… warns of regional retaliation against Nigeria
By Kunle AKINSOLA
About 66 days after Nigeria closed its borders with neighbouring countries, Lagos lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has urged the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to reopen them without further delay.
He also asked the Federal Government to urgently dialogue with countries to jointly fight the menace of smuggling, which necessitated the border closure.
“It will be in national interest for the government to call off the border closure,’’ Falana said Accra, Ghana on Thursday.
He had delivered a paper entitled, “Rule of Law, Good Governance and Economic Development”, at the annual conference of the ECOWAS Court of Justice.
Persecondnews recalls that Benin Republic, Ghana and Niger as well as ECOWAS had appealed to Nigeria to re-open the borders.
“Border closure is inconsistent with the letter and spirit of ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Residence and Establishment and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
“The borders should be reopened without any further delay as it cannot be sustained for too long without serious repercussions for the Nigerian economy.
“The neighbouring countries may retaliate by imposing a ban on goods being exported from Nigeria by air.
“They may also close down Nigerian banks and other businesses operating in other member states of the ECOWAS.
“Instead of resorting to the unilateral closure of borders the Federal Government should drag the Republics of Benin and Niger to the Court of Justice of the ECOWAS for breaching the ECOWAS Protocol by allegedly encouraging the smuggling of petrol, rice and other products.
In the alternative, smuggling should be addressed like terrorism which is being jointly combated by Nigeria and her neighbours,” the senior advovate said.
On the “IMF’s endorsement’’ of the border closure, Falana said the endorsement was a “deliberate design to weaken the ECOWAS regional integration agenda’’.
He, therefore, advised the government to reject the endorsement by IMF.
According to Falana, the border closureis imposing undue punishment on law-abiding corporate bodies and community citizens because of the criminal activities of a few trans-border smugglers.
“The Federal Government should expose the smugglers by arresting and prosecuting them.
“The smugglers in Nigeria and the neighbouring countries are well-known by the security agencies. Without official connivance, the crime of smuggling cannot thrive in the region,’’ the human rights lawyer said.