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Border Closure by FG Divides Senators

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By Henry Umoru, Abuja

The closure of all Land Borders in the Country by the Federal Government did not go down well with the Senators as they were yesterday sharply divided.
Border Closure by FG Divides Senators
Red chambers of the Nigerian Senate
When the issue came at the hallowed chamber during plenary, Senators, however, expressed divergent views, maintaining different positions, just as while some Senators hailed the action of the government, others lampooned.
Senators expressed themselves yesterday shortly after the presentation of a motion entitled, “the Impact of Border Closure on the Nigerian Entitled and sponsored by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Works, Senator Adamu Aliero, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kebbi Central and Co-Sponsored by 8 Others.
In his presentation, Aliero who praised the President Muhammadu Buhari led Federal government over the border closure, however, stressed that supply of arms and ammunition to Boko Haram and their Islamic State of West Africa (ISWA) have been halted.
According to him,  as a result of the situation in the border towns,  the Nigerian economy is experiencing what he described as a  lot of positive derivatives that are impacting on the country, adding that  fuel smuggling has significantly reduced, thereby saving the country billions of scarce foreign exchange spent by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to import fuel into Nigeria.
Aliero said, “Consequently, petroleum products have become readily available in every part of the country: Notes that the smuggling of textile and vegetable oil imported from Malaysia through the land borders which has negatively affected local production is equally grounded to a halt. The good news of the Federal government’s action is that it has led to a revival of local production of vegetable oil and increased employment generation;
“Notes and appreciate other products like rice, processed frozen chicken, tomato puree and tomato paste frozen fish, the sugar that comes into Nigeria through Benin to the Cameroun Republic land borders have also stopped:
“Further notes that the most impactful of the benefits accruing to the country from this temporary border closures is the positive effect on the security situation in Nigeria. It has made it impossible for smugglers of small and light weapons to bringing them into the country. This has reduced the supply of arms and ammunitions to bandits and insurgents,” he said.
Aliero argued that the manufacturing sector has suddenly breathed a sigh of relief from the ongoing economic boost resulting in factories coming back to produce items like tomato puree, milk, chicken, fish and even toothpicks
directly as a result of the border closure, it is clear that the economy is moving up positively.
“Concerns over deteriorating security situation in Nigeria is slowing down particularly because arms smuggling through the borders and foreign fighters coming to boost the insurgency of Boko Haram and their Islamic State of West Africa (ISWA) collaborators has been jolted.”
However, when it was time to contribute to the motion, Senators representing communities at the Nigerian border towns, said that the land border closure was having devastating effects on the people.
Some of the lawmakers conversant with the Nigerian land border told the Senate that Nigeria has over 1000 illegal land border routes,  adding that only 87 routes are legal,  but that their closure did not cover the illegal ones against the backdrop that people doing dirty businesses find their ways to the country through such routes.
In his contribution, former Minister of Interior, Senator Abba Moro, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Benue South who noted that  Nigeria was administering a wrong dose of medicine to an ailment that will kill someone, said that the closure of the land borders was a wrong option.
According to Moro, closing our borders should be the last option, just as he said that there are so many illegitimate routes to be used by smugglers while those doing legitimate businesses,  using legitimate routes are stranded.
He said that at the moment and with the action of the government, revenue coming through legitimate routes are no longer coming, even as he lamented that Nigerians living across borders are caught in the crossfires.
Moro said, ” We should look at this policy of border closure because it doesn’t address the problem. Nigeria has only 87 legal land border routes. We have over 1000 illegal routes and the immigration can’t man it. When you close the legitimate routes, the illegitimate routes are used.”
On his part, Senate Minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP, Abia South described the motion as  a Public Relation (PR) for the Federal government and  that the situation projected at the motion was more than meet the eyes, adding that  Nigeria will be very far from what they want to go if they did not close the over 1000 illegal land borders.
Abaribe who noted that those doing legitimate businesses should not be left stranded, however, asked what was the job of Customs, Immigration and others, adding, ” It is the failure of those saddled with the responsibility.  When we are being told that tankers with 33,000 liters move across our borders. What it tells us is that it is an organized market.”

Abaribe, however, expressed concern on the fate of Nigerians who are students in neighboring African states, just as he urged Nigerians to be ingenious and use trade to take over the West African market.

In his contribution, Deputy Senate Minority Leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, PDP, Taraba who suggested that there should be  long-term solution within the period of the temporal closure of the land borders, said that though the closure of the border help in some instances, but policies of government should not bring hardship to the people.
Also in his contribution, former Benue State governor, Senator Gabriel Suswam, PDP, Benue warned that Nigeria should be mindful of the free trade agreement and the Economic Community of West Africa States, ECOWAS deal it signed, said that closing the borders might amount to violating the agreement.
He said, “The issue of the African free trade agreement signed by Nigeria that allows the country to open the border and the ECOWAS must be looked into.
“If we want to stem insecurity and halt illegal things from coming into the country, Nigeria must engage countries that border us. We must ensure that we patrol the border on the air.”
According to him, there is an entrance to Cameroon in Benue that is not known and that there should be a solution that is permanent than the temporal closure of the land border, adding, “We have multilateral agreements. So, why closing our borders,  we must be mindful of binding agreements. So, what are the lasting conditions? Nigeria should learn from the US and the Mexico example.
“The only way we can address this is to patrol our borders, we have a Border Commission, saddled with this responsibility. We need to have a solution that is more permanent.”
He called on the Senate to appropriate fund to empower the Border Commission by procuring aircraft and other needed facilities.
For Senator  Ade Francis Fadahunsi, PDP, Osun Central at the dry season, everywhere in the North is an illegal border route, even as he called on the government to find a lasting solution.
He said, “I support the closure to fight crime. There is a limit we can close according to international laws. What we can do is to call the stakeholders: Customs, Immigration, the Nigerian Army.”

In his contribution,  Senator Teslim Folarin, APC, Oyo said that there was  shortfall in rice production as there was the need for Senate Committee on Agriculture  to make sure that the nation’s products compete favorably with imported ones, adding, “There is a syndicate involved in smuggling and there is need for us to use experienced hands like Abba Morro and Fadahunsi.”

On his part, Senator Sani Musa, APC, Niger said, “we need a holistic review of our economy from its mono-cultural status.  President Buhari has articulated supports for the Agric sector with incentives for farmers. But what have they done with it? Why can’t our farmers be proactive enough to take over the market in our neighboring countries?

In his contribution, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, APC, Kebbi said, “One of the fundamental problems of this country is our brothers and sisters. All sorts of things can come in with a price.  Let us do all the things we can do to protect this country.”

On his part, Senator Sam Egwu, PDP, Ebonyi said, “By living our borders porous, our economy is endangered. By living our borders porous, our security is endangered.”

Egwu who called  for indefinite closure, said, “There is no way Mr. President can be faulted, we should leave it the way it is.”

In his contribution, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, PDP, Enugu who noted that the President must have taken a position based on security report, said, “He must have acted on security information.”

Utazi who urged the Senate to make the Border Commission functional, said, “If we make them active, we can successfully move against the illegitimate borders where illegal aliens enter this country. We shouldn’t talk about the review when we don’t have contrary security information. We are ready to support Mr. President and suffer for a while.”

In his remarks, President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan who noted that  the people were eating the wrong food as a result of a porous border and prayed that the resolution will be adhered to,  said, ” It is good for our economy and security and we pray that it will be implemented.”

At the end of the day,  the Senate adopted the prayers in the motion as the lawmakers commended  the President on what they described as a very patriotic decision to temporarily shut down all land borders in order to rectify the deteriorating effect on the country of persistent smuggling of products that negatively affect the Nigerian economy and the wellbeing of our nation.
The Senate also urged the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior to increase diplomatic outreach to the government of the Republic of Benin, Cameroun, Niger, and Chad to take urgent measures to stop their countries from being used as smuggling base to perpetuate the illegal importation of unwanted goods into Nigeria.
The Upper Chamber reassured friendly countries around the world that the border closure should not be perceived as a punitive measure targeted at them,  but a necessary action to save the Nigerian economy from collapse and protect their people from terrorism and insecurity.

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