The Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Hameed Ali, said Nigeria’s land borders were closed in August 2019 “to send a message to Nigeria’s neighbouring countries”.
The Federal Government said the land borders, which were reopened on December 16, 2020, were shut to curb the smuggling of hard drugs and arms and agricultural products from neighbouring West African countries.
But speaking with journalists on Sunday, Ali said neighbouring countries did not adhere to protocol or honour memorandum of understanding signed on border management in the past.
He said, “We just set up a joint border patrol. It is an offshoot of the joint border drill, which was the operation we launched to close our borders. The intention was not to close our borders perpetually. It was to send a message to our neighbours that they cannot continue to go against the protocols that are established and acceded to.
“When we abide by certain protocols on the movement of goods across our borders, we discovered that those rules are no longer adhered to by our neighbours. We made multiple advances. We reached across, we have signed papers in terms of MoU but none of them worked. So we are left with no option than to close our borders and send a message.
“We developed a joint border drill to effectively close the borders and manned it and we now had to look at it that we cannot continue to close our borders so what do we do? We reopened it and we are now working with our neighbours — our counterparts in Niger Republic and the Benin Republic.
“We have to come up with a concept that now gives us the chance to monitor and manage our borders without closing the exits and entrances, so that is how we came up with joint border patrol.”
Ali said countries involved in the arrangement established their own border patrol but there has been synergy among the operators.
According to him, officers and men involved in the patrol often share information with one another for effective management of the borders.
“If there are movements of illicit persons or goods, they communicate from that end to our end, so also do we do. We have also exchanged the list of prohibited items, like those Benin Republic does not want in its country. We make sure we block them here before they cross.
“Also from the other side, there are things we don’t want to see in Nigeria. For instance, poultry products are still prohibited to be imported into the country. We have created that synergy. The agreement is that on monthly basis, we will continue to get reports on how things are unfolding.
“On a daily basis, there will be interaction between them and it is our hope that this will help in reducing the influx of illicit items in or out of Nigeria. We have established that and it has started working and we hope that will be the magic in terms of managing our borders,” he said.
Ali said when the proposed e-Customs becomes operational, the NCS will deploy necessary technology to verify goods coming into or going out of Nigeria to tackle smuggling.