Senators, yesterday, opposed the closure of land borders by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government. They said the closure was a temporary solution to a permanent problem.
Contributing to a motion sponsored by Adamu Aliero, tagged “The Impact of Border Closure on the Nigerian Economy,” Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe, Abba Moro, Gabriel Suswam, Ibikunle Amosun, Solomon Adeola and others who opposed the total closure, urged the President to reconsider his stance.
Abaribe. in his contribution to the debate, said the closure of the borders had affected the prices of food and other services in the market, which were predominantly imported through land borders.
He added that farmers and other small business owners were also struggling to ply their legitimate trade across the borders, wondering why government decided to punish Nigerians.
He, therefore, urged the executive to come up with permanent solutions by expanding trade to other countries within the West African subregion, instead of closing the borders.
Moro, who served as minister of interior in President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, told his colleagues that there were currently 87 legitimate entry points through land borders in the country, while illegal border routes were as many as 1,197.
He lamented that the closure has affected Nigerians who ply legitimate trades along the borders, while those engaged in smuggling were still carrying out their trade through the illegal routes.
Moro called on the Federal Government to come up with a permanent solution that would serve the interest of Nigerians. He said the current policy was counterproductive.
Suswam, in his contribution, wondered why agencies responsible for policing the borders have failed to carry out their duties.
He specifically queried the relevance of the Immigration, Border Commission and others. He urged his colleagues to assist Buhari by appropriating more funds to the Border Commission and others to get aircraft and provide aerial surveillance.
Former governor of Ogun State, Amosun, said, while he supported the security benefits of the closure, he was, however, opposed to the hardship it had brought to Nigerians living along the borders.
Adeola, on his part, said the local production of food items could not meet the demand of Nigerians. He said some Nigerians have also been trapped and cannot return to the country.
Other senators who spoke called for a review of the policy. They said, based on the current ECOWAS protocol, there should be free movement of goods and people within the West African subregion.
They said the closure would paint Nigeria as a country that doesn’t honour international agreements.
Aliero, in his lead debate diagreed with his colleagues that the border closure was in bad taste. He claimed that the closure had started yielding result in the areas of internal security, economy and others.
He said: “As a result of the situation in the border towns, the Nigerian economy is experiencing a lot of positive derivatives that is impacting on the country. For instance, fuel smuggling has significantly reduced, thereby saving the country billions of scarce foreign exchange spent by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to import fuel into Nigeria.
“The group managing director of NNPC, during a press conference recently, stated that smugglers were no longer finding it easy to smuggle petroleum products through the land borders, consequently, petroleum products have become readily available in every part of the country.
“The smuggling of textile and vegetable oil imported from Malaysia through the land borders, which has negatively affected local production, is equally ground to a halt. The good news of the Federal Government’s action is that it has led to the revival of local production of vegetable oil, and increased employment generation.”
In its resolution, the Senate urged the executive to come up with a new mechanisms to tackle issues affecting the borders.