In March 2023, Niger Republic, a landlocked country which borders Nigeria from the northern part, pledged to tranship all its cargoes through Lekki Port of Lagos.
This arrangement would now suffer a major setback as the Federal Government has directed officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to henceforth stop all transit cargoes heading to Niger Republic from all land borders and seaports across the country.
Recall that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), had sanctioned Niger Republic after the country’s presidential guards ousted the democratically elected President, Mohamed Bazoum and announced Abdrahmane Tchiani as the new president. The sanctions included border closure against Niger Republic.
Earlier in the year 2023, Niger republic, which formally brings in its cargo via Cotonou Port in Benin Republic, announced its intention to start using Nigeria’s Lekki Port to bring in its imports and take out export.
Mme Tchima Moustapha, the Director General of the Ministry of Transportation at the Niger Republic stated that the modern facilities available at the Lekki Deep Seaport have created an alternative for Niger importers.
Moustapha said that Niger is ready to stop using the Cotonou and Lome Ports in order to move their cargo through the Lekki Port using the newly commissioned Dala Inland Dry Port in Kano.
However, giving fresh directive to officers and men of the Nigeria Customs Service on Sunday when he paid a working visit to the Ogun 1 Command of the Service in Idiroko, Ogun State, the Acting Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, said that since the Nigerian-Nigerien borders has been shut, importers may want to move transit cargoes bound for Niger Republic through other Land border posts in the country, thus the need for Customs officers to stop such cargoes.
According to the Customs acting CG, “We are monitoring what’s happening in Niger Republic and I can assure you that implementation of that directive given by the ECOWAS Heads of States is 100 percent and when that is happening, smugglers will want to explore openings in other borders, and may want to use other routes. All transit goods heading for Niger Republic should be stopped.”
“This time, we need to be vigilant because those bent on destabilising the country are still at work. This is, therefore, a reminder that we can’t afford to rest on our oars as our level of alertness must be 100 percent. You must synegise and cooperate with other agencies of government to achieve this.”
The Customs boss also disclosed that with the removal of fuel subsidy, the Service would make recommendations that the policy ban on supply of fuel to filling stations that are within 20kilometres to the nation’s borders be reviewed.
He, however, disclosed that the service will review some of its policies if the compliance level of the border communities is high.
“There are a number of issues that our border communities have put across to us and some of them go beyond the mandate of the Customs service because some of them are polices done by authorities that are higher than us but I can assure you that we are working along with appropriate authorities of government and we will be requesting the review of such polices if we see situation that warrant such review at the borders.
“If there is compliance of extant law regarding import and export around us and if we see the support of the communities working with government agencies to enforce those laws, if we see our communities supporting government agencies of course, we will make appropriate recommendation for the review of border closure, importation of tokunbo vehicles through the borders and most importantly because of the removal of subsidy, we may also call for the review of restriction of petrol filling stations in and around our borders.”
Moreover, he charged the officers at the command to be focused and rededicate themselves to ensuring national and regional security.
“One of the reasons why I’m also here this morning is to reiterate the need for all our agencies to remain focused and committed towards the ideal of national and regional security. Idiroko is a very strategic gateway into Nigeria and of course, into the Benin republic and by extension, the sub region. So, we cannot afford to allow criminals who thrive in perpetrating crimes across our borders, do things that are inimical to our national security.
“So this is why I’m here this morning to remind ourselves of our collective mandate. Collective mandates to keep away criminals operating around our borders, whether they come in the manner of smuggling, human trafficking, drug trafficking or things that will affect our public health.
“We have a collective responsibility to confront them, and beat them to their game. For us in Customs, we believe that no one agency can do this alone, we need to work together, we need to collaborate together. The dynamics of crime has changed over the years and there is no single criminal that come to our border and perpetrate only one crime.
“Smugglers don’t commit only smuggling, they also engage in illegal smuggling of arms and ammunitions. Most human traffickers, most of the time also take currencies away from the country. They are also guilty of money laundering, and illegal currencies trafficking across the border,” he stated.
The Customs CG who visited the Oniko of Ikojaye Land, Idiroko, Oba Olàkunle Ojo and the Onipokia of Ipokia kingdom, Oba Yisa Adelakun Olaniyan, sought the understanding, cooperation and support of the border communities while carrying out their duties.
Adeniyi also directed a quarterly meeting between the Ogun border command and members of the Ipokia host communities in other to foster good working relationship.