Journalism of Courage

Border closure: 296 illegal immigrants arrested, as FG recounts gains

The Federal Government has revealed that 296 illegal immigrants have been arrested since the closure of its border on 2 August, 2019.

It also added that since the partial closure of the border, 95 percent of illicit drugs and weapons smuggled through the porous borders, being used for terrorism and kidnapping in country has drastically reduced.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced these gains when he visited the Seme Border on Monday, along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba; National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, and the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Muhammed Babandede.

According to the Minister, higher import revenue, lower domestic fuel consumption and increased rice production by local farmers, are among the other gains of the closure of the country’s land borders in the four geo-political zones of the country.

He said: “Since the closure, the monthly import revenue has increased by 15%, instead of dropping as expected in many quarters, while the local consumption of fuel has dropped by 30%, apparently due to reduced smuggling of the products to neighboring countries.

“The closure has so far curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into the country, in addition to other prohibited items. There has been an enhanced production and milling of Nigerian rice. Patronage of Nigerian rice has also increased and farmers are expanding their farms as well as engaging more hands.”

Alh. Mohammed put the value of items seized since the closure at over N3.5 billion, listing such items as including 38,743 of 50kg bags of parboiled foreign rice, 514 vehicles, 1,012 drums filled with PMS, 5,400 Jerrycans of vegetable oil, 346 motorcycles, 10,553 Jerrycans of PMS and 136 bags of NPK fertilizer used for making explosives.

According to the Minister, Benin and Niger are not doing enough to ameliorate the challenges that led to the border closure, adding that the magnitude of seizures and the number of illegal immigrants recorded in the last two weeks alone confirm this assertion.

He said: ”As we speak, we have ships loaded with rice waiting to discharge; in Benin, and the target market is Nigeria for Christmas.

“The border closure would not have occurred if Nigeria’s neighbors had complied with the various MOUs as well as the ECOWAS transit protocols, including the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS).”

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