President Muhammadu Buhari has said Nigeria and her neighbours must place higher premium on the effective policing of borders, as the fragile nature of entry points into various countries enhance terrorism, economic sabotage, and illicit flow of arms.
The President stated this at the State House in Abuja on Thursday while playing host to the Secretary General, World Customs Organization (WCO), Kunio Mikuriya, who is in Nigeria for a global conference on fragile borders.
Theme of the conference is ‘Enabling Customs in Fragile and and Conflict Affected Situations,’ which the President said is of critical importance to Nigeria as it goes to the polls.
“I have made it a cardinal commitment to ensure each Nigerian is able to exercise their franchise by participating in a free and fair election, in true practice of our relatively nascent democracy. It is our objective to ensure this takes place in a peaceful and conducive atmosphere, despite all the usual excitement and gamesmanship that is known to occur during election campaigning,” a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, quoted Buhari as saying.
“In fact, it is quite frankly the singular most concerning sub-issue in our national security agenda. The fragility of our borders has been a major achilles heel in our fight against terrorism, economic sabotage and illicit flow of small and light weapons.”
President Buhari said it gladdens his heart, that the WCO has dedicated an entire conference to the subject and theme, “thus recognizing not only its importance, but dedicating working sessions and brainstorming around it and inviting great thought leadership to dissect the issues and explore how nations in Africa can address this problem given our unique set of circumstances while also pursuing our joint and collective idea of an interconnected continent via trade and movement of goods and services.”
President Buhari listed some of the efforts of his administration in combating the challenges of fragile borders, which include national security strategy 2019, which promotes close inter-agency cooperation and the national counter-terrorism strategy which mandates Nigeria Customs Service to support other agencies of government on fighting terrorism; support for the armed forces in launching operations to secure our borders; and demonstration of a strong political will to support Nigeria Customs Service as a critical agency of state in the discharge of its security and revenue mandates.
He also listed the approval of the Federal Executive Council for a new Customs modernization project that actively promotes the integration of technology into border operations, and “the ongoing effort to review the Customs enabling law to strengthen the Nigeria Customs Service and provide stiffer sanctions against smuggling and other criminal acts”.
Speaking, said Customs services worldwide must go beyond mere revenue generation, and delve into security, as “without security at the borders, we cannot effectively collect revenue.”
Mikuriya lamented that Customs officials are often targets of terrorists and armed groups, “and so we need to have collaboration with other security agencies, share intelligence, and deploy technology.”
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