As the closure of the nation’s borders bites hard on neighbouring countries, Nigeria, the Republic of Benin and Niger, yesterday, established a joint border patrol team comprising the Police, Customs, Immigration of the tripartite countries to recommend a date for the reopening of the borders.
The decision was part of the resolutions arrived at by Nigeria, Benin and Niger at the end of the Tripartite Anti-Smuggling Committee Meeting of Nigeria, Benin and Niger held in Abuja.
Reading the communiqué at the end of the meeting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the meeting took note of all concerns raised and agreed to establish a monitoring and evaluating committee of the three countries comprising of Ministers of Finance, Trade, Foreign Affairs, Customs, Immigration and National Security Adviser, with a mandate to ensure actions that would facilitate and enhance the suppression of smuggled goods and other related matters.
Onyeama also said the meeting agreed that the monitoring and evaluation committee will ensure the full implementation of the adopted mandate of the Joint Anti-Smuggling Human Trafficking Committee.
Nigeria, Benin and Niger, Onyeama further said, agreed on the establishment of trade facilitation committee among the three countries, comprising of Ministers of Finance and Trade in order to promote intra-regional trade among the three countries, as well as put in place, sanctions against smuggling of goods.
Amongst others, Onyeama stated that the governments agreed “to ensure persons from the three countries enter/exit each other states with valid ECOWAS recognised travel documents through recongnised controlled posts.
“Establishment of Joint Border Patrol Team comprising the Police, Customs, Immigration of the three countries. The team is to hold its first meeting in Abuja from 25th to 26th November, 2019. The patrol team is to agree on the modality to carry out its operation and recommend a date for the opening of the borders,” Onyeama said.
On the anti-smuggling issues, Onyeama earlier said the meeting deliberated on the myriad of challenges faced by the three countries.
Onyeama added that more importantly, the meeting dwelt on the areas of smuggling of goods and services that were not approved under the Protocols on ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS), Free Movement of Persons without valid ECOWAS travel documents, as well as plethora of illegal warehouses along the border corridors.
“In this regard, the meeting acknowledged smuggling of goods, as well as human trafficking as collective violation of ECOWAS Protocols on ETLS and Free Movement that pose severe eononomic and security threats to intra-regional trade and free movement,” Onyeama also said.