The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Friday announced that there is no definite date for reopening of the land borders, dashing the hopes of business owners and regional traders, who may have expected that the Federal Government would reconsider its decision at the expiration of the first phase of the border closure exercise, which ended on Friday, January 31.
The Federal Government had in November 2019 extended the duration of the border drill exercise to January 31, following an earlier closure in August as part of efforts aimed at reducing smuggling of foreign rice, arms and ammunition, frozen products and other contraband goods.
Despite the severe impact of the border closure on businesses including manufacturing and sub-regional trade, the Nigerian government had insisted that the reopening of the borders would be based on strict compliance with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional trade protocol on transit goods agreement.
Speaking with SHIPS & PORTS weekend, Customs Public Relations Officer and spokesman for the Joint Security Operation Ex-Swift Response, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah said there is no timeline for the reopening of the borders.
Attah said engagement with neighbouring countries was still ongoing, and until it is finalised, the Federal Government would not rescind its decision on the border closure.
He said, “Nobody has fixed any date as a terminal date. The border drill has not finished, it is a continuum and it is being carried out in phases. The phase is like a roster for the officers on the exercise. There could be change of officers because you can’t have an officer at one place permanently.
“The engagement is still ongoing. It is the outcome of the engagement that will determine government decision on that. But presently, the border drill is still ongoing.”
Speaking on the development, former Chairman, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Seme Chapter, Lasisi Fanu, said although the association supported the border closure, no one had expected that the action would last this long.
He lamented the negative impact of the border closure on businesses, just as he appealed to the government to allow goods currently trapped at joint border post at Seme into the country.
“We supported the border closure on the basis of security but it is now beyond expectation. Nobody expected that it will take this long before they will get the necessary mechanism in place to allow the border to resume its activities.
“Although the Benin people have their own problems but the stakeholders and community are suffering. Many of us have no choice but to diversify to survive. We are still looking on to government to assist the people that have their products trapped at the border.
“Is it perishable items that we want to talk of or those that have their products expiration date very close? We are still appealing to the government to reconsider its decision. The inventories of the trucks that are trapped at the joint border post have been sent to the Customs headquarters and the payments made are there. Some have collected exit to go before the instruction not to go came and sadly, the goods are still there,” he said.