrol (Premium Motor Spirit PMS) snoozing its way, to the neighbouring Country, Cameroon Republic. 

 “In the past two weeks, our drive to thwart smuggling rings in this command has produced outstanding results. The success recorded so far could invariably predicated on the synergy, robust border management, intelligence sharing and unwavering efforts of our operatives”, Comptroller Garba Bashir stated, noting that a key item, petrol was on its way to Cameroon.

“The Command Officers while on anti-smuggling operations along the Command frontiers within two weeks under my leadership had recorded five (05) incidents of interception of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) on its way to the neighbouring Country, Cameroon Republic. 

“The intercepted and seized PMS plus the Means of Conveyance hereinafter are Valued at Ten   Million, eight hundred and seventy-one thousand, four hundred and ninety-six naira and twenty-five Kobo only (N10,871,496.25) as the Duty Paid Value (DPV)”, Bashir also said.

Pointing out that while no suspect was apprehended during the Operations because the suspects abandoned the items and absconded in an attempt to circumvent arrest, the Command remains undaunted and committed to its anti-smuggling mandate.

“The seized items include the following:

i.​12,435Litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) packed in 491x25L and 8 x 20L Jerry Cans.

ii.​one used Mitsubishi truck -Means of conveyance of the PMS and

iii.​One used Motor Cycle – the Means of Conveyance of the PMS.

“The seizure of these items is in line with sections 150 and 248 of the Nigeria Customs Service Act 2023 and considering the facts that the Command’s territorial borders are officially closed. 

“However, due to the inflammable nature of these PMS, it will be auctioned immediately after this briefing following the standard operating procedure (SOP) and as enshrined in section 119 of the Nigeria Customs Service Act 2023 and the proceeds accrued remitted into the Federation Account accordingly.

“Smuggling activities had done more harm than good to the nation. It hinders our national growth and strangles our trade policies concerning revenue, foreign investment, preservation of domestic trade and growth, food security and public security. 

“Smuggling networks are often connected to diverse illicit activities, such as money laundering, terrorism financing and human trafficking, which can disrupt national security and the rule of law.

“The Nigeria Customs Service, Adamawa/Taraba Area Command on this point, will never give up in its fight against the menace of smuggling until the command is purged of it. 

“We want to unwaveringly tell the smugglers that our operatives are strategically repositioned along the borderlines to fasten their exit out of this illicit business”, he further said, advising the illicit traders to renounce economic sabotage and illicit trade into and out of the Command’s territorial borders, and adopt legitimate business, as the Command Operatives will not rest on their oars until we stamp out smuggling across all the command borders.

“To the border Communities and the patriotic Nigerians, we solicit your partnership in the area of providing timely intelligence that can aid our operations in getting rid of this economic scourge from our nation. 

“To the transporters and oil marketers to be vigilant and patriotic to deny these smugglers a supply chain. And to the Media Personnel, please do increase awareness campaign to educate the general public on the dangers and negative impacts of smuggling on our socio-economic development.

“Finally, we attributed these huge successes recorded so far to the unwavering support and encouragement of the management of the Nigeria Customs Service under the tenacious leadership of Bashir Adewale Adeniyi MFR, who has continued to give all the required backup and supply chain for our smooth anti-smuggling operations. 

“We wholeheartedly appreciate his unrelenting drive for service advancement”, Bashir stated, stressing the combined, cooperative advantage of all the Customs Units, which comprise the CIU, FOU, SIS, Valuation, ICT; and the synergy with other security agencies as well.

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