Buhari says Nigeria-Benin border closed to check smuggling

 …As Customs Service arrests illegal migrants

File Photo of seized smuggled trailer-load of rice in Lagos

President Muhammadu Buhari has disclosed that the need to check the smuggling of rice into Nigeria from Benin Republic informed the closure of the Seme border, just as other land borders in the country were closed due to smuggling activities too.

Buhari made this known while speaking with told his Beninois counterpart, Patrice Talon, during the Seventh Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD7), holding in Yokohama, Japan.

In a statement, Spokesman to the President, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the President had become very concerned about the spate of rice smuggling into the country and saw it as a threat to the nation’s efforts in agriculture for food production.

The statement reads: “Now that our people in the rural areas are going back to their farms, and the country has saved huge sums of money which would otherwise have been expended on importing rice using our scarce foreign reserves.
“We cannot allow smuggling of the product at such alarming proportions to continue.”

Government had last week announced the measure to close the nation’s land borders, an operation that is being enforced jointly by the Nigeria Customs Service, the Police and the Immigration Service.

Foreigners who were allowed to cross the border were required to submit photocopies of their travelling documents to show that they have genuine business in Nigeria.

Affected travelers said the closure was against the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) treaty which allows movement from one country to another within the sub-region.

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) had launched a joint operation exercise to address issues of insecurity in the nation’s border stations.

Code-named Ex-Swift Response, the joint operation will tackle all security issues in border areas.

Public Relations officer of the Customs Service, Mr. Joseph Attah in a statement said the security measure, which is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) would cover the South-South, South-West, North-Central and North-West.

Meanwhile, responding to questions this morning on a breakfast live programme on Channels Television, Attah said 33 illegal migrants had been arrested and that the border was only partly closed.