From Arowona Abdulazeez, Ilorin
Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on Wednesday hailed the border closure policy of the Nigerian government, saying regional economic agreements should not be an excuse to dump goods on or compromise the security of the country.
AbdulRazaq said Kwara would continue to support the government policy, including offering necessary supports to the joint security architecture mandated to enforce what Abuja said was necessary to check illegal trade, proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and cross border crimes in Nigeria.
“Despite several international agreements Nigeria has entered into, our borders need to be properly secured so that the country does not becomes a dumping ground for all manners of foreign goods,” AbdulRazaq said in Ilorin, the state capital, when a delegation of the Joint Border Operations Drill, North Central Zone, visited him.
The delegation was led by Comptroller of Customs and Team Lead of the Border Drill, Uba Garba Muhammad, at the Government House, Ilorin.
AbdulRazaq also observed that Nigeria and sub national governments like Kwara must work hard to become more competitive in a world increasingly linked by technology and trade, calling for better investments in entrepreneurship.
“The closure of borders is a wakeup call to sub-nationals and to the country at large that there are challenges ahead because of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which Nigeria is part of for free movement of goods and people across borders,” he said.
AbdulRazaq however called for win-win measures to assist border communities in Nigeria who are badly hit by the restrictions on petroleum products — a call that follows daily appeals by some residents of Kwara North, especially in Baruten local government, who travel hundreds of kilometres to access petroleum products.
“We will do everything to support what you are doing. Let us always know the areas we can further come in to support you. We thank you for your service to Nigeria. We all sleep at night without actually knowing what you do to ensure adequate security of lives and property,” according to the Governor.
“For us border issue bothers on security and economy. On the security front, the Nigerian Army, Air Force, Navy, Customs, Police, DSS and other security agencies play major roles in ensuring security of lives and property. We will continue to engage and support security agencies to fortify security in the state.”
Muhammad, for his part, commended the Governor for his “laudable steps” since he took over the reins in Kwara.
He said Abuja set up the border patrol operations to cover the entire country with a view to securing maritime and land borders.
“It is a common knowledge that the level of insecurity in Nigeria before setting up of the joint border had assumed an unacceptable proportion as banditry, cattle rustling, kidnapping, child trafficking and smuggling were the order of the day,” he said.
“The setting up the task force has come with a lot of achievements. The main objective of the task force is to make sure that our neighbouring countries respect the agreements signed with Nigeria – trade agreement and other protocols.”
Muhammad noted that economic sabotage and insecurity had reduced to the barest minimum in Nigeria and in Kwara State in particular since the beginning of the joint task force.
“For instance, 252,000 litres of petroleum products have been seized by the joint task force which otherwise would have been smuggled out of the country. That would have denied the government the opportunity of accurate data for planning and development purposes. 177 vehicles have also been arrested and 160 irregular immigrants have been handed over to the appropriate authorities to be repatriated to their countries,” he said.
He disclosed that 10 million litres of petroleum products which would have been exported illegally outside the country had been saved by Nigeria with the setting up of the task force.
Muhammad said the task force had also blocked loopholes and illegal routes in border areas and that has created brighter opportunities for legitimate traders to transact business and remit appropriate duties to the government.
“The task force is engaging stakeholders, traders, independent marketers with a view to sensitising the public in border communities,” he added.
On the difficulties being faced by residents of border communities in accessing petroleum products, the Comptroller announced that plans were underway to identify a dedicated filling station in each local government in border community to ensure that those genuinely using the products get relief soon.
Muhammad appealed to the state government to help to sensitise the public against smuggling and other trans-border crimes which he said are inimical to the economy and growth of the country.