Nigeria’s border closure will rekindle interest in agriculture and revive the sector, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.
The President spoke on Monday against the backdrop of the reduction in smuggling, especially rice, following the border closure for two months.
A statement on Monday in Abuja by his Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said President Buhari expressed confidence that the border closure will save the country billions of naira on import bills.
President Buhari said he had not given any date for the reopening of the border until the situation improves.
He lauded the actions taken by Niger Republic President Muhammadou Youssoufou, including the dismissal of officials and a ban on use of the country as a dumping ground for Nigeria-bound smuggled goods.
Also, over 50 per cent of petrol stations on Nigeria’s land borders belong to foreigners, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said on Monday.
Mohammed spoke when he led a Federal Government’s high-powered delegation to Jibia border in Katsina State.
Other ministers on his entourage included the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mariam Katagum, and the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba.
The minister, who spoke at Magama-Jibia, on the Nigeria/Niger border post in Katsina State, said the border closure had reduced insecurity in the Northwest.
Mohammed also said the ongoing border drill is neither targeted at any region nor designed to cripple businesses in any part of the country, as insinuated by some conspiracy theorists.
The minister said the border closure also helped to cut off the supply of bandits and other armed groups in the region.
Mohammed said Nigeria had experienced a drastic reduction in arm importation, cattle rustling and petroleum products smuggling, among others.
The minister noted that the country had also recorded about 30 per cent reduction in local consumption of petroleum products, following the banning of supply to border areas.
He said: “Smuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria has been greatly reduced. The closure of filling stations on the border is a huge success. There are hundreds of filling stations along the border. We counted many as we drove to the border this morning (yesterday).
“They were set up purposely for smuggling. They don’t sell the fuel consignment; they deceive the public. Over 50 per cent of them are owned by foreigners. Now, they are closed. We have recorded over 30 per cent reduction in domestic fuel consumption.”
Reviewing the peculiarities in each of the borders across the country, the minister said the challenges in Sector 4 included fuel smuggling, illegal migration and importation of arms.
He added that rice from Benin Republic was also smuggled into the country through Niger Republic.
Mohammed recalled that after relevant officials at the Jibis border post with Niger were briefed, Nigeria had a lot of good news to report.
The minister also said the drill at the Jibia post had “drastically curtailed the inflow of arms and ammunition”.
He added: “Bandits and terrorists are finding it hard to procure arms and ammunition; hence, we have recorded a reduction in cases of cattle rustling, kidnapping and armed banditry, which were predominant in the Northwest. These acts have now been significantly reduced.
“The arms and ammunition being used by violent extremists and criminal elements no longer make their way into the country through the land borders. Of course, this will also have a negative effect on insurgency.”
Nigeria, he also said, had recorded “over 30 per cent increase in revenue since the drill started”.
Mohammed said: “…Before the drill, the borders contributed nothing to the revenue. Nothing. The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) was recording about N4.5 billion daily. Since the closure, the figure has increased to between N5 billion to N8 billion daily.
“As a matter of fact, since the exercise commenced over three months ago, local businesses across the country have continued to thrive. Farmers and rice millers in particular are now having good turnover on investments.”
The Northwest sector, he said, recorded the highest success in reducing illegal migration, following the drill.
Mohammed assured stakeholders that Nigeria will continue to engage with neighbouring countries to ensure that all the issues that led to the Exercise Swift Response are fully addressed.
The minister said the borders were closed to protect the country against transnational security concerns.
These, he said, include smuggling, proliferation of small arms and light weapons, illegal migration as well as terrorism and armed banditry.