The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has banned all imports and exports of goods through the land borders until neighbouring countries agree with Nigeria on goods that can enter and exit the country.
This is coming on the heels of the seizure of N1.4 billion worth of goods since August 20 when NCS and other security agencies partially closed the land borders.
According to its Comptroller General, Hameed Ali, who stated this Monday at a press briefing in Abuja, goods can only enter the country through the air and sea ports for now where they can undergo thorough scanning and certified fit for consumption.
Ali added that the measure would enable security agencies scan the goods entering the country.
His words: “We hope that by the time we get to the end of this exercise, we would have agreed with our neighbours on the type of goods that should enter and exit our country. For now, all goods, whether illicit or non-illicit, are banned from going and coming into Nigeria. Let me add that for the avoidance of doubt that we included all goods because all goods can equally come through our seaports.
“For that reason, we have deemed it necessary for now that importers of such goods should go through our controlled borders where we have scanners to verify the kind of goods and how healthy to our people.”
He explained that, despite the rights for movement of persons under the enabling ECOWAS protocols, there should be primacy of security over such rights.
Ali, who was asked whether the Federal Government had not breached the rights of the citizenry to movement and international trade, said:
“When it comes to security, all laws take back seat.
“We want to secure our nation, we want to make sure that our people are protected. You must be alive and well for you to begin to ask for your rights. Your rights come when you are well and alive.
“Go and ask the people in Maiduguri where Boko Haram was harassing their lives, the only question was survival, there is no question of right. This time, Nigeria must survive first before we begin to ask for our rights.”
Ali also disclosed that goods worth N1.4 billion have been seized since NCS and other security agencies partially closed the borders in an operation, code-named Exercise Swift Response, launched on August 20. The operation has also led to the deportation of some Pakistanis and South Koreans, just as 146 illegal immigrants have been arrested because their presence in the country is inimical to its socio-economic well being.
The Customs boss explained that 317 smugglers have been arrested, adding that 21,071 bags of 50kg parboiled rice have been impounded. Other items seized were 190 vehicles, 891 drums of petrol, 2,665 Jerry cans of vegetable oil, 66,000 litre of vegetable oil, 133 motorcycles, 131 bags of NPK fertilizers used for making explosives, among others.
According to him, the partial border closure affects all goods, adding that anyone who hitherto imported and exported legitimate goods can do same via seaports and other manned outlets for now.
He foreclosed any plans to reopen the borders anytime soon, adding that diplomatic engagements were ongoing with neighbouring countries on how to comply with established trade protocols to end the exercise.