From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
One year after the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS)-ledinternational border closure codenamed “Exercise Swift Response” began, theagency has listed the gains so far to include seizures estimated at N11.030billion, and improved security, economy, agriculture and inter-agencycollaboration.
The border closure, which began on August20, 2019, is coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA)and jointly implemented by the NCS, the Armed Forces, Nigeria ImmigrationService (NIS), Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and other security and intelligenceagencies.
In a statement covering their operationsin the North-West, North-Central, South-West and South-South geopoliticalzones, the Customs Public Relations Officer, Mr. Joseph Attah, disclosed that1,243 irregular immigrants and 622 suspected smugglers have been arrested inthe past one year.
Seizures, with a combined estimatedmonetary value of N11.030 billion, included “134,042 bags of parboiled foreignrice, 9,600 bags of NPK fertiliser, 1,791 vehicles, 3,565,461.9 litres of PMS,5,007 drums of PMS and 68,436.3 jerry cans of PMS.
There were also “130 engine boats and 847motorcycles, 17,212.6 jerry cans of vegetable oil, 813 packs of Tramadol and274 bags of cannabis, among others,” according to the statement.
Noting that the land border closure wasmeant to “put Nigeria on the path to food sufficiency, stem the flow of illicitarms into the country and improve national security, the NCS said the exercisehas “saved the country huge resources and enhanced national security.
“For instance, the smuggling of drugs andproliferation of small arms and light weapons, which are drivers of terrorismand other forms of criminalities in the country, has been considerablycurtailed.”
The exercise has “also made it moredifficult for terrorists and other criminals to acquire arms and ammunition,while criminal elements find it challenging to make their way into the countrythrough the land and maritime borders. This has thus contributed to thereduction in cases of transnational organised crimes.
“Exercise Swift Response has also boostedproduction of agricultural products, especially local rice, tomato, maize andpoultry, among others, which has stimulated the growth of the agriculturalsector/economy.
“Today, Nigeria is fast attainingself-sufficiency in rice production, as the border drill has drasticallyreduced rice smuggling into the country and catalysed rice production byfarmers, while millions of direct and indirect jobs have been created.
“Huge amount of foreign exchange, whichpreviously went into rice importation, is being saved. Rice farmers are nowventuring beyond cultivation to milling, packaging and marketing.”
The agencyappealed to Nigerians to continue supporting efforts at making the nationbetter secured and economically viable, while ongoing diplomatic engagements tofinding lasting solutions to the concerns that necessitated the partial borderclosure lasted.