Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Five months after the partial closure of Nigeria’s land borders, President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the action taken was not solely in regards to food products, particularly rice, being smuggled into Nigeria, but also because of arms and ammunition, as well as hard drugs, entering the country.
Nigeria’s land borders with neighbouring countries including Benin and Niger have been partially closed since August 20th, 2019 in a move meant to curb the smuggling of large quantities of rice and other commodities.
President Buhari had approved the extension of the border closure to achieve more strategic objectives till January 31.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a statement, said Buhari gave this explanation while holding a bilateral meeting Monday in London at the sidelines of UK-Africa Investment Summit 2020 with President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana.
According to Buhari, he could not keep his eyes open and watch youths being destroyed through cheap hard drugs and compromised security caused by the unbridled influx of small arms.
“When most of the vehicles carrying rice and other food products through our land borders are intercepted, you find cheap hard drugs, and small arms, under the food products. This has terrible consequences for any country,” he told his Ghanaian counterpart.
The President said it was regrettable that the partial border closure was having “negative economic impact on our neighbours,” but added that “we cannot leave our country, particularly the youths, endangered.”
The President said the Sahel region was awash with small arms, which accounts for severe security challenges in Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria.
“We are in fact the biggest victims,” he lamented.
On time frame for reopening the borders, President Buhari said it would not happen till the final report of a committee set up on the matter was submitted and considered.
“We will get things sorted out. Our farmers, especially those who grow rice, now have a market and are happy, and we are also concerned about hard drugs and weapons. Once the committee comes up with its recommendations, we will sit and consider them,” the President said.
President Akufo-Addo, while showing an understanding of the need for Nigeria to protect her citizens, pleaded for “an expedited process, because the Nigerian market is significant for certain categories of business people in Ghana.”