As part of efforts to stave off rising incidence of cross border banditry and smuggling, the Federal Government has again closed Nigerian land borders nationwide amidst lamentations by the business community that the action has paralysed activities along the various corridors.
This came as thousands of Nigerians were, yesterday, stranded at the Seme and Idiroko border after the Nigeria security operatives at the borders denied them entry into the country.
Daily Sun learnt that the decision to close the borders was a fallout of President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the military to take more decisive steps toward restoring peace to the country, particularly in states troubled by bandits, ordering them “not to spare those killing, maiming and extorting innocent citizens.
The border-closure move, which is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), according to a source, is aimed at further forestalling activities of bandits, illegal migration, influx of prohibited items and boosting security of communities considered to be at the fringes of Nigeria and its neighbours.
All hitherto unmanned areas along large expanse of lands in border communities will now be manned in such a manner with deployment of joint support, information sharing, coordination and back-up among the security services.
Speaking with Daily Sun, Chairman, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Seme border chapter, Lasis Fanu, confirmed the closure of the border.
Fanu, a frontline clearing agent, said the exercise had left travellers stranded at the border with everything at standstill.
He said, “when the Federal Government decides to do something, there is nothing anybody can do about it. They (Customs) just informed us and they said we should continue with our normal business but unfortunately the normal business is not happening because everything is standstill.”
Fanu, who decried the closure of the border wondered why Nigeria that is a signatory to many protocols shut down its borders.
“We have West Africa Protocol and we have many treaties within West Africa, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), and Nigeria is one of the corridors of ECOWAS.
“The exercise is affecting everybody; even if you have your passports, you can’t go in or out of the border. The thing started on Monday morning. We believe that in due course, ECOWAS will look into the issue but it’s beyond the Nigerian Customs,” he said.
It was also gathered that the government had, through Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), asked foreigners with irregular documentation residing in the country to register within six months from July 2019.
Investigations at the approved border routes are expected to increase for travellers taking advantage of ECOWAS Protocol on free movement of persons and goods within West Africa.
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Tuesday said it will join other security and intelligence gathering agencies to conduct a joint border security exercise, codenamed “Ex-Swift Response”.
In a press statement by the National Public Relation Officer of the service, Joseph Attah, made available to Daily Sun, the operation is part of measures put in place by the government to secure Nigeria’s land and maritime borders from smuggling and other nefarious activities.
Apart from NCS, other agencies include the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), in collaboration with the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) as well as the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), among other security and intelligence agencies.
The joint exercise is being coordinated by the ONSA and will take place in four geopolitical zones, namely, South-South, South-West, North-Central and North-West.
It was learnt that the exercise had led to the closure of Nigerian borders to human movement, import and export between neighbouring countries.
A reliable source in NCS, Idiroko Command, also confirmed the closure of the border. The source, who craved anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the press, said vehicular movement in and out of the border has been stopped.