Stakeholders yesterday warned the Federal Government that the complete closure of the nation’s land borders portends danger to the economy.
The caution came after yesterday’s announcement by Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Hameed Ali that all categories of goods would no longer be allowed to pass through the borders.
At a joint news conference with his Nigeria Immigration Service counterpart, Mohammed Babandede, in Abuja, Ali said: “For now, all goods, whether illicit or non-illicit, are banned from going and coming (sic) into Nigeria. Let me add that for the avoidance of doubt, we included all goods because all goods can equally come through our seaports.
The Guardian learnt that almost all the scanning machines at the nation’s seaports are currently malfunctioning, with customs officials adopting 100 per cent manual inspection of cargoes.
He said: “We hope that by the time we get to the end of this exercise, we would have exactly, between us and our neighbours, agreed on the type of goods that should enter and exit our country.
“For now, all import and export of cargoes from the land borders are banned, until there is an agreement with the neighbouring countries on the kind of goods traded with Nigeria.
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.”
Ali explained that although the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol permits free movement of people, security must be prioritised. “We want to protect our nation. We want to make sure that our people are protected. You must be alive and well to begin to ask for your rights. Your rights come when you are well and alive.
“Go and ask the people in Maiduguri when Boko Haram was harassing their lives. The only question was survival. There was no question of right. This time, Nigeria must survive first before we begin to ask for our rights,” the customs boss said.