no respite until neighbouring countries end smuggling
Customs inaugurate 2 armoured anti-smuggling vessels
Niger bans importation of foreign (parboiled) rice from Benin
As the anti-smuggling and anti-oil theft borders patrol operation launched recently by the Federal Government of Nigeria, enters its day 26 today, indications are that the economies of Benin and Niger Republics have come under severe pressure even as the Government of Niger Republic has banned the importation of foreign (parboiled) rice into the country in an effort to persuade Nigeria to re-open the borders.
The people of Niger Republic do not eat parboil rice (they eat white rice), but importers based in Benin and Nigeria import parboiled rice to Benin Republic in very large quantities and then re-export same to Niger, Chad and Cameroon (all Nigeria’s next door neighbours) for smuggling into Nigeria where parboiled rice is eaten.
This is coming as the National Security Adviser (NSA) Maj. Gen. Mohammed Babagana Monguno (rtd) has disclosed that the ongoing border security operation, code-named ‘Exercise ‘Swift Response’, will continue in the four geo-political zones of the country until Nigeria’s neighbours take decisive action to ensure that their countries no longer serve as transit points for smuggling of goods into or out of Nigeria.
Speaking at the inauguration of two armoured anti-smuggling patrol vessels acquired by the Nigerian Customs Service, on Thursday in Lagos, Maj. Gen. Monguno said President Muhammadu Buhari had already conveyed to the leaders of the neighbouring countries that the operation will continue until neighbours ensure smuggling into or out of Nigeria stops.
He said: “The bottomline of what Mr. President is saying is that if it is in the interest of neighbouring countries to allow all these dangerous items to transit their territories into Nigeria, so that they can collect transit charges, then it is in Nigeria’s national interest to shut our borders.”
Maj. Gen. Moguno added that the operation has been very successful and did not give any indication that it will end soon.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that as the border hurts the economy of Niger Republic, President of the country, Mahamadou Issoufou had pleaded that the borders be reopened, but Nigeria had told him to first of all stop smuggling of rice and other products across the borders into Nigeria.
To this end, President Issoufou had on September 5, placed a ban on the importation of the foreign (parboil) rice from Benin Republic.
In a circular to all the Customs formations and relevant Government Agencies in Niger a copy of which was made available to PRNigerian; the Nigerien government said that the ban took effect from September 5, 2019.
The DIG in-charge of Customs Service in Niamey, Mr. Oumarou Amadou said revenant agencies of government are to comply strictly or face severe sanctions.
Recall that when the President of Benin Republic, Patrice Guillaume Athanase Talon met with President Buhari at the recent Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7) in Yokohama, Japan; he had pleaded that the border operation be brought to an end.
Meanwhile, the Controller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) has said at the commissioning of the two anti-smuggling patrol vessels in Lagos that Nigeria’s quest for non-oil revenue is a largely dependent on the Nigerian Customs Service to fight smuggling and bring it to the barest minimum.
According to him, experience has shown that whenever smugglers face stiff enforcement by Customs anti-smuggling operatives on the land, they turn to the waterways to carry out their illegal trade.
He added: “Unfortunately, before now the Service has been weak on the water arising from the lack of seagoing vessels to effectively to checkmate smugglers on the high sea. This situation led to the death of nine Customs Marine officers while confronting deadly petrol smugglers on the sea in 2014.
He explained that the two seagoing vessels are well equipped with necessary firepower and other requirements for long time water patrol is in line with the ongoing repositioning of the Service to effectively deliver its mandate to the nation.
Col. Ali said: “With these vessels, I hope smugglers will no longer take advantage of NCS vulnerability on water to smuggle in contraband. NCS Marine operatives can now sail to intersect them right on the high sea.
“The timing of this commissioning is strategic as it will on the immediate boost the ongoing joint security Ex-Swift Response on the water and henceforth remain symbol of NCS strength on the sea the NCS as a present unbundling of the Service now has four marine Commands, namely Western marine, Easter Maritime, North western marine and North Eastern marine Command. It is therefore the resolve of management that smugglers find no space to operate either on land, air or sea.”