The Federal Government closed the borders with her neigbhouring countries to compel them to adhere strictly to the regional protocol on the movement of persons during the pandemic, the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Hameed Ali, said on Sunday.
Mr Ali said in interview in Abuja that the closure of the country’s borders with her neigbhours was not meant to be permanent, but to send a strong message to the affected countries that not observing the established protocol on movement in the region would not be accepted.
In the past, the CG said neighbouring countries did not honour or adhere to protocols and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed with Nigeria on border management.
“We just set up a joint border patrol team. It is an offshoot of the joint border drill, which was the operation we launched to close our country’s borders with our neigbhours.
“The intention was not to close our borders perpetually. It was to send a strong message to our neighbours that they cannot continue to go against the protocols that are established and acceded to.
“When we abide by certain protocols on movement of goods across our borders, we discovered that those rules were no longer adhered to by our neighbours.
“We made multiple advances to get them to respect the protocol to no avail. We have reached across to them. We have signed papers in terms of memorandum of understanding (MoU), but none of them worked.
“So, we are leaving with no option than to close our borders and send a message.
“We developed a joint border drill to effectively close the borders and manned it and we now had to look at it that we cannot continue to close our borders so what do we do?
“We reopened it and we are now working with our neighbours — our counterparts in Niger Republic and Benin Republic to enforce the protocols.
“We have to come up with a concept that now gives us the chance to monitor and manage our borders without closing the exits and entrances, so that is how we came up with joint border patrol.”
Ali said that every country involved in the arrangement established its own but that there had been synergy so far among the operators of the joint border patrol.
According to him, officers and men involved in the patrol often share information with one another for effective management of borders.
“If there are movements of illicit persons or goods, they communicate from that end to our end, so also do we do. We share intelligence and information.
“We have also exchanged the list of prohibited items, like those Benin Republic does not want in its country. We make sure we block them here before they cross.
“Also from the other side, there are things we don’t want to see in Nigeria. For instance, poultry products are still prohibited to be imported into the country.
“We are working with coordinators of the joint border patrol. We have created that synergy. The agreement is that on monthly basis, we will continue to get reports on how things are unfolding.
“On daily basis, there will be interaction between them and it is our hope that this will help in reducing the influx of illicit items in or out of Nigeria.
“We have established that and it has started working and we hope that will be the magic in terms of managing our borders.”
The NCS boss expressed his optimism that by the time e-Customs is unveiled, the Service would deploy necessary technology to verify goods coming into or going out of Nigeria.
He noted that the technology would also help the NCS to tackle the menace of smuggling. (NAN)