The Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Hameed Ali, has said that the Federal Government is not in a hurry to reopen the country’s land borders shut about three weeks ago.
Ali said the borders will remain closed until the countries sharing border with Nigeria come to terms with the conditions laid down by the Nigerian government.
The Customs Comptroller-General made this known on Wednesday at Maigatari, Jigawa while addressing officers and men from NCS, Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and the Nigerian Army (NA) at the Maigatari/Niger Republic border.
He said the Federal Government could no longer fold its arms and watch neighbouring countries flourishing at the detriment of Nigerian economy.
Ali, who arrived Maigatari in a chopper, told journalists that countries sharing land borders with Nigeria have continued to encourage the importation of contraband items, which they know were inimical to the development of Nigeria.
He said, “The Nigerian borders will remain closed until the countries sharing border with Nigeria come to terms with conditions put in place for the economic policies of the country, in terms of what comes into the country.
“This is the first time in the history of this country of having a joint taskforce that includes the military, Customs, immigration and the police. The Federal Government came up with such formation in order to ensure absolute closure of all the borders.”
Addressing the security operatives manning the border, Ali said, “President Muhammadu Buhari directed us to come and see your condition of health and operation. He asked us to come and express his gratitude and commendation for your dedication and commitment to your fatherland and your resolute stand to ensure the security of Nigeria. The President wants to bring to your notice that your coming to Maigatari border is as important as those fighting Boko Haram.”
He said the border closure was to ensure national security, the wellbeing of Nigerians and stem human trafficking.
“What is bedeviling Nigeria now is insecurity, which is as a result of proliferation of arms used by criminals to terrorize our people, and without those arms they cannot do any harm to us. Secondly, it is to ensure the wellbeing of our people by stopping contraband food (smuggled) into the country. This is because contraband foods such as frozen chickens and rice are harmful to our health.
“Let me tell you if you don’t know, the frozen chickens and turkeys imported contain chemicals that are harmful to our health. For instance, these frozen products contain chemicals used in preserving dead bodies, that’s what is used on these contraband frozen food to keep them fresh for your consumption.
“So also the imported rice as it spent the minimum of five years in stores and you are happy to say I bough Thailand or Indian rice. What they usually do is bring them to Cotonou to re-bag and give it new date. This rice is harmful because it causes different types of cancer and kidney disease,” the Customs Comptroller-General said.
He also disclosed that the border was closed to check the influx of unknown people into the country.
“Most importantly it checks human trafficking and influx of unknown people into our country. Most actors in the insecurity that bedevils our country are not Nigerians and because our borders are porous they come in, perpetrate their heinous acts and disappear. So the idea is to ensure everyone coming in or going out of the country follow the laid down procedures,” he said.
Also speaking, the Comptroller-General of Immigration, Mohammed Babandede, urged the security personnel to sustain the successes they recorded in the operation.
“We must sustain the successes we recorded so far in this operation. This is because security is like a puzzle; if you miss a link then you’re in a dilemma. So ensure that anybody that wants to enter Nigeria enters through the recognized borders and goes out through same. Ensure that people have their document before coming in and going out of the country,” Babandede said.
He also urged the personnel not to harass or intimidate anyone, but ensure that people respect the law.
Also, Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Aliyu Ndagi, head of the operation, urged the personnel to apply professionalism in their operation.
“I urge you to apply minimum degree of professionalism in your operation.
“You should also try as much as you can to establish cordial relationship with the members of the host community. I urge you to establish cordial relationship and live in peace with the local populace. Always give them clear reason why you are conducting this operation and live in peace with them.
“This is because you are from your individual communities and when you retire you go back to them and they will treat you the way you treated them when you were in service,” Ndagi said.
The delegation later interacted with members of the community, including traditional rulers and local council members on the imperative for conducting the operation.
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