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Nigeria-Benin border shut to contain smuggling, Buhari clarifies

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[FILE] Smugglers’ vehicle and goods seized by the Nigerian Customs Service


President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said his administration ordered a partial closure of Nigeria’s border with Benin Republic to tame the ‘massive’ smuggling activities, especially of rice, taking place on that corridor.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the restriction at Seme followed the joint border security exercise ordered by the government and aimed at securing Nigeria’s land and maritime boundaries.The exercise, code-named, ‘Ex-Swift Response’, was being jointly conducted by Customs, Immigration, police and military personnel and coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

The Nigerian leader offered the explanation during an audience with his Beninoise counterpart, Patrice Talon, on the sidelines of the seventh Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD7) in Yokohama, Japan.

Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, in a statement in Abuja, said his principal expressed a great concern over the menace.He noted that the nefarious activities of the smugglers were threatening the self-sufficiency feat of his government’s agricultural policies.His words: “Now that our people in the rural areas are going back to their farms, and the country has saved huge sums of money which would otherwise have been expended on importing rice using our scarce foreign reserves, we cannot allow smuggling of the product at such alarming proportions to continue.”

President Buhari said the limited closure of the country’s western border was to allow the security forces develop a strategy to stem the dangerous trend and its wider ramifications.Responding to the concerns raised by the Beninoise leader on the magnitude of suffering caused by the action, Buhari promised to reopen the gateway soon.

He, however, disclosed that a meeting with his counterparts from Benin and Niger Republics would quickly be convened to determine strict and comprehensive measures to curtail the level of smuggling across their borders.Besides, the president also had a meeting with his South African colleague, Cyril Ramaphosa, on issues of common bilateral relations, especially the killings of Nigerians in the former apartheid nation.More talks are to hold between both leaders when Buhari eventually pays an official visit to Pretoria in October.

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