The Comptroller-General of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Hameed Ali, says no item can be imported or exported through the nation’s land borders anymore.
Ali disclosed this during a joint news conference with his counterpart from the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mohammed Babandede, in Abuja on Monday.
The joint border security exercise, codenamed “Exercise Swift Response”, commenced operation on August 20.
It is set up to ensure better security of the country’s territorial integrity, particularly the land and maritime borders against trans-border security concerns.
The exercise is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) in the four zones of North-West, North-Central, South-West and South-South geopolitical zones.
Ali said for now, goods can only enter the country through the air and sea ports, where they can undergo thorough scanning and certified fit for consumption.
“We hope that by the time we get to the end of this exercise, we would have agreed with our neighbours on the type of goods that should enter and exit our country.
“For now, all goods, whether illicit or non-illicit, are banned from going and coming into Nigeria.
“Let me add that for the avoidance of doubt that we included all goods because all goods can equally come through our seaports.
“For that reason, we have deemed it necessary for now that importers of such goods should go through our controlled borders where we have scanners to verify the kind of goods and how healthy to our people can be conducted.”
He insisted that despite the rights for movement of persons the enabling ECOWAS protocols, there must be primacy of security over such rights.
Ali, who was asked whether the Federal Government had not breached the rights of the citizenry to movement and international trade, said “when it comes to security, all laws take back a seat”.
“We want to our nation, we want make sure that our people are protected. You must be alive and well for you to begin to ask for your rights. Your rights come when you are well and alive.
“Go and the people in Maiduguri when Boko Haram was harassing their lives, the only question was survival, there is no question of right. This time Nigeria must survive first then before we begin to ask for our rights,” he stated.
Ali also disclosed that operatives of the ongoing Joint Border Security had seized items worth N1.4 billion since the partial closure of borders.
The Customs CG said the items seized since the commencement of the exercise include 21,071 bags of 50Kg of per boiled foreign rice; 190 vehicles; 891 drums filled with Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), and 2,665 jerrycans of vegetable oil.
He said other items were 133 motorcycles; 70 jerrycans of PMS, and 131 bags of NPK fertiliser.
Ali said unscrupulous elements used such fertilisers for explosives to perpetrate mayhem in the country.
According to him, 95 per cent of illicit drugs and weapons use for terrorism come through the porous borders.
He further stated that the rate of insecurity in the country had reduced dramatically since the closure of the land borders with neighbouring countries, Niger and Benin.
He disclosed that 317 suspected smugglers and 146 illegal migrants have so far been arrested during the exercise.
He also said that the partial border closure had also boosted the revenue being generated by the service.